Why am I so emotional?

Why am I so emotional?

Reasons you're feeling so emotional can include stress, trauma, hormonal changes, as well as physical and mental health conditions.

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
|
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April 15, 2024
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Key takeaways

Everyone gets emotional from time to time. After all, our emotions make us human. It’s typical for feelings to ebb and flow––but what if you aren’t feeling quite like yourself? Maybe you’re constantly crying, noticing you’re extra sensitive, or can’t regulate your emotions the way you usually can.

This might leave you wondering why you’re on an emotional rollercoaster and what you can do to get back on track. Sometimes the reason is a mental health condition, like depression or anxiety, but it isn’t always the case. Here are some other common reasons you might have heightened emotions, how to rein them in (or not), and when to get professional help.


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7 common reasons you’re so emotional

Many factors, ranging from temporary life circumstances to chronic medical conditions, can contribute to feeling extra emotional. Understanding the underlying cause (or causes) of your heightened emotions is the first step toward feeling less overwhelmed by your feelings.  

Seven examples of potential causes for feeling extra emotional are:  

1. High stress levels  

Stress can seriously mess with your mood. You might notice heightened emotions when facing stressors head-on, such as looming work deadlines, big life transitions, or relationship troubles. When your stress levels are high, little things may be more likely to set you over the edge.

The part of our brain that we need (frontal lobes) to help us problem solve and carry out our tasks is also the same area that is needed to regulate emotion. So when that part of our brain is over-taxed from work, it then becomes difficult to utilize that same part to regulate our emotions

Research shows stress negatively affects our ability to regulate emotions, which can certainly leave you feeling more emotional than usual.  Not to mention, chronic stress and burnout, including from work, can further contribute to this, worsening emotional regulation and making it a bit more difficult to get back on your feet.  

2. Sleep deprivation

Getting enough high-quality sleep can also be crucial to your emotional well-being. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, or low quality sleep, your brain isn’t functioning optimally. Research shows that sleep deprivation can dampen your mood and cause you to feel more negative emotions like irritability, anger, and anxiety. You might also feel like you can’t regulate your emotions as well when you’re sleep-deprived.

Sleep deprivation can also worsen symptoms of pre-existing mental health struggles like depression and anxiety, contributing further to feeling overwhelmed with emotions.  

3. Hormonal changes in women

Women experience many hormonal changes in their lives, ranging from the monthly hormone fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle, PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), pregnancy and postpartum hormones, and menopause. When reproductive hormones like estrogen fluctuate, it doesn’t just affect your reproductive system––it can also affect brain chemicals called neurotransmitters like serotonin that are responsible for regulating your mood. These hormonal changes can result in heightened emotions or mood swings.  

Related: Feeling alone during pregancy? Here's why

4. Trauma

Whether you’re a survivor of a traumatic event that happened years ago or days ago, trauma can have a major impact on your mental health, which can potentially leave you feeling extra emotional. It’s common for trauma survivors to feel flooded with a range of emotions and have trouble regulating them. Sometimes you may even have intrusive thoughts or memories about the traumatic incident, which can also elicit strong emotional responses––especially if the trauma is “unresolved,” meaning you haven’t worked through it yet. Trauma-related responses can also emerge due to things like a death anniversary, reminders of past trauma

5. Being a highly sensitive person

If you feel emotions super deeply and you often feel super overwhelmed by your senses, you might be a highly sensitive person (HSP). HSP isn’t a mental health condition, rather, it’s a set of traits that someone might naturally have. Some people are just simply more sensitive than others when it comes to emotions and senses. It might even be in your DNA, as being an HSP has a genetic component. On top of being highly attuned to your own emotions, you might be an empath. This isn’t a scientific term, but it’s a personality trait that alludes to easily picking up on other peoples’ emotions and taking them on as your own.  

6. Mental health conditions

There are several mental health conditions and mood disorders that can cause a sense of heightened emotions or difficulties in managing your feelings. Some examples are:

  • Anxiety disorders: Anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder can make you feel intense fear and worry.
  • Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is known for mood swings that include high highs and low lows. Emotions on either end of the spectrum can be very extreme.  
  • Borderline personality disorder: BPD is a disorder characterized by intense, unstable emotions, mood swings, and inability to regulate emotions.  
  • Depression: Depression encompasses many symptoms, including intense negative emotions like anger, self-loathing, hopelessness, and feeling sad all the time.  

Symptoms of mental health conditions often overlap, and sometimes people have more than one mental health condition at once. The best way to determine what you’re dealing with is to see a psychiatrist who can diagnose you.  

7. Medical conditions

Medical conditions can affect not only your physical health but also your emotional well-being. Some conditions involving hormonal imbalances could be the root of your feeling overly emotional. For example:

  • Thyroid disorders: Having too much or too little thyroid hormones can affect various bodily processes as well as mood, contributing to anxiety or depression.
  • Cushing’s Syndrome: Cushing’s results in excess cortisol, the stress hormone. The syndrome can affect your emotional state, leading to mood changes like depression, mania, or anxiety.  
  • Addison's Disease: Also known as adrenal deficiency, this hormone condition can result in depression or irritability.  

These aren’t the only medical conditions that can affect your mood. It’s best to talk to your doctor for medical advice if you think a physical health issues could be the cause of your mental health struggles, especially if you’re experiencing other physical symptoms, too.  

How do I stop being so emotional?

If you're already feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, you might be wondering how to regain control instead of letting them take over. Here are several coping skills and self-care techniques you can try at home to manage your emotions in a healthy way.

Cultivate awareness  

When you’re aware of your emotions and what’s causing them, you can regulate them better. Instead of sweeping those emotions under the rug or pushing them away, get curious and aware.

Next time you feel your emotions spinning out of control, take a step back and reflect. Ask yourself what emotions you’re feeling. Sadness? Anger? Fear? From there, try to determine why you’re feeling that way. Can you identify what triggered this feeling? When you learn to cultivate awareness of exactly how you’re feeling and why, you’ll gain better emotional intelligence and be able to regulate your emotions more effectively.  

Plus, once you’re aware of your triggers, you can reduce your exposure to them or at least cope with them more effectively if you can’t avoid them.  

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with cultivating awareness but takes it a step further. Put simply, mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of the present moment, including any intense emotions you’re feeling and noticing them without judgment or reaction. It’s easier said than done, and it certainly takes practice. But research shows that mindfulness can help you cope with difficult emotions and allow you to react to emotions in a way that does not cause distress. One of the most popular ways to do this is through mindfulness meditation. If you’re new to meditation, search YouTube for mindfulness meditations or explore meditation apps.  

Try breathing exercises

You can harness the power of your breath to help calm down your nervous system, reduce anxiety, and boost your mood when you’re feeling overwhelmed by emotions. Deep breathing exercises are frequently coupled with mindfulness but don’t have to be. Try techniques like box breathing:

  • Breathe in for the count of four
  • Hold for four
  • Exhale for four
  • Rest for four before repeating the cycle

You can also try 4-7-8 breathing:

  • Inhale for four
  • Hold for seven
  • Exhale for eight  

Take care of your physical health

Your physical and mental health are closely connected. Don’t underestimate the power of good sleep (at least 7 hours) and physical activity. These tips can make a big difference, especially if your emotional state is due to lack of sleep or excess stress. Exercise can help release feel-good chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, which can put you in a better mood. Of course, don’t forget about eating a healthy, balanced diet so your brain has all the nutrients it needs to function optimally.  

Lean on social support

It can be easy to isolate when you’re feeling emotional, but try to resist the urge to shut down. Instead, share how you’re feeling with a family member or friend. Opening up to a loved one can take a weight off your shoulders and help you feel less alone in dealing with your emotions. They can offer a listening ear or even a fun distraction when you’re drowning in big feelings.

Practice self-compassion

Don’t beat yourself up for being an emotional person. You’re human, and things happen. We all go through challenges in life, and it isn’t always easy. Give yourself grace and compassion during this time. Self-compassion urges you to meet your emotions with kindness instead of criticism and judgment. Speak to yourself and treat yourself the way you would to a loved one who’s experiencing the same struggles as you.  

When to get help for your emotions

It’s normal to get emotional here and there, but if you feel like you’re in a state of emotional distress more often than not, or if your emotions are constantly getting in the way of your day-to-day functioning, it may be time to seek professional help.  

Frequent and intense episodes of heightened emotions could be a sign of a mental health condition, like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. A mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, can help you identify the root cause of your difficult emotions and help you come up with a plan to feel better. They can provide talk therapy to help you understand and manage your feelings or suggest medication in certain situations.  

Not sure where to find help? Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice providing in-network virtual services so you can get the care you need from home. Complete our free online assessment to get matched with a psychiatrist and get started on your path to feeling better.  

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

  • Aetna
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Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?

The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

About
Austin Lin, MD

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.



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