It’s normal and healthy to sometimes be very emotional. Big life challenges can evoke big reactions. And we all have tired days when we can react too quickly.
But are you constantly accused of overreacting?
An overreactive personality type tends to come with marked and consistent symptoms and behaviours.
Choose the answers below that are most like you to determine if you are, or are not, the sort to overreact.
1. How do you decide what to say?
A – Often I only know what I am going to say when I hear myself saying it.
B – I tend to pause to hear my thoughts, and only say what I am pretty sure about. If I am not sure what I feel I usually ask for time to think.
2. If you listen to your thoughts, what do they sound like?
A – There are a lot of thoughts about other people and how they disappointed me, as well as some self-criticism. I often think in extremes – things are really great or really awful. I dream of how I wish things were, or remember a past that was better than my life now.
B – I do think about how things went and why, and consider the perspectives of the others involved. I’m often just thinking about what I have to deal with today, or my current situation. Or I’m making plans.
3. How quickly do you make decisions?
A – I make decisions on the spot based on how I feel, a past experience I have had, something the person has done in the past, or on an instinct I have.
B – I consider the facts from more than one angle, based on the current situation, and I make sure what I think is based on supported facts.
4. Is regret a feeling you often experience?
A – I feel regrets about things often, or even daily.
B – I don’t often regret things, or maybe do now and then.
5. What do you feel physically if someone is upset with you, or you think they don’t like you?
A – I feel a hot, burning feeling grow inside me. Or I feel physically weak, even shaky, or like my heart is caving in. Sometimes I feel like I have left my body even and am floating above looking down.
B – I can feel my heart beat a little, or like I have a dry mouth, but it’s not overwhelming.
6. How do you act if someone gets upset with you?
A – I tend to cry easily. Sometimes I even run out of the room as it all feels overwhelming. Or I get suddenly angry – but what do people expect if they are treating me badly?
B – I can listen to what someone is saying behind their firm tone, and sometimes even manage to ask questions and solve the conflict without needing to get upset.
7. How often are people upset with you?
A – I often have one or two conflicts on the go, or several people I am actively avoiding.
B – I sometimes have disagreements with others, butI am rarely in conflict for long with anyone. Some people don’t like me, because we have a different viewpoint, and that’s fine.
8. How often do you go over and over what you said and did in a given situation?
A -I can’t help but do this for days or weeks after a conflict. If I don’t tell all my friends, I play it out secretly in my head.
B – I might talk things through a few times with friends if there was an upsetting situation, but then I resolve it and move on.
What do my choices mean?
As you might have guessed, ‘A’ choices are signs of an overreactive personality.
Many people fall somewhere in the middle, meaning you might be sensitive, but not too overreactive. But if you tend toward ‘A’ behaviour, then yes, you have an overreactive personality.
Overreactive tendencies tend to come hand-in-hand with other behaviours and symptoms, including:
An overreactive personality can also be a sign of adult ADHD as well as several personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder, which leaves you with a thin emotional skin, and histrionic personality disorder.
Why would I be an overreactive type?
Overreacting as an adult can come from a childhood where you were not allowed to relax and be yourself. This could mean that you had a critical parent, a strict parent, or a parent who you had to take care of. A mentally unbalanced or addicted parent means a child is constantly having to walk on eggshells and be ‘good’.
All these parenting styles can lead to a child to grown into an adult who struggles with self-esteem, and is so on edge about being criticised or being hurt that they overreact to any perceived slight.
Childhood trauma can also cause an overreactive personality. Something very painful in your past, like abuse or abandonment, means you develop defence mechanisms (and overreacting is simply pushing others away) to protect you from further hurt.
It also means that you have a hidden reservoir of sadness that you can project onto present day experiences. That little insult someone else puts your way triggers years worth of pain, meaning your reaction does not match what is actually happening.
Can therapy help me stop overreacting?
Yes, it can be a big help. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a great place to start. It is a short-term therapy that helps you recognise and control the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. To deal with childhood trauma such as abuse, a longer term therapy like psychodynamic therapy can be a great support.
I don’t really match any of this, but my partner keeps calling me overreactive?
It’s worth looking into narcissism. If your partner suffers from narcissistic traits or narcissistic personality disorder, they are likely to blame you for being ‘overreactive’ every time you respond with reasonable upset to their bad behaviour.
How else can you start curbing your overreacting? Sign up to our blog to receive an alert when we release our connected article, “How to Stop Overreacting to Everything”.
Still have a question about being overreactive? Leave it in the comment box below.