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Imbalance vs. Unbalanced — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Updated on April 24, 2024
Imbalance refers to a state of lack of proportion or equality, often used in contexts like economics or biology, while unbalanced generally describes something not in even distribution, often used to describe physical instability or mental states.
Imbalance vs. Unbalanced — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Imbalance and Unbalanced


Key Differences

Imbalance typically denotes a condition where elements are not in proper proportion, such as an imbalance in trade or nutrients, which can lead to systemic issues within an economy or body. On the other hand, unbalanced often refers to physical states, like an unbalanced load in machinery, which might cause operational inefficiencies or risks.
In financial terms, an imbalance might occur when there's a significant discrepancy between imports and exports, affecting economic stability. Unbalanced, in this context, could describe a budget that heavily favors certain expenditures over others, leading to financial strain.
Within ecosystems, an ecological imbalance can severely disrupt food chains and biodiversity, often due to human activities or environmental changes. Conversely, an unbalanced environment could refer to physical characteristics, such as uneven terrain that affects the habitability for certain species.
In psychology, imbalance is frequently used to describe chemical or emotional states that affect health, like hormonal imbalance. Unbalanced, however, is commonly associated with describing someone’s mental state that could lead to erratic behaviors or decisions.
In engineering, a mechanical imbalance in the rotation of parts, such as wheels or turbines, can lead to excessive vibration and premature wear. Whereas, an unbalanced force applied to structures might result in tilting or collapse, highlighting a physical discrepancy.

Comparison Chart


Lack of equality or proportion
Lacking stability, symmetry, or evenness

Common Usage

Economic, biological systems
Physical objects, mental conditions


Systemic disruptions
Physical inefficiency, risks


Rebalancing elements
Adjusting the physical state

Example Context

Trade imbalances, hormonal imbalance
Unbalanced loads, unbalanced diet

Compare with Definitions


Unequal allocation of resources.
Imbalance in educational opportunities widens societal gaps.


Not having equal sides.
An unbalanced see-saw won’t function properly.


Lack of proportion or symmetry.
An imbalance in muscle development can lead to injury.


Skewed in focus or arrangement.
An unbalanced diet leads to health problems.


Disparity between competing forces.
Political imbalance can cause unrest.


Physically unstable.
The unbalanced table wobbled constantly.


Uneven distribution of elements.
Nutritional imbalance affects overall health.


Lacking mental stability.
He felt unbalanced after the news.


Discrepancy in a system.
Economic imbalances can lead to recessions.


Not evenly distributed.
Carrying an unbalanced load can cause back pain.


A lack of balance, as in distribution or functioning.


Not in balance or in proper balance.


The property of not being in balance.
The growing imbalances between the rich and poor first lead to more crime.


Not evenly or properly distributed
An unbalanced allotment of resources.


A state of disequilibrium (as may occur in cases of inner ear disease)


Showing or marked by erratic or volatile emotions or behavior.


(mathematics) a lack of symmetry


(Accounting) Not satisfactorily adjusted so that debit and credit correspond.


Not treating all sides with due importance
Unbalanced reporting in the press.


Not balanced, without equilibrium; dizzy


Irrational or mentally deranged


(accounting) not adjusted such that debit and credit correspond


(computing) of an expression having different numbers of left and right parentheses


(American football) an offensive line with more players on one side of the center than on the other


Simple past tense and past participle of unbalance


Not balanced; not in equipoise; having no counterpoise, or having insufficient counterpoise.
Let Earth unbalanced from her orbit fly.


Not adjusted; not settled; not brought to an equality of debt and credit; as, an unbalanced account; unbalanced books.


Being, or being thrown, out of equilibrium; hence, disordered or deranged in sense; unsteady; unsound; as, an unbalanced mind.


Being or thrown out of equilibrium


Affected with madness or insanity;
A man who had gone mad


Debits and credits are not equal

Common Curiosities

What impact does imbalance have on ecosystems?

It can disrupt natural food chains and biodiversity, often leading to environmental issues.

What are common signs of an unbalanced diet?

Signs include nutrient deficiencies, energy fluctuation, and overall poor health.

What does "imbalance" mean in health?

It refers to a disproportionate physiological condition, like hormonal or nutritional deficiencies.

Can both terms be used interchangeably in mechanical contexts?

Generally no, as imbalance refers more to a lack of proportionality in function, while unbalanced often refers to physical asymmetry.

What might cause an unbalanced washing machine?

An uneven load or misalignment of the drum can cause the machine to become unbalanced.

How do you correct an imbalance in workload?

By redistributing tasks and responsibilities more equitably among team members.

Can mental health be described as unbalanced?

Yes, particularly in informal contexts to describe instability or irregular behavior patterns.

How does "unbalanced" describe physical objects?

It describes objects that are not evenly weighted or stable, causing potential dysfunction or hazard.

What does it mean when a vehicle's tires are unbalanced?

It means the weight is unevenly distributed around the wheel, leading to vibrations and uneven wear.

Is it correct to say an economy is unbalanced?

It's more appropriate to describe an economy as imbalanced, particularly in terms of trade or fiscal policies.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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