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Do You Feel Too Deeply?

Posted on April 23, 2013



Just a few weeks ago, this country, this entire world, was shaken by the Boston Marathon bombings. The media is having a field day with this story – you can’t seem to get away from it.

I happened to be online, reading Facebook when someone posted the horrific news. I was horrified, sickened and worried about what would unfold. Of course, everyone was shocked and terrified by this tragic story, but I found that I could not take my eyes off the news or turn off the radio or stop myself from reading online news feeds. The videos were repeated over and over again until I could memorize the faces of the people running past the finish lines- some in horror, some not even aware of what was happening.

Most people seemed to be able to fit this new piece of terrifying history into a place in their brain and move on with their daily lives, for the most part. I, however, could not remove the frightening images and fear that left me breathless for days.

You see, lots of people with ADHD have an intense emotional reaction to things- we feel “too strongly.” Not in a negative way, but in a neurobiological sense. Certain commercials can bring immediate tears to my eyes. Soulful songs can bring a lump to my throat. As a teenager attending my first symphony, I was overcome by emotion, dabbing my eyes throughout the concert. Hearing of children with special needs struggling in school due to uninterested or misinformed staff makes me pull together a rally in the capital to fight for their rights. In fact, the reason I went into social work a billion years ago, was because of my intense need to fight injustice in this world.

At the time, I didn’t know I had ADHD. But I understand now that I feel things so deeply that if I don’t do something proactive, I literally feel sick.

For those of us with ADD, a comment that can sound like a mild criticism can set us into a tizzy, causing us to obsess over our perceived shortcomings. A book with a sad ending can make us plummet into a bad mood, or worse, for days. Yet, a sunny day after a long gray winter can make us feel indestructible and on top of the world, because deep feelings can go both ways. I remember weeping and I mean weeping when my oldest daughter walked down the stage with her newly earned college degree under her arm.   The intensity of my feelings can just get the best of me, sometimes. Which is why I rarely go to the movies, and flat out refuse to watch violent TV shows.

I’m not sure how much of this is the neurobiology of our ADD brains, our sometimes lack of impulse control (emotional, in this case) or if it’s a trigger, a memory of early screw-ups that makes us more sensitive and vulnerable.

What about you? What triggers your deepest emotions? How do you deal with them?

25 responses to “Do You Feel Too Deeply?

  1. Stephanie

    I feel the same way! I have been in treatment for depression & anxiety for over 20 years. 2 years ago Diagnosed with severe ADD-ADHD. I knew I had some kind of learning disability in school but I am 46 now & it was never determined or established other than “I wasn’t trying hard enough. I think I am a very bright, intelligent woman but my brain has it’s own light switch. It’s seems to have progressed. Currently added Adderall to my medication. Weekly or biweekly therapy too for about 20 years. I did graduate HS? Some college but I couldn’t keep up. My biggest accomplishment is being clean & sober for 24 years in a relationship for about 17 years & most importantly the birth of my son 7 years ago. I think we are wonderful & loving parents but it takes everything I have to keep up. I am not working other than his child-care. If this was treated in elementary school I may have had a career as well?

  2. Lollie - The Fortuitous Housewife

    Do I feel too deeply? Definitely.

    Last week’s events here in Boston, tho’ thankfully no one we know was directly effected, left me with a lump in my chest that made it difficult to take a full breath and a serious case of weepies – what a relief Friday evening!

    The news here is still full of stories about the bombing and victims, and I had to set a partial news blackout for myself so I can start getting back to normal.

    Great post – I shared it with my MOMSonADD group.

  3. Tina Sanford

    Yes, I feel things deeply. I have been accused of being excessively emotional and of deliberately dramatizing my feelings. The truth is, if I were to sit motionless and speak about something I care about with a monotone voice and an expressionless face, that would be the greatest act because it is not me. I choose people in my life who accept me as I am and I avoid the company of people who dislike my emotionality. This is my gift to myself.

  4. Gayle

    Wow, did I relate to your comments, Terry! My triggers are also injustice, plus emotional suffering of others, especially when it resonates with something that I’m personally familiar with. For instance, because my dad and 27 yr-old brother died in a plane crash, after 9/11 my mind locked into a pattern of grieving for each of the families who lost loved ones that day. I was reliving my grief in the name of all of those who suffered. Since the bombing attack in Boston, I have caught myself hyper-focusing on the news and intentionally moved on to give my attention to something else. It’s quite a remarkable change for me, one I believe’s been enabled thru the awareness I’ve developed with mindfulness meditation practice. Now I can feel the painful emotions but create space around them to experience the other events of daily living. Thinking of the Dalai Lama, who knows much pain yet carries joy wherever he goes, has motivated me to keep up the practice, and reading your essay made me realize what a powerful effect it’s having in my life. Thank you for sharing, Gayle

  5. Wendy

    I have learned to cry quietly in the theater; it comes from years of practice. I can handle some violence but always cover my eyes if it gets too bad. Horror/Scary movies are out of the question though.
    When I was a teenager, I did what all the other kids did and I went to a scary movie with a group of friends. It became so frightening (emotion) that I had to get up and wait in the lobby for it to finish. The images get stuck in my head and I will replay them in my dreams. Sometimes my dreams are so vivid that I walk around the next day feeling the effect as if it had really happened. If I had dreamed that someone had moved to a foreign country and I wouldn’t see them anymore – in the dream I am weeping about their departure – the next day I walk around sad all day and will have to remind myself it was my dream. Then I usually call the person to make sure they’re not going anywhere.
    I feel so deeply that it affects my life, for good and bad.

  6. Sue

    Wow, that’s me in a nutshell, I hate it.

  7. rachel

    I don’t know the why, but I am right there with you.

  8. Patty

    I’ve often wondered why I have such strong emotions, it was somewhat of a relief to find out that it may be tied to my ADHD! Like you, I poured over the news stories and videos and photos of the bombing, and found myself wondering what each of those people must have been thinking and feeling. I internalize other people’s tragedy. And for that reason, I hate to watch the news or read the paper or watch sad, scary or violent movies…I can’t handle it, it soaks into my brain too deeply. So I am normal! …in the ADHD sense, lol.

  9. Karen DeBolt

    I also feel things very strongly and I have to be very careful with myself around news events especially. I no longer watch any news – only read it online. That cuts down on a lot of the hyperbole of the newscasters and video can be so disturbing. I got taken by surprise years ago when the man was pulled out of his truck in downtown L.A. (forget his name right now) and ever since I just don’t watch it.

    I don’t think its “too” emotional – its just me and that is okay. I agree with the poster above who said that she cuts people out of her life who are uncomfortable with her emotions. Yes! Enjoy the wonder that is you!

  10. Diane

    Yes, yes, yes! Another thing in common with “my people”. I have always wondered why I feel every single moment so deeply, and how I can blunt those feelings just a bit without losing my soul, which is how anti depressant meds make me feel. Since it appears to be a permanent trait, I wish I could harness its energy for more constructive uses than feeling like a wrung-out rag of emotion most of the time. And the despair/outrage/hurt lingers for SO long, I mean, give me a break. I would love to have a “Clean Slate” button for my brain.

  11. Miriam

    I’m like this too. Way before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that I was an “HSP” or highly sensitive person. There is a book by Elaine Aron, Ph.D. called “The Highly Sensitive Person” in which she describes her thesis work, in which she developed a test that would suggest whether or not a person is highly sensitive. She found that about 20% of the general population has this trait. One of the characteristics of high sensitivity (the scientific term in the literature is “sensory processing sensitivity”) is overwhelm. For this reason, I’ve been searching for any scholarly work that links HSP and ADD, and haven’t found much. But I have had discussions with some people in the HSP community and they feel that while it’s not the same thing as ADD, there is definitely some overlap. Elaine Aron hasn’t said much about this.

    In any case, if you want to take the test, you can go to Elaine Aron’s website at I think any tool that can help us get more insight into our way of being is helpful and would recommend it.


    Terry thank you for sharing all you do about your ADD. I always have to step away and process it before I can respond. I think like other people have expressed I thought of these neurobiological responses as deficits, because I was always criticized for it.
    My biggest emotional response is always connected to my child. My husband always said you’re reacting to strongly to this, when he was having trouble in a Montessori school and they were labeling him. I like you found out I had ADHD after he started treatment.
    In regard to the news, I haven’t watched TV news for 20 years because I would get to upset. Previously in the Oklahoma bombings and 9/11 I just walked around in a daze. Now because I have treatment, I read everything I can get my hands on and listen to NPR. Thanks Terri

  13. Michele Renaud

    Yep. Ever since I was a child all I’ve ever heard was: Don’t Cry, Why are you so emotional, Why do you care so much, and on and on. Till this day still hear the same things, only NOW I turn off my ears and ignore the comments or questions. This is Who I am, and when it comes to feelings, it is perfectly okay to feel them! Others Just don’t know how to handle it nor do they understand what it means to have apathy, or perhaps even empathic responses. Compassion is a part of my nature, and that is a Nature I was born with. Not so sure I have ADD, but think I have some form of Aspergers or High functioning Austism. I am simply a Highly Sensitive Person in a highly desensitized world.

  14. Cheryl

    Yes , I feel to deep. In working with a coach I realized when ever I did something wrong I react as though I killed someone. Like it was the end of the world, but am trying to put things in perspective . We as adhd have always been put down and can be very insecure. We need to look at our strengths. I was diagnosed 6 years ago with adhd and am finally trying to change my life and using the tools that are out there for us.

  15. Terry

    I’m really touched by all of your comments. You’ve been very brave to open up about your intense feelings, but I think anyone reading this who is also highly sensitive will feel that they are not alone.

    Many thanks for sharing your thoughts. You guys are my heros!

  16. Shelby Brite

    Wow…I never thought about it this way. I remember once being at a Baseball game, overcome with emotion when the Star Spangled Banner was sung. I was about 19 yrs old and my family laughed at me. I could not stop the tears if I had a gun to my head. I avoid many situations where I think my emotions will get the best of me, which makes me sad. I never thought this was part of my ADD, but now it makes perfect sense. Thank you for opening my eyes!

  17. Dominique

    I can’t believe it, so you mean I am not alone? I personally think of it as a curse, I find it makes my life so much more complicated. 46 yrs old and it does seem to get a bit worse every year.

    Thank you so much for writing about this, I always thought it was just me!!!!

  18. Leslie

    I can be a mess sometimes. I also feel overwhelmed when people tell me to count my blessings or just not think about it. My mind circles back around over & over again I would guess At least a thousand times. I do not watch the news anymore. Hearing about it is more than enough. I have found that by watching someone who is good at the skills I lack I can do better. I know someone who is a great example of showing emotion and then after we talk and hug she finds something to laugh about. She has added happiness into my life. I also have taken Tylenol 3’s to dislodge my brain from the cycle. I surround myself with close friends who allow me to work through my issue & listen … like that’s hard & then look on the bright side.

  19. Karen

    Something in which I cry like a baby, is dressage. I had horses and was very serious about it. I know the hard work and the way in which the communication between the rider and the horse works and it is so embarrassing because most people don’t get it, why I am sobbing. Of course regular sad and bad things make me want to die so I also avoid the news and such. I think tho that the world needs us folks who are sensitive so that we can balance out the fact that a lot of people don’t care.

  20. Kathryn P

    Thank you for this article. I also cry at the drop of a hat. I used to be the kid who called “watch out!” during a movie (and horribly embarass my siblings). I guess it’s not so bad after all. I just have to remember to carry tissues.

  21. Robinn

    Oh, the teasing/harassment I got over crying in school! I cry at the least little emotional stimulus in some areas. Beautiful music will do it. I always cry and try to hide it when I hear the National Anthem. Books can push my buttons, too. Even if I’ve read the book before, I will cry at the same places when I read it again. I didn’t realize that this happened to other people! Even though I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, I am so relieved that I’m not the only person like this!!

  22. jen

    I’m not sure how to comment, just wanted to add mine… Seeing others hurt… Whether emotional or physical, I’m in childcare, so some times, when a child is hitting, I have to work very hard to keep calm and take care of things. Also, people who don’t pitch in, like kids who play while we clean.

  23. Rudie Ivester

    I can’t believe you are like that also. Church hyms, comercials on TV, books with moving story used to send me into a flood of tears. I was so tired of being in tears so frequently that I was able to take some meds that made my sensitivity more tolerable and a little less embarrassing for my children. However I have also stopped going to my church because of this.

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