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What It Means to Be Highly Emotional

What It Means to Be Highly Emotional

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Everyone feels sensitive at certain times or about certain topics, but excessive or inappropriate displays of emotion are sometimes described as highly emotional or overly emotional. If it feels like you are always fighting to hold back your feelings, understanding what might be making you feel highly emotional is a good place to start.

Characteristics of Highly Emotional People

Understanding these characteristics can help highly emotional individuals and the people around them navigate their feelings with greater empathy and understanding.

Highly emotional people often exhibit several distinctive characteristics:

Intense Feelings

Highly emotional people feel things deeply. They experience emotions deeply and intensely, which can range from extreme joy to profound sadness.


People are often highly emotional because they possess a tremendous capacity for empathy. They feel deeply for others and often absorb the emotions of those around them. That’s why when someone else is upset, they feel upset, too.

Sensitive to Criticism

People who are more emotional may be more sensitive to criticism and negative feedback. When emotions are closely tied to their self-esteem and sense of worth, they are more likely to have a strong emotional response when they encounter critical feedback.


They are often expressive in their emotions, whether through words, gestures, or body language, making their feelings evident.


Experiencing intense emotions and sharing them with others can be a sign of vulnerability. This can help some people feel closer and more connected, but it may leave some feeling exposed or shamed, depending on how others respond. 


Many highly emotional are often closely connected to their inner world. They may use this connection to fuel their creativity and channel their feelings into artistic expression. This might involve art, writing, poetry, music, and other pursuits.

Difficulty in Decision Making

Sometimes emotions can help when you are making a decision. Your so-called “gut reaction” stems from your emotional intuition. Sometimes, you might struggle if you feel torn between your head and your heart. Your emotional response might conflict with what seems logical or rational.

Tendency Towards Overthinking

Highly emotional individuals may tend to overanalyze situations and dwell on their emotions, leading to rumination and worry. Ruminating over past events can contribute to feelings of anxiety or depression.

Empathic Listening

People who feel emotions deeply often excel at empathic listening. They can connect deeply with others and understand their emotions on a profound level.

Reasons You Might Be Highly Emotional

First, it’s important to understand that it’s normal to get emotional, and everyone feels highly emotional from time to time. It’s just a part of being human! People feel things differently, and there are times when you might feel more sensitive to different psychological stressors or situations. That’s totally normal!

Emotions are a good thing. It’s just when excessive or shifting emotional responses create distress, disrupt your ability to function, or interfere with your relationships that such feelings become a problem.

There are other reasons why a person might be highly emotional. These reasons can vary widely and may include:

Genetics and Biology 

Your emotional responsiveness might stem from your genetic predispositions. Differences in brain chemistry or structure can influence how you respond emotionally. 

Research has found that genetics account for about 47% of differences in emotional sensitivity among twins, suggesting that how emotional you are is strongly affected by the genes you inherit.

Environmental Factors

Environmental influences, including your upbringing and childhood experiences, also play a part in emotional reactivity. If your caregivers and other family members tend to display emotions freely, you may be more likely to tap into your inner feelings more readily.

Difficult life experiences, including neglect or trauma, can also play a role in shaping your emotional reactivity. This can include heightened emotional sensitivity or reactions related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sleep can also leave you feeling emotional. If you’ve ever skimped on sleep, you’ve probably noticed how it’s often much harder to control your feelings the next day. You might feel irritable and moody in the short term; but in the long term, poor sleep can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other health problems.

One 2017 study found that sleep deprivation made it harder for people to identify specific emotions. People who were sleep-deprived were less able to identify prosocial emotional expressions, such as happiness or sadness.

Personality Traits

Your personality can also influence how you express your feelings. For example, emotional sensitivity, empathy, neuroticism, and other traits can contribute to experiencing emotions more intensely.

Hormonal Changes

Fluctuations in hormone levels can also influence emotional regulation and intensity. For example, hormonal shifts during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause may affect how emotions are felt and expressed.

Psychological Factors

Sometimes, you might feel more emotional if you have symptoms of a mental health condition like anxiety or depression. Other conditions like bipolar disorder or personality disorder can also make it more difficult to regulate your emotions and emotional reactions.

Life Events and Stressors

Everyone gets emotional at times, particularly when they are feeling stressed about things happening in their lives. Deadlines at work, arguments with your partner, or financial pressures can leave you feeling like your emotions are always bubbling under the surface. When this happens, all it takes is a minor inconvenience for all those feelings of frustration pouring out.

Cultural and Societal Influences 

Expectations based on societal, cultural, and gender norms can also affect how others perceive cultural expressions. Your society and culture may have certain expectations about how and when certain emotions should be displayed. 

Plus, stereotyped gender expectations often cause people to assume that women should be more emotional and men should be more stoic. This plays a role in why women’s experiences are often dismissed as “hysterical” while men may feel unable to share, discuss, or display what they are feeling.

Brain Differences

Variations in brain functioning and neurological processing can affect emotional regulation and intensity. Highly sensitive people, for example, have a neurotype that may be linked to differences in brain structure that contribute to heightened emotional responses. Because their brains process information differently, they may experience and express emotions more intensely. Researchers suggest that highly sensitive people have a personality trait known as sensory-processing sensitivity.

Attachment Style

The attachment styles that people form in early childhood can also affect emotional expression later in life. If you have an insecure attachment style, you might be more sensitive to feelings of rejection or abandonment, which might lead to more intense expressions of emotions in response to some situations.

Being highly emotional isn’t caused by one factor. Many influences play a role in how you experience emotions, including biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. Understanding these factors and examining your own emotional experiences can help you build your emotional intelligence and find support and guidance if you need help managing your feelings.

Effects of Being Highly Emotional

There are advantages and disadvantages of being highly emotional. On the plus side, it can help you empathize and be more sensitive to the needs of others. The disadvantage of this, however, is that sometimes you might feel overwhelmed by these feelings. 


You’re Empathetic and Compassionate

Highly emotional individuals often have a deep capacity for empathy and compassion. This means that they have a natural ability to connect with others. This not only helps other feel seen and understood, it can promote prosocial behaviors that enhance social relationships.

You’re Creative and Expressive

Intense emotions can fuel creativity and artistic expression. Many highly emotional individuals channel their feelings into art, music, writing, or other forms of creative expression, producing work that is deeply meaningful and evocative.

You Have Strong Bonds With Others

Emotional sensitivity can foster deep and meaningful relationships built on trust, mutual understanding, and emotional intimacy. Highly emotional individuals may form strong interpersonal bonds with others who appreciate and reciprocate their emotional depth.

You’re Self-Aware and Insightful

Emotional sensitivity can lead to heightened awareness of one’s own emotions and those of others, as well as greater insight into interpersonal dynamics and social cues. This heightened awareness can facilitate personal growth, self-discovery, and empathy.

You’re Authentic

Highly emotional individuals often embrace authenticity and vulnerability, openly expressing their thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities without fear of judgment. This authenticity can foster genuine connections and meaningful relationships based on trust and mutual acceptance.

Potential Disadvantages

You Might Experience Emotional Instability

Highly emotional individuals may experience frequent fluctuations in mood and emotional states, leading to emotional turbulence and instability. This volatility can make it challenging to regulate emotions and maintain emotional equilibrium.

Intense Emotions Can Be Exhausting and Overwhelming

Intense emotions can be overwhelming and exhausting, particularly during times of stress or crisis. It often leaves people feeling emotionally drained or depleted. Navigating the highs and lows of these emotional fluctuations may even lead to emotional fatigue or withdrawal.

You Might Be Struggle to Make Decisions

Emotionality can cloud judgment and make it more difficult to make rational decisions. In the heat of the moment, when emotions are high, you might find yourself making choices that go against logical, practical concerns. Because it seems like your logic and emotions are in conflict, you might be left feeling hesitant, or you might act impulsively when you can’t make up your mind. 

You Might Feel Stressed

Being highly emotional can also make it harder to manage external stressors. When you are already emotional and something stressful comes along, it can sometimes seem like its all just too much to take. This heightened sensitivity can contribute to feelings of overwhelm and vulnerability.

It Can Take a Toll on Your Relationships

Emotional intensity and sensitivity can strain relationships and lead to interpersonal conflict, particularly if emotions are not effectively communicated or managed. Plus, people often have differing interpretations of emotional reactions. This can lead to disagreements and misunderstandings if things are not well communicated.

How to Deal With Being Highly Emotional

Coping with being highly emotional involves developing strategies to manage intense feelings effectively. It also encompasses being able to recognize and harness the strengths of emotional sensitivity. Here are some suggestions:

Cultivate Self-Awareness

  • Practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or journaling to increase self-awareness and understanding of your emotions.
  • Pay attention to your emotional triggers and patterns, identifying situations or events that tend to evoke strong emotional responses.

Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms

  • Engage in activities promoting relaxation and stress reduction, such as exercise, leisure time in nature, or hobbies and interests.
  • Seek support from trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals during times of emotional distress.
  • Consider therapy or counseling to learn effective coping strategies and develop skills for managing intense emotions.

Practice Emotional Regulation

  • Learn techniques for regulating emotions, such as cognitive-behavioral strategies, mindfulness practices, and emotional expression through art or music.
  • Practice reframing negative thoughts and emotions, focusing on positive aspects of challenging situations, and seeking opportunities for growth and learning.

Set Boundaries and Prioritize Self-Care

  • Establish clear boundaries in relationships and prioritize self-care to protect your emotional well-being.
  • Learn to say no to commitments or obligations that feel overwhelming or draining, and prioritize activities that replenish and rejuvenate you.

Embrace Emotional Intelligence

  • Cultivate emotional intelligence by developing empathy, active listening skills, and effective communication strategies.
  • Use your heightened emotional awareness to connect with others on a deeper level by fostering meaningful relationships and interpersonal connections.

Channel Emotions into Creative Outlets

  • Explore creative outlets such as writing, art, music, or dance to express and process intense emotions.
  • Use your emotional sensitivity as a source of inspiration and insight; channel your feelings into creative projects that reflect your unique perspective and experiences.

Recognize the Strengths of Emotional Sensitivity

  • Develop a positive attitude to help embrace the strengths of being highly emotional, such as empathy, intuition, creativity, and authenticity.
  • Recognize that emotional sensitivity is a valuable trait that can enrich your relationships; deepen your understanding of yourself and others, and contribute to personal and professional growth.

Key Points to Remember

By incorporating these coping strategies and embracing the strengths of emotional sensitivity, individuals can learn to navigate emotional ups and downs with greater resilience, self-awareness, and authenticity.

It’s important to remember that being highly emotional is not a weakness. It’s a unique part of who you are! By learning to harness it effectively and channel your emotions into positive, productive avenues, you can make being a highly emotional person a strength that contributes to growth and fulfillment.


Assary, E., Zavos, H. M. S., Krapohl, E., Keers, R., & Pluess, M. (2021). Genetic architecture of environmental sensitivity reflects multiple heritable components: A twin study with adolescents. Molecular Psychiatry, 26(9), 4896–4904.

Boterberg, S., & Warreyn, P. (2016). Making sense of it all: The impact of sensory processing sensitivity on daily functioning of children. Personality and Individual Differences, 92, 80–86.

Killgore, W. D. S., Balkin, T. J., Yarnell, A. M., & Capaldi, V. F. (2017). Sleep deprivation impairs recognition of specific emotions. Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms, 3, 10–16.

Kurtz, M., Mohring, P., Förster, K., Bauer, M., & Kanske, P. (2021). Deficits in explicit emotion regulation in bipolar disorder: a systematic review. International Journal of Bipolar Disorders, 9(1), 15.

McLachlan, J., Mehdikhani, M., Larham, B., & Centifanti, L. C. M. (2022). Borderline personality traits and emotion regulation strategies in adolescents: The role of implicit theories. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 53(5), 899–907.