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Highly sensitive person and emotional flooding

“Emotional flood,” as the name suggests, is a sudden, intense wave of emotions that can completely overwhelm you mentally and emotionally, making it difficult to think or take action.

If you're highly sensitive, you probably know what I'm talking about. It's that terrible feeling of being in a state of overstimulation and that our nervous system is no longer able to cope with external stimuli.

emotional flooding

Because the brains of highly sensitive people are wired differently, this can happen to them frequently. This flooding state can occur in response to stress, traumatic events, or strong stimuli, and can lead to feelings of panic, disorientation, and loss of control. It can also cause you to have emotional outbursts accompanied by a flight, fight or freeze response.

Because the nervous system of highly sensitive people has a lower “threshold” and is programmed to be more sensitive to their environment, all forms of stimulation, from images to sounds to emotional signals can impact them mentally and emotionally.

Their body and mind are on constant alert, ready to react to any situation with the necessary emotional or physical responses and this can be extremely uncomfortable.

Because of this increased stimulation to respond to a given situation, HSP can become overwhelmed by things that non-HSP cannot even phase. For example, a highly sensitive person may be strongly impacted by:

  • Sparkling light

  • Mid-loud noises

  • A change in ambient temperature

  • A slight change in someone's mood

  • Sudden changes

For highly sensitive people suffering from conditions such as trauma or anxiety (which many of us experience), it becomes even easier to become easily overwhelmed.


Flooding is different for each person, but symptoms may include:

Emotional and mental symptoms:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, as if you no longer have control over the situation

  • Inability to think clearly

  • Increased likelihood of making quick or irrational decisions

  • Talking about yourself negatively

  • Quick thoughts

  • Crying spells or feeling like you're about to cry

  • Desire to immediately flee or escape the situation

  • Difficulty or lack of concentration because your mind is overwhelmed by trying to process a lot of information at once.

  • Sudden anxiety or need to withdraw because you feel on the verge of implosion and need a moment of calm and solitude.

  • You go into fight or flight mode because you feel like you're not going to make it and you're tempted to scramble to find a place where you'll feel safe, even if you're not in a safe place. truly physically threatening situation.

  • Your emotions can be everywhere and you may not even be able to identify or explain them. It's chaos in your head.

Physical symptoms :

  • Accelerated heart rate

  • Breathing changes

  • Feeling of knots in the stomach

  • Sweating

  • Tremors

  • Tunnel vision or dizziness.

  • Outwardly, flooding can look like panic, fear, or a complete shutdown.

The difficulty with these symptoms is that they can turn into a cascade of panicky feelings. When you can't see through the tears and you can't think through the racing thoughts, it's hard to slow down and deal with the situation.

Whatever the form, emotional flooding is an extremely uncomfortable, even frightening feeling and it can be difficult to overcome, both in the moment and in the long term. When left unchecked, it can have a significant impact on our mental health and relationships.

It can lead to increased anxiety and depression, strained relationships due to uncontrolled outbursts, and low self-esteem.

Fortunately, by learning to identify your triggers, trying exercises like meditation and deep breathing, and engaging in a self-care practice that works for you, you can learn to manage these overwhelming feelings. With the right strategies, the next time you feel an emotional flood coming, it will feel more like an emotional puddle that you know how to prepare for.

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If you think you may be experiencing an emotional flood, the following techniques can help you regain control of your emotional state and feel more comfortable in your daily life.

Identify your triggers

One of the first steps to avoiding an emotional flood is knowing what can cause it.

By becoming aware of your triggers and developing the tools to manage them when they arise, you can proactively avoid them.

It could be certain topics of conversation or people in your life, a lack of sleep, or not exercising on a regular basis.

Breathing exercises

Intentional breathing exercises, like 4-7-8 or box breathing, can temporarily slow down the nervous system and heighten your mood.

You can also try alternate-nostril breathing - a technique used in yoga - which can reduce blood pressure. The process involves blocking one nostril and inhaling and exhaling through the other nostril, then alternating in a consistent pattern.

Mindfulness and grounding practices

At the height of a flood, try the 5-4-3-2-1 sensory grounding practice. In this exercise you try to find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

This helps you draw your attention away from racing thoughts or overwhelming emotions and back to the present moment.

Practice more self-compassion

It is very important to be aware of your internal dialogue and the things you say to yourself in these moments when emotion is at its peak. In fact, research shows that practicing self-compassion improves your overall well-being.

If you find yourself talking about yourself in a negative way, redirect your thoughts and say something positive about yourself. You shouldn't say things about yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend, family member, or pet,.

Develop a self-care practice

Build an arsenal of self-care tools that you enjoy and that make you feel good. This could be exercising, going for a walk, sleeping, but also doing crafts, reading or taking a relaxing bath. Find what works for you and incorporate self-care and stress management strategies into your daily routine.


Research has also shown that people who engage in physical exercise and are used to dealing with more sweaty and stress-inducing situations have a higher resistance to emotional flooding. Exercising is a good method to train not just your body but also your mind to deal with uncomfortable situations.

Share with a trusted person

It can be a good strategy to engage with someone you trust in discussions about your emotional flooding episodes: the factors which caused it and what you are physically feeling. 

So instead of getting caught in the cycle of emotional flooding, sharing your experience with emotional flooding can inculcate a habit of sharing emotions and discomforts, which can alleviate this phenomenon to a great extent.

Consider therapy

You don’t have to face the overwhelming experience of emotional floods alone, especially if they are frequent. Be kind to yourself throughout the process and reach out to trusted friends, family, or support groups if necessary.

Recourse to professional help can accelerate your journey towards well-being. Contact me if you are too often prey to states of flooding, I will help you to overcome them thanks to several adaptation techniques and listening to your problems.


You want to share your story, your struggles and the battles you won, and be part of our circle of sensitive and intuitive people. Come with us and let's chat with other highly sensitive people!

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What is your biggest struggle?

  • Feeling emotionally drained

  • Moving on and letting go

  • Criticism and conflict

  • Being under pressure

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