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Types Of Emotions – A Complete Guide

Types Of Emotions – A Complete Guide

Updated on Sep 22, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

6 Types of Basic Emotions & Their Expressions

The way we interpret situations and respond to them determines who we are and impacts our quality of life and living. Emotions are an integral part of human life. The types of emotions are subtle feelings and behavioral responses that represent pleasure or displeasure that comes from experiencing an event.

Emotions are closely knitted with mental states, mood, temperament, and personality. Intense research on the topic has given us an opportunity to understand the various facets of emotions and how they impact cognition, feelings, behavior, and actions.

Types of Emotions Infographic

Types Of Emotions – A Complete Guide
Types Of Emotions – A Complete Guide

Emotion definition

According to the Collins English dictionary, “Emotion is a strong feeling that is derived from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines emotions as, “a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear)subjectively experienced as a strong feeling, usually directed toward a specific object; and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”

Meaning of Emotion

Emotions are simple reactions that are subjective and reflect your internal states of psychological wellness.

Thus, from the above definition, it becomes clear that emotions are reactions to either external stimuli (thoughts, beliefs, memories) or it depend upon an event that occurs around you.

The word emotion comes from a Latin word called ‘Emovere,’ which means an agitated, aroused, and stirred-up state of the organism. Emotion is an unsettled condition that demands immediate attention and awareness.

Emotions can either be pleasant or unpleasant. The pleasant emotional states are the ones that bring feelings of happiness, joy, content, satisfaction, the gratification of wishes, and overall fulfillment.

On contrary, the unpleasant emotions are those that bring unhappiness, fear, anger, disgust, resentment, grief, hopelessness, a damp mood, and disappointment.

Human emotion is a complex experience that manifests itself through bodily arousal, coupled with a behavioral component and a subjective experience in response to a particular situation.

Several theories of emotion have been proposed from time to time. These theories claimed that emotions are a combination of physiological arousal, cognitive changes, and behavioral changes.

The Cannon-bard theory explained emotion on the basis of physiological responses such as sweating, trembling, muscular tension, etc. The theory claimed that physical and psychological symptoms occur simultaneously and not one after the other.

Characteristics of Emotions

There are some similar characteristics found in all emotional responses, regardless of the feeling or mood states associated with it.

  • Emotions are instinctual. It means an instant biological drive starts working depending on the interpretation of the situation you are in. For example, fear is associated with an instinct of ‘flight’ or ‘escape’ because you perceive the situation as harmful or threatening.
  • These are a set of physical symptoms and psychological experiences that you are conscious of. You are aware of the feelings going within you.
  • Experience of emotions is subjective. It varies from one person to the other. The same situation can bring different emotional responses for you and your friend.
  • Any emotional experience will bring an internal change such as racing heart, sweating, elevated BP, sweating of hands, dry mouth, etc.
  • Emotions can cause external changes as well; such as changes in facial expression, change of tone and voice.
  • Usually, emotional responses are short and brief. If the affective state lasts for a long time, it becomes a mood.
  • You can get emotional over the things that are important and matter to you.
  • Emotions are involuntary. It only gets triggered by specific events that are beyond human control. Thus, the way you respond also becomes involuntary.
  • Your emotional experiences can alter your thoughts and perceptions that are associated with an event; thereby influencing behavior.

Basic Emotions

Basic emotions are the most innate, fundamental, and distinct affective states from which all human feelings and mood states arise. Basic emotions are of six main types – happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and surprise.

The concept of basic emotions started from the work of Rene Descartes, a French philosopher (1649) who suggested that all emotional states are broadly classified into six fundamental “passions”. He called these joy, sadness, love, desire, hatred, and wonder.

Later Charles Darwin in 1872 called the basic emotions “core” expressions of human effect. These basic emotions such as anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise regulate human emotional responses.

Basic emotions are the most primary and rudimentary feelings from which many secondary emotions and mood states arise.

6 Types of Basic Emotions

In this article, we shall talk about the six basic emotions that influence the choices we make in our daily lives. These fundamental emotions reflect our inner world and tell us how to respond and behave in a particular situation.

When was the last time you felt angry at a colleague? How did you feel? Was it only anger or a combination of jealousy, hatred, frustration, resentment, and a whirlpool of negative emotions lurking high within you?

The basic emotion of anger can actually produce secondary emotional responses of hatred, jealousy, and much more.

In 1972, Paul Eckman, an American psychologist described six basic emotions in his study of emotions.

He opined that these fundamental emotions are experienced almost by all in varying cultures across the globe. These emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and surprise.

Robert Plutchik identified eight emotions in his theory of basic emotions which are described in polar opposites such as 

  • Joy-sadness
  • Anger-fear
  • Trust-distrust
  • Surprise-anticipation

He had also put forward the concept of the ‘wheel of emotions,’ which means that emotions can be combined or blended to form varied affective states.

For example, joy, trust, and happiness can create the emotion of love. Hatred, jealousy, and anger can lead to resentments and anguish.

The basic emotions are innate and automatic. They act as building blocks for other complex secondary emotions. Since we are ruled by basic emotions, let’s take a detailed look at each one of them.

Type of Emotion #1. Happiness

It is the most sought-after feeling that we all wish to sense, perceive, and experience. Happiness is a pleasant emotion that represents joy, contentment, satisfaction, and overall well-being.

There are many things that can make you happy such as healthy relationships, a good job, security of wealth, love, good social life, and much more. It is about enjoying life and living it to the fullest.

Since the 1960’s research on emotions (happiness) came into the limelight. Research in positive psychology has claimed that happiness is a general state of psychological well-being that is marked by immense joy and gratification of needs. This emotion is expressed through:

  • Facial expressions such as a warm and humble smile that signifies satisfaction and approval.
  • Body language is relaxed. You also appear light-hearted, energetic, and dynamic.
  • Vocal quality is symbolic of a positive and pleasant tone.

Happy people emanate a positive attitude, hope, and care for others around them. Happiness is a basic emotion that has a positive outcome on you. It increases life satisfaction, helps to develop loving and caring relationships.

Happiness also contributes to a long life and good health. If you remain happy, you can keep anxieties and worries at bay.

Type of Emotion #2. Sadness

Sadness is a basic or primary emotion that represents a state of grief, disappointment, lack of hope, lack of socialization, loneliness, etc.

When people experience severe sadness and dampened mood, for a long time, it means depression. Sadness is usually expressed by crying, lethargy, quietness, and a lonely feel.

Sadness is also marked by unhappiness, regret, despair. You must have experienced bouts of unhappiness from time to time.

Studies have shown that if you feel sad for a long time, it can affect your physical well-being and mental health. It can even lead to premature death. It is a negative emotion that nobody likes but everyone gets.

Type of Emotion #3. Fear

Fear is triggered when you face some danger and do not know how to cope with it. You may go through an arousal process of a ‘fight or flight’ response. This means that either you face and feel fear-inducing situations or escape and move away from them.

Fear can cause tensed muscles, dry mouth, stammering, racing heart rate, increased BP, widening of the eyes, stiff body stance, etc.

Though all of us do not experience fear in a similar way, few symptoms are common to all. Similar reactions like attempts to flee from the fear element, seeking help from others are usually found. 

Contrary to this, if you encounter the fear element repeatedly, it may actually reduce the fear because now you get familiar with the situation. The situation is no longer perceived as dangerous and threatening as before.

Exposure therapy is based on this idea, where an individual is exposed to the fear element repeatedly to eventually eliminate the feeling of unpleasantness.

Type of Emotion #4. Anger

Anger is a powerful emotion and a primitive affective state known to mankind. It is a basic emotion that is characterized by feelings of hostility, agitation, frustration, irritability, rage, and antagonism.

Anger is an instinctive response. It happens when you feel dissatisfied with someone or something in life. It can be triggered due to stress, family issues, financial problems, marital disharmony, or unmet needs.

Anger can have distinct emotional symptoms such as 

  • Loss of energy
  • Pessimism
  • Self harm or harm to others
  • Physical symptoms like headache, feeling hot, shaking, and dizziness.
  • Bad mood, short temper
  • Constant irritability marked by unhappiness and frustration
  • Fatigue
  • Tightening of chest

Anger is expressed through a frowning facial expression. The tone of voice is rude and unkind. The common aggressive behaviors include hitting, shouting, kicking, throwing objects, and yelling.

Uncontrolled anger is harmful to self and others. It can lead to abuse, violent and destructive behavior patterns if remains unchecked for a long time.

Anger is linked with alcoholism and substance abuse. Too much of it can pose health issues such as heart disease and lifestyle problems such as high BP and diabetes.

Type of Emotion #5. Disgust

Eckman suggested that disgust is a strong emotion that is marked by a feeling of aversion or avoidance of something.

When you perceive something bad such as a foul smell, a bad scene, a loud noise, you can show disgust. It is an unpleasant emotion that can vary from mild dislike to complete avoidance of the object or situation.

This emotion is triggered by a feeling of repulsion or toxicity. When something is offensive or poisonous, you may feel disgusted. Even certain people who appear toxic or emanate a negative vibe can make you feel disgusted.

Certain triggers of disgust are:

  • Expelled body products such as vomit, foul smell, bad breath, diseased or dying animals
  • A physically ugly animal or being that one perceives negatively
  • Morally tainted people can bring disgust, as you perceive them as socially unfit.

Disgust can bring a wide variety of expressions such as:

  • Lowered eyebrows
  • Wrinkling of cheeks or bridge of the nose
  • Vocal tone such as saying ‘yuck’ or a choking feeling
  • Revulsion in mouth or a vomit feel
  • Covering of nose or mouth, turning head away from the unpleasant view of the object

Type of Emotion #6. Surprise

Eckman suggested that surprise is a basic emotion because it symbolizes all the feelings that startle a sudden response to an unexpected event. This emotion can be positive, negative, or even neutral.

A pleasant surprise maybe, when you suddenly meet your school friend after 20 years. An unpleasant surprise maybe, if someone scares you from behind when you were engrossed in doing an activity. Any sudden and unexpected event can bring surprise and revelation.

You may feel amazed, shocked, or even astonished. Surprise is a brief emotional response, as it does not last long. Your surprise can bring fear, relief, anger, fear, disgust, etc.

When you are surprised, you may feel 

  • eyebrows raised
  • attentiveness to the object of surprise
  • a certain physical startle
  • Verbal expressions can be screaming, shouting, yelling out of surprise. 

Surprise can bring a sudden surge in the levels of adrenaline hormone in the body because it causes a fight or flight response just like fear. Either you confront the surprising element or you flee away from it.

Different types of emotions in psychology

Emotional experiences are not always distinct. Each basic emotion can give rise to many other secondary emotions.

Thus, people experience different categories of emotion bridged along a gradient depending upon the impact it has on their behavior and actions.

The recent studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences and the University of California capture 27 distinct categories of emotions. They are as follows:

  1. Admiration
  2. Adoration
  3. Aesthetic admiration
  4. Amusement
  5. Anger
  6. Anxiety
  7. Awe
  8. Awkwardness
  9. Boredom
  10. Calmness
  11. Confusion
  12. Craving
  13. Disgust
  14. Empathetic pain
  15. Entrancement
  16. Envy
  17. Excitement
  18. Horror
  19. Interest
  20. Joy
  21. Nostalgia
  22. Romance
  23. Sadness
  24. Satisfaction
  25. Sexual desire
  26. Sympathy
  27. Triumph

According to Charles Darwin, there are 34 types of emotions. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Joy
  2. Love
  3. Devotion
  4. Tender feelings
  5. Weeping
  6. High spirits
  7. Low spirits
  8. Anxiety
  9. Grief
  10. Dejection
  11. Despair
  12. Anger
  13. Hatred
  14. Disdain
  15. Contempt
  16. Disgust
  17. Guilt
  18. Pride
  19. Helplessness
  20. Patience
  21. Affirmation
  22. Negation
  23. Surprise
  24. Fear
  25. Shyness
  26. Modesty and many more.

Types of emotions and their expressions

Expression of emotions can happen in various ways. Such as:

  1. Amusement – feeling of joy, delight, cheer, and fun
  2. Anger – expressed through violence, irritability, abuse, verbal fights, wrath, and resentment
  3. Envy – jealousy, antagonism, unhealthy competition, and bitterness
  4. Fear – fear is expressed by anxiety, worry, discomfort, nervousness, dread, panic, and phobic responses.
  5. Happiness – expressed through joy, smile, elation, laugh, enjoyment, and delight
  6. Joy – shown by enjoyment, thrill, excitement, relief, ecstasy, and blissfulness
  7. Love and romance – expressed through sharing happy moments, tenderness, intimacy, warmth, and kindness. Romance is expressed through admiration and adoration, emotional regard, and dependency.
  8. Sadness – grief, sadness, despair, sorrow, melancholy and loneliness.
  9. Shame – guilt, feelings of regret, unhappiness, remorse, and embarrassment.
  10. Shyness – it is expressed by showing social avoidance, a sense of fear and insecurity, low confidence and behavioral inhibition, social anxiety

A list of 50 types of emotions 

Emotions are an important part of your life and living. It affects your psychological state of mind, cognitive reasoning, and overall well-being.

This list of emotions will give you a detailed idea of the various types of emotions that you may feel and how the function of emotions affects your life and living.

  1. Afraid
  2. Alarmed
  3. Antsy
  4. Angry
  5. Animosity
  6. Anxious
  7. Apprehensive
  8. Annoyed
  9. Antipathy
  10. Bitter
  11. Bothered
  12. Burning
  13. Cautious
  14. Dread
  15. Edgy
  16. Fretful
  17. Frightened
  18. Guarded
  19. Hesitant
  20. Horrified
  21. Hysterical
  22. Nervous
  23. Panic
  24. Paranoid
  25. Restless
  26. Scared
  27. Shaken
  28. Skeptical
  29. Tense
  30. Terrified
  31. Timid
  32. Worried
  33. Frustration
  34. Furious
  35. Grouchy
  36. Harassed
  37. Irritated
  38. Mad
  39. Miffed
  40. Moody
  41. Nasty
  42. Offended
  43. Outraged
  44. Peevish
  45. Perturbed
  46. Petulant
  47. Rage
  48. Sluggish
  49. Vindictive
  50. Wrathful

List of positive emotions

Positive emotions include pleasurable feelings that can make you happy, joyful, delighted, and peaceful.

Some of the common positive emotions are as follows:

  1. Admiration – a feeling of warmth and approval; appreciation of someone
  2. Affection – emotional attachment with someone very lovable and close to you
  3. Altruism – being helpful and kind towards others and the joy derived out of it.
  4. Awe – it is a feeling that you get while seeing an amazing or spectacular thing
  5. Cheerfulness – bright feeling, happy, and easy-going
  6. Euphoria – intense joy and well being
  7. Gratitude – a feeling of being thankful
  8. Hope – optimism and consideration of a bright and positive future
  9. Inspiration – a feeling of engagement and motivation to do something
  10. Interest – it is a feeling of curiosity to know things
  11. Joy – a sense of happiness and a feel good factor
  12. Pride – a sense of personal achievement and delight
  13. Satisfaction – a sense of contentment and fulfillment
  14. Serenity – a sense of calm and poise that gives inner joy and relaxation

List of negative emotions

These emotions are the negative feelings that make you feel disappointed, sad, and miserable. These emotions hurt you and reduce your self-esteem. 

Some typical examples of negative emotions are:

  1. Anger – a strong feeling of annoyance and hostility
  2. Annoyance – irritation and impatience
  3. Fear – worry, fright, horror
  4. Anxiety – nervousness
  5. Guilt – a feeling of wrongdoing
  6. Apathy – lack of interest and a state of indifference
  7. Frustration – bitterness and psychological irritability
  8. Despair – feeling hopeless
  9. Emptiness – feeling void and vague out of extreme sorrow
  10. Inadequacy – a feeling of incompetency and deficiency to perform an act. 

Examples of emotions

A few examples of emotional responses can be:

  • A child cried when denied a nice toy.
  • You couldn’t win a chess game and your sister bullied you. This made you feel sad and disappointed.
  • Someone complained against you to the teacher by putting in false allegations. You were badly scolded for no fault of yours; this made you feel angry and resentful towards your friend.
  • Your colleague turned down your opinion in front of others and you did not like it. Your immediate feeling was anger, discontent, and unhappiness.

Difference between Feelings and Emotions

Though feelings and emotions are used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences between the two.

Feelings are the mental associations and bodily sensations that occur while integrating an emotional state. Feelings are cognitively inclined. They are a conscious appraisal of various emotional reactions.Emotions are responses triggered with respect to the interpretation of a specific event. These are associated with bodily reactions that are activated by the release of hormones, brain activity, and chemical neurotransmitters.
Feelings are caused by emotional states.Emotions arise before feelings start.
Feelings can be hidden. You can keep it secret in front of others.It can be easily seen by observing various physical reactions and behavior changes
Though feelings are not intense, they may last for a longer duration.Emotions are usually short-lived and intense.
Feelings are always conscious. For example: if you are happy about something, you will be fully aware of itEmotions can either be conscious or unconscious
Feelings are related to the changes occurring in the frontal lobe.Emotions are triggered by the activation of neurotransmitters, so they are connected with the limbic system.
Feelings VS Emotions

Difference between Emotion and Mood

Moods and emotions are also used interchangeably, but they are different in several aspects. Let’s analyze a few of such differences.

Emotions are brief and short-lived. They can last from a few seconds to minutes only.Moods are affected states that last longer. It can continue for a few hours or even days.
Emotions are specific responses triggered by a specific event or a personThe mood is a generalized feeling with no specific triggers. It is not a reaction to a situation.
Emotions are intense.A mood state is not intense.
There are different types of emotions.There are two mood states only – a good mood and a bad mood
It has a sudden and rapid onset in response to external stimuli.The mood has a gradual onset
Emotion VS Mood

What are the benefits of emotion?

Emotions play a vital role in your daily life. The way you react and respond to various life situations influences your actions, behavior, and decision-making. Few benefits of emotion help us to understand its importance in our daily living.

1) A source of motivation

Your emotional response can actually motivate you to perform well in your daily activities.

When faced with a nerve-wracking situation, you might feel anxious about your performance; but this anxiousness acts as triggers and motivates you to take the desired action, work hard, and accomplish the goal.

For example, a tough competitive examination can bring anxiety and fear. Thus in a state of fear, you actually work hard to achieve good grades.

2) Emotions help to avoid danger

Emotions help you to survive and thrive in tough situations. It makes you adopt new changes and move smoothly through rough patches in life.

For example, when faced with a dangerous and threatening situation, you may experience fear. This fear evokes feelings that tell you to flee or avoid the fear element. 

3) Good decision making

Your emotions play an important role in decision-making. If you feel positive, you are more likely to make a favorable decision.

However, if you are fearful or angry with something, your mindset will also become negative, and as such the decisions you make are unfavorable and hasty. Good emotional management always helps in good decision-making.

4) Emotions help to understand others well

The emotional expressions of others give you a cue of their mood states. It helps you to build healthy relationships based on appropriate emotional responses from your end.

For example, your friend is sad because she has lost a job recently, so when you talk to her, make sure that you choose the right words of encouragement to motivate her and keep her spirits high.

When we understand the emotions of others, we get a clear idea of how to respond to them. Good emotional intelligence is a must for healthy social bonding.

5) Emotions are good for physical health

Research on emotions has shown that when you express emotions in the right way, it leads to the good functioning of the immune system.

Holding back emotions can cause repressed anger and fear causing increased BP, heart problems, stomach issues, body aches, etc.

Emotion helps to harmonize our mind-body connection in a better way. You must have noticed that if you are angry with someone for some reason, your muscles get tense, hot flashes occur.

So, management of negative emotions and harboring more positive effects can boost your overall physical health.

6) Emotions are key to mental fitness

Emotions are a key to good mental health. When you know the ways to control and overcome negative emotions, you will be in a better position to handle stress. Thus, low stress means good mental health, coupled with happiness, peace, and good health.

People who are emotionally well managed can control their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. They can handle life’s challenges easily and bounce back well in times of setbacks.

The video link given below shows the six main types of emotions and how they impact human behavior.

Parting words

Do you feel emotionally overwhelmed too often? How do you react, when annoyed? Do you worry a lot? These are some of the questions that can challenge you to think more deeply about your emotional states. Emotions are not separate entities.

Many different emotions work together, in close communion to create your affective world that is well managed and sufficiently controlled, free from slavery and entrapment.

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