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Sensitivity, Emotional Dysregulation, and Eating

Do you become easily emotionally dysregulated? Do you feel things intensely, react strongly to situations and people, and have a hard time shrugging off emotions, leading you to turn to food to re-regulate your mood? Have you been called “too sensitive or over-sensitive” or feel that you are more sensitive than others? Do prefer to spend a good deal of time alone rather than socializing or easily get over-stimulated? Here are two books which will help you feel better as you are.

Fact is, you may be more sensitive to certain stimuli than others are. In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain explains the science behind low and high sensitivity. This is an enlightening book about reactivity and will help introverts feel more comfortable in our extrovert-laden world. As Cain described introverts and extroverts preferring different levels of stimulation, I thought about what it’s like to be an introvert trying and failing to tolerate high levels of arousal (noise, activity, social engagement, etc.), and turning to food to try to help yourself emotionally re-regulate. One of the points she makes is to get to know yourself and how much social and alone down time you need. You can’t go by what works for others and, instead, need to chart your own course to feel more comfortable and decrease your need to re-regulate. Cain calls this process finding your “sweet spots.”

The Highly Sensitive Person—How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron, PhD. is about people who easily get emotionally aroused and have difficulty calming themselves down. Aron’s website ( has a test to assess your sensitivity. Here are some statements from it:

  • I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.
  • I tend to be very sensitive to pain.
  • My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.
  • I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.
  • Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.
  • Changes in my life shake me up.
  • I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.

Being an introvert or highly sensitive comes with many pluses which both books extol. It’s time to stop getting down on yourself for being the unique person you are, to learn how to engage with life more effectively on your terms, and to manage your feelings better when you can’t.