Psychologists have identified anywhere between 6 and 10 basic emotions experienced by humans. The American psychologist Paul Ekman who developed an “atlas of emotions” mapping more than 10,000 facial expressions, identified six universal or “primary” emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. It will come as a surprise to no one that the primary emotion in depression is sadness and in anxiety fear. However, many people with one of those disorders experience an excess of both emotions. It is estimated that at least 85% of people with major depression also experience serious anxiety symptoms, while symptoms of depressed mood occur in 75% or more of people with an anxiety disorder. In all those case, feelings of sadness and fear combine to form a stew of toxic emotions.
A third emotion, shame, is often present in both disorders. Most psychologists consider shame a “secondary” emotion, one that forms in reaction to another emotion. Some classify it as a secondary emotion of sadness, while others consider it a tertiary emotion that combines fear and disgust. In my own life, and probably everybody else’s, shame seems to involve all three of those emotions.
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