“Am I too emotional?” is a question that many people ask about themselves.  There is the worry that they’re being overly “dramatic,” “sensitive,” or “extra.”  This concern of being too emotional may stem from the direct criticism of others, one’s intrapersonal experiences, or by simply living in a culture that favors aloofness.  Regardless, the concern of being too emotional is very real for many people. Therefore, here’s an article to help you determine if you are too emotional.

Highly Emotional vs. Too Emotional

        The first thing to do is to separate being highly emotional versus too emotional, and explore the stigma associated with each one.  Concerning the former, a person who is highly emotional feels things deeply.  Happy moments are extremely joyous, while somber situations are truly melancholic.  Generally speaking, a highly emotional person is simply going to feel emotions stronger than the average person.  However, this does not mean that the highly emotional person will inherently express their feelings in a more intense way.  After all, there is a difference between feeling an emotion and expressing that emotion.  Here’s an example that explains feeling versus expressing an emotion.


Trigger Event: While in front of others, Terry complains that Jackie spends too much time on their phone during dates.

If  Highly Emotional, Jackie May Feel: Embarrassed, guilty, anxious, sad, insecure

If Highly Emotional, Jackie May Do the following: Try to talk to the partner in private, try to gain clarity, apologizes for their behavior, explains things from their perspective

If Too Emotional, Jackie May Feel: Enraged, offended, shame, hurt

If Too Emotional, Jackie May Do the following: Storms off during the conversation, immediately yells and brings up problems they have with the partner, pushes the partner, curses at the partner


Notice the primary differences between the highly and too emotional individuals: 1) the potential range of emotions experienced and, 2) how they respond to those emotions. In general, highly emotional people can experience a wider range of emotions, BUT they are better able to respond to their emotions in more productive ways; whereas, the too emotional person, regardless of their range of emotions (i.e., narrow to large spectrum) most often responds in counterproductive ways.  Ultimately, you don’t have to be a highly emotional person to express your feelings in an unhealthy way. Additionally, a highly emotional person may experience feelings more often than the average person. This may be due to their emotional sensitivity, which is the ability to recognize emotions within people and the environment. Overall, our society hasn’t done a great job in differentiating between someone who is highly emotional versus too emotional. Therefore, here are some examples of what a highly emotional person may look like.

  • The person outwardly expresses how they feel inside.
  • It isn’t uncommon for the person to cry during movies.
  • The person expresses a broad range of emotions.
  • They may be more sensitive to the group’s mood or energy.
  • The person has an easy time empathizing with others.
  • The person’s affect and body language tends to indicate the emotions that they’re feeling.

To be clear, this definition of being highly emotional isn’t 100% objective nor exhaustive.  People define being emotional in several ways, many of which tend to be negative.

        It’s common for people to conflate being highly emotional with being too emotional.  Being too emotional carries a value judgment: an assumption of how something should be.  In this case, there’s the assumption that one shouldn’t feel an emotion so strongly or express themselves in a certain way.  Essentially, being “too emotional” is consistently having an emotional response that the person and/or others deems inappropriate.    Unfortunately, what’s appropriate tends to be subjective. Therefore, if you’re trying to determine if you’re too emotional, it may be more useful to reflect on the consequences of your emotions.

The Negative Effects of Being Too Emotional

        Though being too emotional can come from personal and societal expectations, its negative effects can be more concrete.  Essentially, if you are too emotional, it will likely affect different aspects of your life. Such aspects include your work life, dating, friendships, day-to-day activities, interacting with your partner, and many more.  Here are some statements that highlight some negative effects of being too emotional. See how much they resonate with you.

·         “I’ve lost friendships due to small arguments.”

·         “I take criticism very personally.”

·         “My anger has cost me job opportunities.”

·         “I’m easily hurt in relationships.”

·         “People walk around on eggshells around me.”

·         “People have avoided me because of my anger.”

·         “My emotions often leave me feeling exhausted.”

·         “I sometimes feel crippled by my sadness.”

·         “My emotions have often cost me sleep.”

·         “I tend to say hurtful things as a result of my emotions.”

To clarify, these questions can suggest, but not determine that you’re too emotional.  It’s possible that the people around you are simply ill-equipped to handle your feelings.  For instance, a person may walk around on eggshells because they are uncomfortable with emotions, not just yours.  Nevertheless, the more you agree with to the above statements, the more likely it is that you struggle with your emotions.  If you are still unsure on whether you are genuinely too emotional, talk with a friend.

Talk With A Friend

        Think of someone whom you truly trust and seems to have a good track record of responding in healthy or productive behaviors to emotionally triggering events.  After you have done that, schedule a time to talk with them. Though speaking in person would be ideal, you can also text, call, or video chat with them. Ultimately, what you want to do is present them with a scenario, specifically, the one where you were last “too emotional.”  Here’s an example.

“Let’s pretend that you were spending time with your partner last night.  As the two of you were relaxing, your partner’s ex came over to pick up some things that they left behind.  You didn’t know about the visit, and your partner simply states that they forgot to tell you about it.”

After you’ve given them the scenario, ask them the following questions.

·         “How would you act in that situation?”

·         “What seems appropriate or the most appropriate course of action ?”

·         “What would it look like to overreact or be too emotional?”

Once again, being too emotional is largely subjective.  That being said, it can also be useful to see how someone whom you trust would act.  If they were to have a similar emotional response, chances are that you aren’t being too emotional.  However, if their response is drastically different from yours, it wouldn’t hurt to explore why that is.

        There is significant stigma with being highly emotional.  A lot of cultures preference rationality, and see emotions as a weakness.  However, there is nothing wrong with feeling emotions or being sensitive to the feelings of others.  The only issue is when those emotions become overbearing: when they start to negatively affect one’s life.  This takes the form of being “too emotional,” and can hurt one’s social, romantic, and personal life. If you truly feel as though this applies to you, help is available.  Schedule a session with an individual therapist at https://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact/ .

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