Do you find yourself experiencing emotions more deeply and intensely than those around you? Perhaps you’re told you are “too sensitive” or “too emotional.” For those who feel emotions more intensely than others, their brain is processing information differently and reflecting on a deeper level it may even manifest as being exceptionally perceptive. Yet these individuals can also be easily overwhelmed by the constant wave of feelings and overstimulation.
For the 15 to 20 percent of the population who are classified as a “highly sensitive person,” there are other contributing factors that also play a role.
What Makes an Emotion
To better understand what makes your emotions feel more powerful, it is important to know how psychologists define them. At a basic level, emotions are evolved responses to the environmental factors surrounding you — anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise are considered by some in the field to be the foundational emotions a human experiences. These are hardwired into us and our responses are typically automatic when triggered.
More complex emotions, such as frustration, humility, and nostalgia, on the other hand, are viewed as a combination of basic emotions and some additional thinking. Frustration, for example, could amount to anger combined with thinking there is no hope or way out of a situation. The key in these instances is to understand the power our thinking can have on our responses to external experiences, even when we feel our emotions are uncontrollable.
For people who feel more deeply and intensely than those around them, their brain is processing information and reflecting on it in a powerful way. While this behavior may be labeled as sensitive, caring, or too attentive, it can also be coupled with desirable abilities, such as being exceptionally perceptive, intuitive, and hyper-observant. When life gets chaotic, individuals who have high emotional intelligence can become over-stimulated and overwhelmed by constant waves of social nuances and energy.
Causes of Heightened Emotion
Staying in tune with your mind and body can help you understand what you are feeling and why. For instance, you may find that other contributing factors are playing a role in your emotional wellbeing, including these common reasons.
If you are experiencing more stress than usual, it can manifest physically, such as with a headache, and tension throughout your body, as well as emotionally through anxiety, sadness, or anger. To help cope with the emotional aspects of stress, take the time to identify the key stressors in your life — whether they be work, family, or your relationship. Then, get to work trying to manage stress through breathing exercises and regular physical activity.
Eighty percent of individuals who have depression never seek treatment. This is because many don’t realize depression is impacting their emotional health. Coupled with other intense feelings, depression can worsen a person’s despair, longing, and loneliness.
Lack of Sleep
Staying up late and enjoying a night out can be fun, but when done frequently, it can interrupt your body’s ability to function normally. When you are lacking sleep, it can take shape as an inability to focus and increased irritability. Whenever possible, strive to achieve seven to nine hours of sleep each night, taking care to go to bed early when you are able.
As you move through different stages of life, bodies change and evolve. For women, this includes the fluctuation of certain hormones, including a drop in estrogen, as well as other fluctuations due to pregnancy. For men, it entails a fluctuation of testosterone levels that can impact mood. If your mood is inconsistent, get tested by your doctor to best address the issue.
What we put in our bodies can have a huge impact on our mood. When we eat something rewarding, for instance, our body releases endorphins through the brain’s pleasure center, making you feel good. But what you eat also has the power to make you feel bad, and often, improving your eating habits with healthier meals and snacks can impact your mood and help you feel better.
A Traumatic Experience
Unfortunately, difficult moments in a person’s life can ignite feelings that would not be experienced otherwise. These moments can include an untimely death of a loved one, accident, job loss, or a serious illness, leading to a flood of emotion not normally present.
The Power of Emotions
Although heightened emotions can be a response to environmental factors and experiences, emotional intensity on its own is not a bad thing. Sometimes, pain and insecurity can come from the same people who deem emotionally intense individuals as “over the top.” When an emotional person is treated like an outsider for how they express themselves, it can lead to an internalized sense of shame and contribute to low self-esteem. But differences in emotional response should be viewed as a source of strength.
If you have emotional intelligence, your level of awareness becomes an important differentiator. It is a unique way to view and experience the world, and can help build connections and relationships that may not normally be present. When you allow yourself to embrace a wide range of emotions, it opens doors for a more authentic existence and can help you realize your true potential.
While it is helpful to understand the reasons behind your powerful emotional response, if feelings are inhibiting your ability to enjoy life, it is worth reaching out to a professional. A licensed therapist can evaluate all that is happening in your life and help support you in managing any potentially damaging emotions.