Are You Highly Emotionally Sensitive?

are you emotionally sensitive?Does the world feel dangerous to you?  Do you feel powerless, vulnerable or unacceptable?  Do you often think in terms of fair, unfair, should, shouldn’t, right and wrong?

People who are highly sensitive to emotions often experience the world as unsafe and feel helpless.  When you’re emotionally sensitive you’re frequently overcome by emotion and have trouble tolerating emotional pain.

People with significant difficulties with impulsive and self-destructive behaviors, problems controlling emotions, depression, aggression, attention, substance abuse, and other impulse behaviors often have problems with their emotion regulation system.  In DBT, these emotional problems are seen as a result of your biological makeup and your past experiences. 

Some people are simply wired differently than others.  We each have different sensitivities to emotional stimuli.  For some, small events trigger an emotional response, emotional reactions are extreme and they last a long time.  Having a sensitive emotional system and never learning to label and regulate that emotional arousal can leave you overwhelmed and unable to trust yourself.

Two primary goals of DBT include teaching you 1) to modulate extreme emotions and reduce negative behaviors that result from those emotions and 2) to trust your own emotions, thoughts, and activities.

If you consider yourself highly emotional, but have learned to understand and manage your emotions, what strategies do you use?  What do you recommend to others, who are struggling with emotions.

Use the comment section below.

12 Replies to “Are You Highly Emotionally Sensitive?”

  1. This is most useful especially at Christmas which tends to highlight family dysfunction. I have ongoing extended in-law issues which will never be resolved that make me want to feel very emotional at Christmas.

    With therapy I have been able to keep those emotions in check by deep breathing, meditation, understanding this is about them and not me and that I am still the same integrated person I was and that my self-identity does not disintegrate because of past events others have not been able to move on from. I no longer hate myself because of their prejudices.

    It is most liberating to be able to be in control and think rationally and mindfully during times when in-laws press my buttons that were, in the past, marked “explosive”.

    This is not to say I don’t feel these emotions, I just don’t let them affect my behaviour as I did in the past.

    I call this resilience.

  2. I think those who take medications are non-control group subjects for pharmaceutical companies. In therapy, what one tells you is contradicted by another. The clients spend decades trying to learn from those who do not know. The state of the art for treatment of mental illnesses is nothing to brag about. Trial and error is the vogue. The clients must endure both.

  3. I had something happen this week that usually turns very emotionaly ugly for me. I had made a coffee date with a new friend. It was for Thursday morning at my house. Her youngest son has been cronically ill with colds and such so it has been trying just to get together. She emailed me on Monday to say that she was going to play it by ear – but the day was tenatively set. I didn’t hear from her all week so I thought that we must be on. Thursday morning rolls around, I get my house in order and actually cleaned things up. 9 am, she wasn’t there, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00 etc, no show, no phone call, no email. Logically I knew that she didn’t do it intentionally – emotionally I felt some hurt – not as bad as I used to – but it was there. “She forgot about me” – I thought. “No – her baby was just sick – give her a break” – I thought. By noon I emailed her and said – I guess the little one is still sick? She replied at 8:30 p.m. She forgot. She didn’t realise it was Thursday until the middle of the day. When I went to bed I had tears – I’d been forgotten. Not the first time in my life. But instead of letting this thought carry me away into boo-hoo, poor me land, I stopped. I was mindful of what I was feeling rather than thinking. Where was it coming from? My childhood – naturally. And then I reminded myself that it was not a personal rejection – people forget and they have busy lives and if I wasn’t where I am now – if I was busy and happy with myself than this little incident wouldn’t have bothered me in the least. I stopped crying – I let my logic win. But it was the mindfulnes practices that I have been participating in that allowed me to work through this as well as I did. I emailed her back the next day and said “no, problem”. Because I’m learning to make it so it’s not. I have a lot of things to learn about myself.
    Thanks for the post.

    1. Thank you to everyone who has shared their experiences and strategies that have worked to manage overwhelming emotion.

  4. This definately is my biggest problem in life. The above is a really good discription. Sometimes I feel I am going to die from my intense emotions. Though I have been assured I will not. It still, sometimes feels emotions are global, epic, almost a life or death issue, when they are really not at all. My outbrusts can leave me feeling drained, embaressed and ashamed and in pain. I dont like my reactivity but I am comming to accept I cannot change having those feelings. All I can do is try to manage my behaviour and not wreak my cherised relationships and people whose support I need the most. I almost never become loud or dramatic but boil quietly. I try to hide the intensity of my thoughts and feelings from even close ones, knowing for them it would be alarming. It leaves me feeling very lonely at times. I do find a great release in art where I can express self. My scifi heroes were Mr Spock and Data and I hoped to one day be like them but alas I am me.

  5. The holiday season is very hard on me due to my traumas from my childhood. I can’t remember them all, but those I remember is one house, two families (ours and my uncles) and celebrated in two separated parts of the house. It has been an anguish going on for years, through verbal, amotional, psychological and physical abuse. To this day when December rolls around, I get really depressed, as all the memories flood in and the people who’ve hurt me the most are still alive, and now they want closure. My mother, a very overbearing and self-righteous woman, always tells me I need to forgive for the sake of my grandma who is very old and very sick and doesn’t have much to live, but I can’t sit at the able with her and my uncle, they re the reason for most of my childhood going into the c****. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree in over 13 years, I just can’t do it, and the fact that I live alone and this holidays will be spent alone away from my mother (with whom I still have a very bad relationship) and my sister who also leaves far from me, is going to be hell. I’ve gotten through it in the past and sure will get through this one once again, but the emotional toll of seeing people celebrating together is a reminder of what I never had, a normal, warm, loving childhood.

    1. Thank you for sharing your personal struggle. I think there are many who have had traumatic experiences during the holidays and each year have to struggle with managing the emotions that come up at this time of year.

  6. As a highly emotionalSensitive Person I found Life Skills – learning to value Yourself,and expressing Your feelings in the moment just part of what is taught helped Me Imensley!!! So much that instead of remaing shy,insecure,very sensitive to others outbursts or anger.I learned to Be Myself again! And I now can stand Up for Myself,Value Myself and Defend Myself against certain Family Members if need be.I am No Longer Shy or Insecure,but Confident.However I am still very Protective of Myself and this is only My first step in becoming well.Next DBT is ahead of Me,that is part of my life path…

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