Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Overwhelmed

When it comes to emotion, sometimes we need a brainstorming nudge. After all, each character will express their feelings differently depending on their personality, emotional range, and comfort zone. We hope this short, sample list of expressions will help you better imagine how your character might show this emotion!

If you need to go deeper, we have detailed lists of body language, visceral sensations, dialogue cues, and mental responses for 130 emotions in the 2019 expanded second edition of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.


  • Light-headedness
  • Letting out an uncontrollable cry, sob, or whimper
  • Dropping something, spilling something (slopping tea, dishes chattering together as you carry them)
  • Becoming angry or argumentative
  • Mental numbness
  • A glassy stare, a glazed look
  • Retreating inward
  • Wanting/needing to be alone
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Assuming the fetal position
  • Crumpling onto the floor
  • Waving someone away (hand flapping)
  • Putting the hands over the ears
  • Giving oneself over to tears through anguish or grief…

Win your readers’ hearts by tailoring your character’s emotional responses so they’re compelling, credible, and realistic.

If you struggle with writing emotions, you aren’t alone. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression has helped writers all over the globe, and it can help you. To find out more about this bestselling book, please visit our bookstore.

Prefer the flexibility of instant online access and greater searchability?

The Emotion Thesaurus is also at our sister site, One Stop for Writers. Visit the Emotion Thesaurus Page to view our complete list of entries.

TIP: While you’re there, check out our hyper-intelligent Character Builder that helps you create deep, memorable characters in half the time!



Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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11 years ago

No Kelly, YOU have good taste in music!!

Colby, I watch everyone. I’m like Eagle Eye!

Thanks Rachel. It helps me, too, because it really forces me to think out actions.

Rachel Burton
11 years ago

Wow. How long does it take you to come up with all these? This is an awesome resource for writers. Thanks for your work!

11 years ago

I agree with pj…are you watching me? 😉 Good post– keep up the good work!

11 years ago

Another great entry, Angela!
Thanks for commenting on my blog. I noticed you like Life is Beautiful by Sixx Am from your profile. THe video on my blog (Brides of Destruction)is by a band founded by Nikki Sixx! One of my recent Tune for Tuesday blog entries also was by Sixx Am. Love your taste in music!

11 years ago

Last week? I spy on you 24-7!


PJ Hoover
11 years ago

Were you spying on me last week?

This is a great one!