Too Sensitive for Therapy

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Dear Hoopers,
I’ve always been an emotionally sensitive person and growing up with a depressed single mother meant that my emotional reactions to events, particularly when negative, were often brushed aside as “oh, she’s just being a moody teenager”. However, now I’m an adult living on my own, I’m finding that this is affecting my relationship with my fiance. He doesn’t mean to cause offense, but there are times when he’ll remark something in response to me and it will trigger such a dark mood in me that can last a day or more. More than once I have said to myself that I ought to stop opening up to him about my opinions because he doesn’t take them seriously. I know, rationally, that he does (and he tries to reassure me), but emotionally, my heart wants me to close away from the pain. And I do worry this has changed the dynamic of our relationship in the last few months to the point where I have doubts about getting married.

I know I’m the problem for our relationship at the moment. I think talking to a professional might help. But because I’m used to being told that I’m being moody, I get so many doubts about going to therapy. What if I overreact negatively to the sessions or go away feeling more frustrated than aided? I don’t want to keep overreacting to my fiance, but I’m worried I’m digging myself into a rut of emotional over-sensitivity.
-Too Sensitive for Therapy

Dear Too Sensitive for Therapy,
We all need help in our relationships. The reality is that they are complex in nature no matter the personality type. Emotionally sensitive or not, inadequacies exist. What strategies are you currently implementing to help identify emotional triggers? If the answer is none, or none that seem to be working, then how are you going to work on challenging these negative thought patterns?  

Ryan has an even keel personality. I do not. I get easily excited, badly disappointed and have a tendency to be more reactive. On the flip side, it is my passion and spontaneity that are key pieces of my personality that he finds most attractive. I bet your fiancé, family and friends would say that your intuition and empathy are beautiful personality traits. Rather than judging your sensitivity, realize that you may have an asset that others do not have. Embrace your sensitivity and focus on managing the behaviors that you know are not helpful or healthy.

Embrace your sensitivity and focus on managing the behaviors that you know are not helpful or healthy.


If I started making a pro and con list with you about seeing a therapist or not, I believe the pros would outweigh the cons. It’s not just dealing with emotional sensitivity around your fiance, but also addressing a history of emotional reactions you’ve engaged in since childhood. What do you have to lose? You may really enjoy it and feel more empowered with tips and coping skills to get past some of the hurdles you’ve faced and dig yourself out of that rut.

Dear Too Sensitive for Therapy,
It sounds like you are really tuned in with your emotions and your dynamics with other people. You understood how your emotional reactions were affected by your mother’s own struggles. You’re also aware that interactions with your fiance may be negatively influenced by your own thoughts and emotions. Recognizing that this is likely hindering your relationship, you’re ready to get into therapy but also fearful about the process.

First, you are very right that being brushed aside for many years and being told that you’re overreacting or too moody probably wasn’t helpful. Your emotions are your emotions. If you feel them they are real, regardless of what anyone else says. Even on the times and occasions when you had strong reactions, part of working through those feelings is knowing that you can share them with other people. Having others to talk with you through difficult times and see the other side is what helps you face your own fears. To know that no matter how “emotional” you’re feeling, your emotions aren’t too much for you or for other people.

To know that no matter how “emotional” you’re feeling, your emotions aren’t too much for you or for other people.

-Dr. Ryan

Although you are fearful about the possibility of overreacting in therapy or feeling frustrated during the process, know that you are strong enough to handle it. Working through emotional challenges and making changes won’t be easy, but neither is the alternative. My experience as a therapist has shown me that trying your best to bury, stuff, or control your emotions never works in the long run. Acceptance is the key.
-Dr. Ryan