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Why do people have emotions?

John Preston, PsyD
Psychology
Emotions can be defined as feeling states that arise unconsciously; that is, we cannot directly control what emotions we may feel at any given time. They usually arise in reaction to a real event or to a mental stimulus, which might be a situation, an interchange between people, a memory or a thought. Research has proven that emotional states have a profound effect on the body. For example, one study has shown that feeling sincere positive emotions can enhance the immune system, while experiencing negative emotional states may actually suppress the immune system for several hours after the experience that triggered the emotion.

Many experts think that emotions developed as adaptive mechanisms in humans to aid us in dealing with a variety of expe- riences, and to signal us to approach positive stimuli that may help us or to avoid negative stimuli that might harm us. For example, happiness often makes people outgoing, generous, and more likely to bond with others, while depression signals us to avoid others, to withdraw, and to preserve our energy. Unfortunately, unless we learn to regulate our emotions, some emotions can become overwhelming and may lead us to actions that are harmful, such as lashing out at others, staying in bed all day, or, in some cases, even committing suicide.
Depression 101: A Practical Guide to Treatments, Self-Help Strategies, and Preventing Relapse

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Depression 101: A Practical Guide to Treatments, Self-Help Strategies, and Preventing Relapse

When you have depression, it can feel like there's no way out. To begin changing the way you feel, you'll need an arsenal of proven techniques for lifting your mood and preventing relapse. The...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.