Feeling a wide range of emotions is a 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 feel overwhelming, they may worry that they are too emotional. How emotional a person is is a subjective judgment. There is no right or wrong emotional reaction to emotional triggers.

That said, when emotions feel out of control, it may signal an underlying problem.

Keep reading to learn more about eight possible causes of heightened emotions, including both psychological and physical factors.

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Numerous physical and mental health conditions can cause a person to feel extra emotional. These range from stress to hormonal changes.

1. Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder

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 experience panic when seeing someone who looks like their rapist or intense anger in response to news stories about rape.

The National Center for PTSD emphasizes that anger is a common effect of trauma. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, some returning soldiers murdered their partners or other family members.

Although this represented a very small fraction of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it suggests that the trauma of war may have led to excessive anger and violence.

Learn more about PTSD here.

One 2020 study discusses the relationship between childhood trauma and moodiness, including the development of mood disorders such as depression and trauma-related conditions such as PTSD.

2. Mental health issues

Numerous mental health conditions can affect a person’s emotions. Depression, for instance, may make a person feel sad or angry. The specific symptoms may vary depending on the person’s environment and socialization.

Some research suggests that men may express more anger than sadness when they are depressed.

Bipolar disorder may cause shifts between feelings of intense depression and feelings of intense joy, while anxiety disorders may make a person more fearful or reactive.

3. Hormonal shifts

Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. As such, changes in hormones — especially dramatic and sudden changes — may affect a person’s emotions.

One 2016 study involving people with hypothyroidism, for example, found that 60% experienced some level of depression. The thyroid releases 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 shift hormones may also affect emotions.

Although popular media often depict a person’s period as a reason for their excessive emotions, research does not consistently or strongly support this claim in healthy people.

A 2012 review of previous studies found a lot of variability in when people reported period-related mood shifts, suggesting that there is no consistent correlation between where a person is in their menstrual cycle and their moods.

In the review, just 14.9% of studies found a link between the premenstrual period and negative moods. However, people with premenstrual dysphoric disorder — a mental health condition linked to the menstrual cycle — may experience period-related mood shifts.

4. Socialization and cultural norms

Cultural norms help determine what level of emotional expression is normal. A person’s socialization into this norm may affect how they judge their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

For example, most research suggests that male and female children have different emotional socialization. It indicates that boys are taught and allowed to express more anger, while girls are encouraged to express more emotion. This may help explain why men may be more likely to display anger and less likely to view anger as an emotion.

Gender and other social factors may also affect a person’s interpretation of emotions.

Gender stereotyping begins in infancy. One 2016 study suggests that adult caregivers are more likely to view female infants’ cries as higher pitched, even though there is no actual difference in cries between male and female infants.

It is important for people who are concerned about their own emotions to weigh whether they are “too emotional,” whether it is causing actual harm, or whether their emotional expressiveness is just a mismatch with their culture and environment.

5. Physical health issues

Physical health issues can affect mood in several ways. For example, physical health problems may make daily functioning more difficult and challenging, depleting a person’s energy and causing moodiness.

People in pain, especially those with chronic pain, may experience mood shifts or an unusual amount of negative emotions.

Physical health problems may also directly affect mood by changing how the brain processes information or shifting hormones.

People with a type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia, for example, may have intense mood shifts. They may experience bouts of aggression or intense emotions that lead to inappropriate behaviors.

Learn more about frontotemporal dementia here.

6. Unmet physical needs

The mind and body are not separate entities. This means that changes in a person’s physical state may affect their emotions, especially when they have less energy to manage stress or a demanding physical workload.

Changes in blood sugar — which can occur when someone is hungry, eats lots of sugar, or has poorly controlled diabetes — may cause mood shifts. A person might feel excessively emotional or not understand why they suddenly have intense emotions.

Many people also feel excessively emotional when they are tired. However, it is important to note that certain medical conditions, such as depression, can also make a person feel tired and moody. So, people who feel chronically tired even when they get enough sleep should contact a doctor.

7. Gaslighting

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 excessive.

A 2008 study suggests that this bias against women’s emotions causes them to wait longer for care in the emergency room. More recent research into chronic pain also suggests that doctors may view men in pain as brave while dismissing women as being excessively emotional.

People, including the individual feeling the emotion, may also dismiss an emotion based on notions of gender stereotyping.

For example, research suggests that women are socialized to vocalize more feelings of sadness, while men are socialized to vocalize more anger. Some people might not view excessive anger as excessive emotion but view excessive sadness as a sign of being overly emotional.

8. Stress

People experiencing stress may have more mood shifts or seem more emotional than usual. There are several reasons for this:

  • Dealing with stress can weaken a person’s coping skills.
  • People under stress may neglect their physical needs, causing them to feel tired or hungry.
  • Feeling overwhelmed can make it more difficult to deal with even minor stressors, such as a child interrupting a conversation or a spouse calling to talk.

This is a normal and common reaction to stress, and it does not mean that something is wrong with a person. However, this reaction can also increase stress by triggering conflict with loved ones and other challenges.

So, finding a way to manage the stress may prevent it from getting worse.

When a person feels unable to manage their emotions, they may react in ways that affect their relationships, jobs, or education.

Additionally, feeling overly emotional can be exhausting and unpleasant. Some people may feel out of control because of intense anger or anxiety.

Some symptoms that a person might notice due to high emotions include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • conflict with loved ones
  • difficulty getting or staying motivated
  • increased aches and pains
  • difficulty practicing self-care

The right remedy for handling intense emotions depends on the emotion and its cause.

Some options 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 acknowledgment 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

A person should contact a doctor if they:

  • have emotions that are so intense that they hurt or lash out at others
  • worry that they may have a physical health condition
  • have symptoms of a mental health condition
  • notice that self-care and home management strategies are not working
  • notice that their mood or personality suddenly changes
  • are thinking of hurting themselves

Emotions, even intense ones, are common and normal.

As long as they do not undermine a person’s quality of life or cause them to harm themselves or others, there is no reason to worry about occasional intense emotions.

That said, prolonged emotional issues could signal an underlying health condition. If a person experiences this, they should seek professional medical advice.