The Connection Between Emotional Intelligence and Mental Health

Your emotions are intricately linked with your mental health. In fact, we often describe the symptoms of different psychological conditions by using words that describe feelings. Many people with depression experience deep sadness. Those with bipolar mania may express anger or excitement.

Emotions are an internal expression of neurotransmitter communication within the body. You feel them physically and psychologically. Emotional processes can be complex, and experts still struggle to define their exact nature.

Intense feelings can be jarring. If you have ever experienced an episode of strong panic, anger or sadness, you know that these feelings are uncomfortable and draining. But less potent sentiments also affect you. Feelings are linked to your behaviors, thoughts and interactions with yourself and others.

Having emotional intelligence, or EQ, can help you maintain a balanced state of mental health. Low emotional intelligence has been linked with an increased risk of mental health disorders. But EQ isn’t an inherent quality. It’s a skill that you can learn and develop to support your mental health.

What Is Emotional Regulation?

Emotional regulation is the ability to adjust an emotional state so that it serves your best interests. Some of the processes that are necessary to regulate emotions include identifying, evaluating and attending to your feelings, no matter how unexpected they are.

Emotional regulation is an adaptive strategy that allows you to work with anything that comes your way. Every situation that you encounter will elicit an emotion. You can modify your physical, mental and behavioral responses to reach your goals.

This doesn’t mean that you need to push aside negative sensations and keep a smile on your face. Emotional intelligence plays a major role in regulating your feelings. It allows you to check in with yourself every step of the way and respond to your feelings in a healthy way.

For example, in some cases, you might need to let yourself feel anger. Expressing it by fighting someone would be a sign of emotional dysregulation, however, because it doesn’t serve your best interests. Allowing yourself to throw pillows and vent your thoughts in a journal would be a more emotionally intelligent way to regulate the anger.

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Emotional Deficiencies in Different Mental Health Disorders

If you struggle with a mental health disorder, you may have trouble regulating your emotions. Sometimes, you may feel as though you have no control over the roller coaster of sensations that bombard you. At the same time, it may be difficult for you to access positive feelings, such as pleasure and love.

Emotional Intelligence and Depression

Depression is defined by an increase in negative emotions and a decrease in positive ones. Without a desire to pursue positive feelings, people with depression may habitually use subconscious strategies to minimize positive feelings and up-regulate negative ones.

Empathy is a crucial component of emotional intelligence. However, empathy levels change when you experience depression. You may have more empathy for others who are experiencing pain. At the same time, your empathy for those who are going through something enjoyable may diminish.

Some people with depression have trouble feeling any empathy. If you need to enhance your emotional intelligence, you may try to ignore and negate your negative sentiments. At the same time, you deny the converse positive emotion. When you can’t accept your sadness, you may also block your joy. This leads to a feeling of numbness, which further impairs your mental health.

Emotional Intelligence and ADHD

Emotional dysregulation also plays a role in ADHD. This is often expressed through reactive aggression. People with ADHD may have trouble paying attention to emotional stimuli. The result is often inappropriate behavior for a particular situation.

Through treatment, many people with ADHD learn how to stop engaging in problematic behaviors. But without emotional intelligence, they may still experience internal restlessness that negatively impacts their mental health.

Emotional Intelligence and Anxiety

The role of emotional intelligence in anxiety is multifaceted. Someone with low EQ may detach from feelings that threaten their safety or self-esteem. Therefore, they may react with destructive or inappropriate behaviors. The ensuing guilt and shame can exacerbate anxiety and other mental health problems.

But some people with anxiety have high emotional intelligence. These individuals may be so aware of their actions and empathetic toward others that they overthink every feeling. Without the ability to self-regulate, they may let their thoughts take over, having trouble reacting positively to their triggers.

Building Emotional Intelligence In Recovery

Working on emotional intelligence brings awareness to the physical and psychological sensations that are involved in every feeling. Being able to identify the emotion that correlates with that stimulus allows you to create a plan for navigating it. Your behavior changes at the source as you learn to respond to stimuli in a beneficial way.

Emotional intelligence is particularly crucial in addiction recovery. Many people who struggle with substance abuse also have a dual diagnosis that needs to be treated.

Also, individuals in recovery often have dysregulated messaging along the neural pathways that are linked to feelings. It’s especially important to build a solid foundation of EQ to increase the effectiveness of other treatment methods.

At Renewal Lodge, we offer individualized care that addresses the whole person, including any co-occurring mental health disorders. The foundation of our treatment involves establishing and developing emotional intelligence.

Learning emotional intelligence at Renewal Lodge builds the following skills:

  • Self-awareness – You can recognize the triggers for low moods, craving and impaired mental health states so that you can act on them appropriately.
  • Self-regulation – When you can respond in a healthy way to negative and positive emotions, you hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your actions. You also become better able to process your feelings without letting them control you.
  • Motivation – Having an internal desire to set and reach goals as part of your personal development allows you to remain resilient even when things aren’t going your way.
  • Empathy – Putting yourself in other people’s shoes expands your perspective. Considering other people’s feelings also helps you get in touch with yours.
  • Social skills – Strong emotional intelligence allows you to have healthy relationships with others. Connection is a key to thriving in addiction recovery.

Our Mindfulness in Recovery program is holistic and inclusive. It allows you to explore all aspects of your wellness so that you can achieve mental health and addiction recovery.

Find Healing At Renewal Lodge

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
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