You might be an emotionally sensitive person if…
- You cry at Cheerios commercials
- You sometimes literally seem to feel what others feel
- You have an especially hard time coping with criticism.
- You’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.
- You have a hard time sorting out and identifying what you’re actually feeling.
- You feel emotionally triggered when you hear or witness stories about things that happen to vulnerable people or animals.
- You often experience mood swings or unstable emotions/emotion dysregulation.
For over a decade, I suffered with the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. I was often misdiagnosed as being Bipolar Rapid Cycling as well as other diagnoses connected with emotional instability.
When I finally received the correct diagnosis of BPD, I was referred to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which ultimately helped me to finally get my life on track.
Being an emotionally sensitive person is not a “bad” thing. And, although I no longer meet the criteria for a BPD diagnosis, I do meet some of the criteria and need to practice DBT Skills to help me feel well — essentially, these skills help me to cope more effectively when I’m feeling dysregulated emotionally.
For example, I implement Emotion Regulation skills, such as:
- Observing and Describing What I’m Feeling:
Discerning WHAT I am feeling so I can identify and describe the emotion that needs attention. This is something I did not know how to do before DBT. I would become completely overwhelmed with how I was feeling and would often feel that I was experiencing dozens of emotions at ones. Emotion Regulation skills have helped me to learn how to better discern how I am feeling. Being mindful of what we are feeling in any given moment is the first step to coping with not feeling well emotionally.
- Opposite to Emotion Action:
There are things we can do to shift from one emotion to another when our current emotion is not serving us in a productive way.
- Letting go of Painful Emotions: Many emotionally sensitive people feel that they must “punish” themselves by extending their experience of painful emotions. The reasons behind this are complicated, of course, but we can learn how to have more compassion for our ourselves and, in the process, reduce our suffering by letting go of painful emotions that no longer serve us.
- Riding the Wave of Emotions:One of the most helpful skills I’ve learned is to ride the emotional waves — another way of acknowledging that “this too shall pass.” No feeling, mood, or state of mind is permanent. It is all transient. Even if you feel miserable at 8 am, this doesn’t mean you’ll still feel this way at 4 pm (or even an hour later, really). Learning to ride the wave allows us to wait until the intensity has passed rather than reacting and acting impulsively and in sabotaging ways.
If you want to learn more about Emotion Regulation skills, check out this online, worldwide DBT class that I am co-facilitating with a licensed therapist at DBT Path, where we’ll dig deeply into these concepts and more:
It gets better!