Feeling a wide range of emotions is a very normal part of the human experience. There is no shame in being emotional, especially when life’s circumstances trigger powerful emotions.
When a person’s emotions interfere with their relationships or one does feel overwhelmed, they may worry that they are far too emotional. How emotional a person is does make a subjective judgement. There is no right or wrong emotional reaction towards the emotional triggers.
That said, when emotions do feel out of control, it may signal an underlying problem.
Here are eight possible causes of heightened emotions, including both psychological as well as physical factors.
Causes of being extra emotional
Numerous physical and mental health conditions can cause a person to feel extra emotional. These range from stress leading up to hormonal changes.
Trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
People who have a history of trauma or are currently facing trauma may have emotional reactions that seem disproportionate to the situation. For example, a rape survivor might go on to experience panic when seeing someone who looks like their rapist or intense anger in response to news stories that are discussed about rape.
In fact, it is emphasised with varying degrees of research that anger is a common effect of trauma. It is often suggested that the trauma coming from any severely afflicting situation may lead to excessive anger and violence.
The relationship between childhood trauma and moodiness are often displayed in our day-to-day encounters. This extracts the development of mood disorders such as depression and trauma-related conditions such as PTSD.
Mental health issues
Please note that numerous mental health conditions can affect a person’s emotions. Depression, for instance, may make a person feel sad or even angry. The specific symptoms may vary depending on the person’s environment and more so the social circle.
Please note that men may express more anger than sadness when they are depressed.
For instance, bipolar disorder may cause shifts between the feelings of intense depression and feelings of intense joy, while anxiety disorders may make a person more fearful or even far more reactive.
Hormonal shifts (that create havoc)
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. As such, changes in hormones, especially dramatic and sudden changes, may constantly affect a person’s emotions.
When one looks at people with hypothyroidism, it is been found that about 60% have experienced some level of depression. The thyroid does release thyroid hormone, but it can also indirectly influence other hormones.
Pregnancy, menopause, puberty, low or high testosterone, the use of steroids, and other factors and conditions that do shift hormones may also affect one’s emotions.
It is often depicted that a person’s menstruation or period can be variable as a reason for their excessive emotions, which never consistently or strongly support the claim in healthy people.
The variability is when people also report period-related mood shifts, suggesting that there is no consistent correlation between a person in their menstrual cycle and their moods.
There is common interlink that is found between the premenstrual period and the negative moods. However, all the people with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is a mental health condition, are also linked to the menstrual cycle which may thereby be experienced with the period-related mood shifts.
Socialisation and cultural norms
Cultural norms help determine what level of emotional expression can be considered ‘normal’. A person’s socialisation into this norm may affect how they judge their own emotions, as well as the particular emotions of others.
It is suggested that male and female children have different needs for emotional socialisation. It does indicate that boys are taught and allowed to express more anger, while the girls are encouraged to express more emotion. This may thereby help explain why men may be more likely to display anger and less likely to view anger as an emotion.
In fact, gender and other social factors may also affect a person’s interpretation of emotions. Gender stereotyping begins in infancy. It is further suggested that the adult caregivers are more likely to view female infants’ cries as higher pitched, even though there is no actual difference in the cries between male and female infants.
It is important for people who are concerned about their own emotions to weigh whether they are far ‘too emotional,’ whether it is even causing actual harm, or whether their emotional expressiveness is just a mismatch or impediment with their culture and the environment.
Physical health issues
Do note that physical health issues can affect moods in several ways. For example, physical health problems may make daily functioning far more difficult and challenging, depleting a person’s energy and then leading towards the cause of moodiness.
This is seen in those with a constant exposure towards chronic pain, that one may experience the mood shifts or an unusual variable of negative emotions.
Physical health problems may also directly affect the mood by changing how the brain processes information or thereby shifting all the hormones.
Let us go deeper: People with a type of dementia can be called towards the exposure of frontotemporal dementia, for example, may have intense mood shifts. They may also experience spells of aggression or intense emotions that do lead towards certain inappropriate behaviours.
Unmet physical needs
Please take a good note that the mind and body are not separate entities. This means that the changes in a person’s physical state may affect their emotions, especially when they have less energy to manage all the stress or have a demanding physical workload.
It is considered that changes in blood sugar can occur when someone is hungry, eats lots of sugar, or has poorly controlled diabetes, which may cause mood shifts. A person might feel excessively emotional or not understand why they suddenly do have intense emotions.
Many people also do feel excessively emotional when they are quite tired. However, it is important to note that even certain medical conditions, such as depression, can also make a person feel tired and moody. In fact, people who do feel chronically tired even when they get enough sleep must contact a doctor.
Dismissing someone as excessively emotional is one way to devalue their experience and dismiss the severity of the stress they are feeling. It is especially common for women to have their emotions dismissed as an excessive display of emotions.
It is suggested that this bias against women’s emotions do cause them to wait longer for care in the emergency room. In fact, chronic pain also suggests that doctors may view men in pain as supposedly brave while dismissing women as being excessively emotional.
People, including an individual feeling the emotion, may also dismiss an emotion based on notions of gender stereotyping.
For example, a woman has often socialised to vocalise more feelings of sadness, while men are socialised to vocalise more of anger. Some people might not view excessive anger as excessive emotion, but then they view excessive sadness as a sign of being overly emotional.
People experiencing stress may have more mood shifts or seem to be more emotional than usual.
There are several reasons for this:
- Dealing with constant stress can weaken a person’s coping skills.
- People under stress may also neglect their physical needs, causing them to feel tired or hungry.
- Feeling inundated can make it far more difficult to deal with even minor stressors, such as a child interrupting a conversation or a spouse calling to talk.
It is vital to note that this is a normal and common reaction to stress, and it does not mean that something is wrong with a person.
However, this very reaction can also increase the stress by triggering conflict with loved ones and other challenges.
So, what is important is finding a way to manage the stress that may prevent it from getting worse.
It is crucial to note the potential complications and challenges of being overly emotional
When a person feels unable to manage their emotions, they may react in inappropriate ways that affect their relationships, jobs, or education.
Some symptoms that a person might notice due to high emotions often include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Conflict with loved ones
- Difficulty getting or staying motivated
- Increased aches and pains
- Difficulty practising self-care
Remedies for managing the heightened emotions
The right remedy for handling intense emotions depends on the very emotion and its cause.
Some options do include:
- Better physical care, such as exercising, eating regular meals, and getting enough sleep
- Treatment for physical health conditions
- Treatment for mental health conditions, such as medications, support groups, or psychotherapy
- Developing a strategy for managing the source of the emotion
- Better social support, including the acknowledgement that intense emotions are a common and normal reaction to stress and trauma
- Reframing certain emotions as normal rather than abnormal
- Self-care and relaxation strategies, such as deep breathing and meditation
Managing emotions is an ongoing journey that must become a way of life. It is not always situational and certainly not temporary. It needs to be a permanent journey of belonging and acceptance towards oneself. Once you make something your constant practice you commit to it. This makes you better equipped to handle your emotions instead of drowning in the whirlpool of emotions.
Trishna Patnaik is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one-to-one basis in Mumbai.
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