It’s difficult to see how my mood changes is different from typical people’s without extensively studying their behaviours. I struggle with understanding how people act/react and the reasons for their actions/behaviour. What I do know is how I act/react and how mu mood can change throughout a day.
Most of the time my mood is stable. I don’t feel any particular emotion. Often my moods and emotions are triggered by events, mostly external events as opposed to internal, although most of what I feel and do is influenced by my internal feelings and understanding of an external situation. For example: I can become quiet and withdrawn, hardly moving and speaking. This is caused by feeling anxious/threatened/not understanding a situation or how to respond. These feelings are in response to someone speaking to me in a way I’m unsure of the meaning of or about a subject I am unsure how to respond to. Vice versa, If someone were to become angry, raising their voice and being hostile I will feel threatened and scared and will consequently head towards a shutdown, becoming mute and withdrawn.
Sometimes my responses to events and situations can be out of proportion to the thing that caused it. The person that I perceived as angry above might be angry at a situation which has nothing to do with me. Their anger might be slight. They may be joking and I have perceived them as serious. My response therefore will seem excessive and over the top. They may feel my mood has ‘come out of no where’ when in fact it makes sense to me.
It’s difficult for people in general to understand how a person thinks. This requires an understanding of their thought processes and how their emotions work. For PDA people they can have heightened emotions and so have a seemingly higher reaction to events. By typical standards the PDA person’s emotional responses are over-the-top and excessive. It can be hard to control those emotions and act in a way that is deemed ‘normal’. Our emotions can come on quickly and sometimes dissipate just as quickly. One minute we can be angry and feeling like the whole world is against us and then feeling happy the next like nothing had been wrong. Emotionally our responses can seem excessive because of the severity of them. Anger consumes every part of us. Sadness feels like we will never be happy again and the whole world hates us. Happiness can feel like there’s never anything wrong, everything is always good and everyone is always nice. Fear is like everything is scary and there’s no place to hide. These overwhelming feelings can consume us and not allow anything else to penetrate. Often it’s best to let the emotions run their course as they rarely last forever.
Because our emotions start quickly and are heightened this can lead to impulsiveness. When we see something we like we feel like we have to have it there and then. If we don’t then it feels like the whole world will fall apart and that we won’t survive not having it. A fall out with a friend can make us feel like everyone hates us and that everyone would be better off without us alive. These feelings can be very difficult for young children to handle. They might not realise that the feelings are out of proportion or that they will soon pass and everything will be alright. Many PDA people don’t have the capacity to envision a future where they won’t feel those feelings any more. PDA emotions can often be an all or nothing event.
Explaining what has happened and what might happen can help calm a PDA person as it helps to put the event/situation into perspective. By dealing with the facts and ignoring the emotions it can help the PDA person realise that the ‘worst case scenario’ isn’t actually realistic. Feeling like everybody hates you because someone pointed out a mistake you made can feel like that might actually happen. Having it pointed out that the person was only trying to help improve your work and that no one ‘hates’ you can help you deal with the emotions you’re feeling by taking away the power of the feelings. This is a great tool to use for dealing with anxiety. By getting together the facts of what might actually happen versus what is felt might happen can help alleviate some of the anxiety.
PDA adults may already have ways of dealing with their emotions and impulsivity. Children will require more help to recognise and deal with their emotions and how they respond to them. Personality also plays a key part in offering help to PDA people as some may be more accepting of help whereas others may respond badly to the offer of help.