I think we’ve all experienced emotional jolts at times in our lives. Imagine one moment we feel happy and positive, and then during a conversation someone says something that brings on a sudden feeling of fear, self-consciousness, fury, or the like. Or imagine that you go to your living room and discover your beloved pet is seriously ill, and are later told that he/she needs to be put down.
Powerful emotional jolts can also work in the opposite ways, as well. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit sad and lonely one day, but then the doorbell rings. You open the door to see your brother at the door, a brother from the Navy whom you haven’t seen for over two years. Suddenly you experience a sudden rush of joy and all previous worries and problems fade away in that minute. It’s amazing how such emotional jolts can trigger a switch in our emotional and psychological states. Very often these switches may be caused by adrenaline rushes or other rapid hormonal changes. In negative cases, reassurance, positive affirmations, support from family, basic coping tools, or a normal grieving process can restore you to your previous well state. But this is rarely the case for people with serious mental illnesses, or for those with severe grief. For them, it’s much harder.
Unlike emotionally and psychologically healthy people, people who have significant mental illnesses may either not experience significant psychological switches from emotional or psychological jolts, or if they do, they only do to a much smaller degree, or much shorter-term. It is also possible that depending on the severity of the jolt, the mentally ill may be pushed even further into their illness. Negative jolts can make for more severe depression or anxiety, and positive (or sometimes any type of) jolts can push bipolar manic people higher into mania.
I have bipolar disorder. I experience depressive states, elevated (hypomanic/manic) states, mixed states, and often stable states at various times in my life. People with bipolar disorder, and all other mental illnesses just hate, yes, hate, when people tell them to “snap out of it” (their mood states, anxiety or other states). Since most mental illnesses are not unlike other physical illnesses, such a suggestion is very much easier said than done, and the person suggesting such an action clearly misunderstands the severity and difficulty of the illnesses. According to most scientists and doctors, most mental illnesses are caused by imbalances in the brain in regards to various neurotransmitters or specific brain circuits. Stress hormones may also play an important role. Medications for these mental illnesses can take some time to provide relief. This could mean weeks, months or even longer, in some cases. The length of recovery really depends on numerous complex factors. One must find the right medication(s), the best therapy, the right coping tools, lifestyle, or must just give it time for recovery. Recovery from mental illness is often a major struggle, and requires patients have extreme patience. It can be so frustrating, and the wait for recovery can bring on hopelessness in some. In some cases, recovery may not even be 100% complete.
Is it possible for major psychological or emotional “jolts” to help a person with a serious mental illness? I suppose it is possible, depending on the person, the severity of the jolt, the illness, and other factors, but self-will to “snap out of it” or “put your chin up” (like my dad often says) is usually ridiculously ineffective, and frustrating for mentally ill to hear.
I wouldn’t in a million years suggest any severe “jolt” examples for possible psychological switches, though I have experienced a couple in my time. Suggesting any would be potentially dangerous and ridiculous. Most often, such deliberate attempts backfire, badly. I will say, however, that besides the medication(s), therapy, and coping tools I mentioned above, there is one “jolt” (of sorts) I opted to have that was helpful in easing my depression. I chose to have ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) at one point in the past. Though to some people this is a scary treatment often with undesirable side effects, it is now considered to be a safe treatment for people who need extreme help to end severe psychological symptoms. Just as some medications and therapies are not for everyone, neither is ECT.
Safe and positive environments help people with wellness in almost all cases. Even a person with severe depression and anxiety will be aided to at least some minor degree if they live in an environment conducive to recovery. Small positive steps and activities are also generally more helpful than harmful. I write this to emphasize that “jolts” are not something we should count on for recovery, and that they do have risks associated with them.