Emotions can creep up on us. What starts as hungry, tired, and frustrated can grow into something bigger, like a blackout rage. Or an unexplained feeling of excitement might be the forewarning of a manic episode. By understanding what an emotion feels like at its earliest stages, clients can learn to respond before it grows out of control.
Use the Emotion Exploration Scale to learn about a particular emotion, its warning signs, and how it progresses from low to high intensity. Clients begin by choosing an emotion, such as sadness, anger, or anxiety. Next, they will describe the thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms they experience as the emotion progresses along a scale from 1 (low intensity) to 10 (high intensity). This worksheet is helpful for thoroughly exploring an emotion, or more specifically to learn about warning signs.
At low intensities, emotions are difficult to identify. However, this is often the best time to intervene. Clues at these levels may be subtle. For example, a person moving toward mania might notice that colors seem more vibrant, or they feel more eager to socialize. Keep in mind that many of these changes are not “bad” or dangerous, but they still act as clues.
Additionally, emotional clues are very individualized. For one person, socializing every weekend might be normal, and a weekend spent at home alone might be a clue. For another person, the exact opposite might be true.
Recognizing the early signs of emotions gives clients a chance to manage them with healthy coping skills. This is an important part of managing anger, bipolar disorder, substance use, and more.
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