EQ: Emotional Awareness in Teens

By Jenna DeRosa 

verified by Psychology Today

EQ vs IQ

EQ is a measure of your ability to recognize both yours and other peoples emotions, interpret emotions, regulate emotions, and manage other peoples emotions.  “This means being aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively), and learning how to manage those emotions – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure” Daniel Goleman.  IQ, on the other hand, measures mathematical ability, spatial recognition, analytical thinking and short term memory.

In my experience of counseling for teens, I have done a significant amount of work in recognizing and identifying emotions and building an emotional vocabulary. I often find myself pointing to the “feeling face” charts in the office as I ask others to identify emotional symptoms. Teens often have discomfort in recognizing and vocalizing emotions. Practicing this in sessions helps clients to build their emotional vocabulary within themselves and also others.

Components of Emotional Intelligence

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to recognize your emotions, strengths, limitation, and actions as well as how they affect others
  2. Self-regulation – the ability to show or restrain emotions depending on the situation
  3. Motivation – the ability to enjoy what you do and work towards achieving your goals
  4. Empathy – the ability to identify and understand others’ emotions
  5. Social skill – the ability to manage relationships

Low EQ and Mood Disorders

Although clients may not request counseling services for their emotional quotient, it is a major factor in mental health issues that come from repressing emotions. Emotional awareness is the first tier of helping many clients coming to therapy for emotional regulation skills, anger therapy, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and more.  Mental health disorders that I have seen develop in part from having a low eq are anxiety and depression.

If you’re a beginner in identifying emotions an important way to build your emotional vocabulary is to recognize somatic (physical) symptoms within the body.  This will help you learn about and recognize your emotions. Each person may have different somatic or physical reactions to emotions.  This can be described as how your body feels when you are having an emotion.  For example, with anxiety, you may feel a tightness in your chest, a rapid heartbeat, sweating, tingling.  Others may feel a shortness of breath or have no outwardly noticeable physical symptoms but rather a general sense of physical unease.

A good example of the tie between emotion and somatic symptoms was described by one of my clients.  You likely can think of a few examples of your own.

“Looking in the rearview mirror, I  saw the flashing lights and then the sirens blared in my ears.

It happened so quickly that I didn’t even realize that one came before the other.”

When you first see and then hear those sirens, there are a number of things that happen in your body before you cognitively identify that your worried, stressed, anxious, and scared. Your hands start sweating, your stomach drops, you feel your throat tighten, and you possibly have tears cover your vision.

All of these physical symptoms happen the moment you see and hear the sirens, but because it happens so quickly, you don’t realize that those sensations happen before you make the connection of the emotion.  The reaction happens in a split second.

While in this example it is obvious where the trigger is – you just got pulled over!  Many times, the trigger is less obvious and we can’t figure out why we are having somatic symptoms.  Often, in the case of anxiety and panic disorders, the trigger is not congruent to the reaction you’re having.  Your distorted thoughts may have amplified the situation and in turn, increased the level of your response to an unreasonable level.

Emotional Energy Centers in the Body

Here are some examples of somatic symptoms that may come up for you related to emotions:

  • Guilt: neck pain
  • Stress: Nausea, hands sweating, heart racing, headaches, tight chest, tightness in throat, dizziness, dry mouth
  • Anger: tightness in shoulders, clenching fists, clenching jaw
  • Sadness: exhaustion, crying, difficulty eating
  • Worry: tightness in the throat, hand sweating, heart racing
  • Shame and Humiliation:  heaviness in the chest

These are just a few emotions and a few somatic symptoms that may come up for an individual that is carrying that emotion. Again, this can vary among every individual. The tie of emotional awareness and physical sensations is often a new discovery for clients coming into therapy. Often our body can tell us what we’re feeling before we are cognitively aware of the emotion.

Below is the guide:  Emotion Energy Centers of the Body.  I often use this in sessions to help clients learn about how emotions and physical symptoms tie together.

“When awareness is brought to an emotion, power is brought to your life.” – Tara Meyer Robson





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