Emotions Are Contagious – Such as, Anxiety.

We are starting a narrative series on discussing where emotions and behaviors come from:

Anxiety bubbled, frothed and infused the air.  Yesenia could barely catch a breath.  Here’s the thing.  Yesenia is not in treatment with me.  Her husband, Rob, is.  Yet it was Yesenia who filled our space.  There was barely room for Rob and I to sit or speak with all that anxiety around.  Rob was breathing faster every moment and his face didn’t have much color.  …Where to start?

Unknown source

(What do you think? think?  think? echo echo echo…)

It was too early in our work together to expect Rob to know this, but emotions are contagious.  Anxiety is very contagious.  To say this another way we could say, the emotion of anxiety around us influences how our genes express themselves.  It is further explained by saying that my “patient” isn’t only Rob.  My patient includes the system he lives in, i.e. his home milieu, wife, kids, work and so forth.  But especially his wife.  Because of Yesenia’s untreated emotional disease, Rob’s emotional disease worsens.  The inverse is true as well and so we go round and round gaining momentum.  Like a big ball of hard packed snow gathering speed and girth as it rolls down the mountain, anxiety grows.  …Where to start?

(What do you think? think?  think? echo echo echo…)

Self-Care Tip #267 – When suffering from emotional illness, remembering that emotions are contagious (no matter who they come from) is useful to your self-care.

Questions:  How have you experienced the contagion of emotions?  or seen it play out in others?  Please tell me your story.

23 thoughts on “Emotions Are Contagious – Such as, Anxiety.

  1. Originally I would have thought that our genes as they influence emotions are programed to act instinctively independent of external environment. But the “anxiety around us influences how our genes express themselves” seems possible even though I never considered that possibility. I suffer from that anxiety. One way I combat it is to bring issues to resolution. I may not like the resolution but at least I can move on having a degree of closure. The anxiety of others – I delete or extract those people from my life ASAP. No matter who it is. I cannot be dragged down and exhausted by the mental illness of others. It takes all my conscious effort to keep myself on an even keel and having had several heart attacks I have to protect myself. That includes not having to cope with the chronic insanity of others. If they abandon me for the same reasons, I accept that without feeling betrayed. I want no unhappiness from the junk of others and do not want to impose stress on others because of my junk. “Working it out” just extends the misery for all.


  2. Yes, I’ve been around highly anxious people and started exhibiting the same reaction, same with fear, and fortunately with laughter. Maybe laughter IS the best medicine! (coudn’t resist saying that!) Seriously I did work with someone who was anxious and negative and in retrospect I see I took on some of those characterics and once we were seperated I dropped those tendencies. Though we do have our own dna, I think we “rub off” on people when we are around them for long periods of time. you know attitudes are contagious!


  3. I have seen it passed thru the generations. When encountered now, I try to avoid putting too much blame on others but that does not make depression go away either. The anxiety I have seems to be more self-driven.


  4. Emotions truly are very contageous. I’ve witnessed this so many times I can’t even count anymore. I’ve seen it at work during intense conditions when those in charge get particularly stressed and this flows down to subordinates. I’ve seen it in myself where I’ve mimicked the mood of others around me, whether positive or negative. I’ve also witnessed times when I have a positive outlook in spite of many stressors, and my positive mood changes the dour moods of others around me. Now, when I notice that my mood is starting to mimick the negative mood or negative atmosphere around me, I stop myself and realize that just because those around me are negative, stressed, uptight, etc., I have the choice and the power to stay positive and at peace within myself. Just because everyone else is jumping off the cliff doesn’t mean that I have to follow.


  5. Believe it or not, I have never, in the 47 years we’ve known each other, heard my husband raise his voice. He raises his eyebrows in a way which lets us all know that he’s unhappy but never his voice. His emotions are all in his back muscles. When he gets really upset or worried, we can almost watch him begin to twist sideways. All of this to say that when I was really sick emotionally and would go through an especially bad time, my husband’s back would go out – sometimes to the point that he was unable to walk! Yes. Emotions are contagious!! It’s amazing how they play out, too.


  6. Presently, I am doing an outpatient program (following my few weeks of inpatient) with a variety of people. They come and go, and I stay, and stay (echo here too).
    But there are a couple of people that when they get to talking, I literally leaved the conference room. Not only they don’t know when to be quiet (after all we have heard the same stories dozen of times), their anxiety builds up, and mine goes through the roof.
    I step out to the hallway, and I pace the floor back and forth for how ever long it takes me to calm down. I am afraid that if I said anything to her, she would most likely will need to be held back by nurses and therapist. I have made my sentiments know to them (nurses and therapists), just so they are aware of the root of my own strange behavior.
    So far, there have not been any confrontations, and I prefer it that way. I know other patients feel the same way as I do. They are far more tolerant than I am. Marie.


          • smile as in a “I’m happy” way. I am the least aggressive human being in the world; I won’t even use any bad words, or 4 letter words.
            Sometimes people laugh at me when I say “watch your language”, but they never forget to say “I’m sorry” when they forget to watch their language around me. Isn’t it interesting?
            I understand the need to use echo, echo, echo, and the ‘babbling brook’ comments. Sometimes the information you give might seem repetitive, and it can be, but that’s how we keep on learning. If it were easy to learn new behaviors, we would not need guys as much as we do now. Hearts. Marie


  7. While I was in Pennsylvania, our neighbor and tenant was trashing my flowers and yelling obscenities to my husband. Her mother had her committed to a mental hospital the next day ( not just because of this, there have been many inappropriate actions in addition). The anxiety this has caused was a factor in my husb bad back and now I have pulled a back muscle. All from mismanaged anxiety I’m sure. Stress is a factor for my bad back to act up.
    Wish I could see humor in this so we can laugh.


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