Warning Signs of Emotional Immaturity

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Emotional immaturity is an ineffectiveness at communicating one's emotions, with a tendency to overdramatize or focus on oneself. Some key characteristics of an emotionally immature person include selfishness and inadequate communication skills. As a result, they may avoid having difficult conversations or make jokes during serious emotional conflicts.

Read on to learn more about emotional immaturity and the impact it can have on relationships.

Annoyed woman

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What Is Emotional Immaturity?

Emotional immaturity is a person’s inability to express or cope with emotions that are serious in nature. People who are emotionally immature may also overreact to situations or have trouble controlling their emotions.

While emotional immaturity can negatively affect relationships, research has shown that it can also negatively impact a person’s professional development and ability to learn new skills.

What Causes Emotional Immaturity?

Although research isn’t clear on the exact cause of all cases of adult emotional immaturity, one factor is a strong association between being mistreated or abused as a child and the inability to develop parts of the brain.

Examples of Emotional Immaturity vs. Maturity

There are stark differences between emotional immaturity and emotional maturity.

Emotional maturity is when a person has the skills to react to situations appropriately and can control their emotions. Emotionally mature people behave in an adult-like manner in all situations in which they are dealing with other people.

Some examples of emotional immaturity vs. emotional maturity include:

  • Relationships: During a conflict in a relationship, an emotionally mature person will be able to sit down and calmly discuss the issue. An emotionally immature person will likely get defensive about their part in the conflict, deny that they have done anything wrong, or avoid discussing the conflict altogether.
  • Professional situations: If an issue arises at their work, an emotionally mature person will reflect and accept responsibility for their part in the problem. On the other hand, an emotionally immature person may lose their temper with their coworkers or become mad they are not being praised for something they did do correctly.
  • Real-world situations: When waiting in line, for example, an emotionally mature person will practice patience or calmly inquire about how much longer the wait is. An emotionally immature person will likely begin to feel frustrated or aggressive and could yell, curse, or leave the situation because they had to wait.

Issues That Arise From Emotional Immaturity

Because people who are emotionally immature have such difficulty with communication, they often have trouble connecting to people on a deeper level, holding on to relationships, and improving upon their own mistakes.

What Are the Signs of Emotional Immaturity?

Emotional immaturity will manifest in different ways. Behavior, thinking, and communication skills are all affected by emotional immaturity.

Behavior 

A person’s behavior is one of the easiest ways to recognize an emotionally immature person.

You may notice that a person’s emotions escalate significantly, similar to how a child would react. They may cry easily, get overly angry, or throw a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way.

Other behavioral signs include:

  • Blaming others when things go wrong
  • Lying to get out of uncomfortable situations or conversations
  • Name-calling during conflicts
  • Inability to control one's impulses, such as engaging in reckless behaviors
  • Needing to be the center of attention at all times
  • Bullying others to get what they want
  • Denying their part in a conflict or issue
  • Attacking others as a form of defensiveness, or engaging in harmful defense mechanisms, such as alcohol abuse and eating unhealthy food excessively

Childish Behaviors in Adulthood

Emotional immaturity is marked by an adult behaving much like a child during times when emotions are high or a conflict is present.

Thinking 

People who are emotionally immature often think of themselves first, assuming that everything around them is simply an extension of their world. Because of this type of thinking, they rely heavily on receiving only positive attention. They will steer clear of any sort of difficult, negative, or overwhelming situations that may require them to think of how someone else is feeling.

Emotionally immature people exhibit similar characteristics as those with narcissistic personality disorder. Emotional immaturity is considered to be a less severe form of this type of mental health disorder.

People with narcissist traits often believe that they are better than other people and are entitled to special treatment. This is similar to how emotionally immature people think about themselves, though to a lesser degree.

When a person with narcissism doesn’t get what they want, or are forced to participate in things that threaten their ideas of themselves or challenge their behaviors, they may react similarly to an emotionally immature person. This can involve:

  • Avoiding a person or situation
  • Screaming, yelling, or throwing a temper tantrum
  • Suspiciousness or distrust
  • Hostility

Communication 

Communication is an exceedingly difficult area for people with emotional immaturity. Not only do they have issues with expressing emotions, they also have trouble processing their emotions, leading to further complications when trying to communicate with others.

This inability to communicate beyond positive topics also drives their behaviors in situations where they feel attacked or backed into a corner.

Signs of Emotional Maturity

An emotionally mature person is able to:

How Does Emotional Immaturity Affect Relationships?

If you are in a relationship with an emotionally immature person, you may have seen and experienced many of the previously mentioned behaviors.

These relationships can be emotionally draining and consistently difficult because issues do not get resolved. You may often end up feeling unhappy, lonely, and unsure about the future of the relationship.  

When to End Things 

In some cases, the anger outbursts or other behaviors associated with emotional immaturity can fall under the category of emotional abuse.

For example, if your partner blames you for every conflict that occurs or denies they have ever done anything wrong, this can be considered emotional abuse.

Yelling and screaming when they don’t get their way can also be seen as a form of intimidation, which also falls under the category of emotional abuse.

Other behaviors that can be classified as emotional abuse include:

  • Name-calling, which is a form of degradation and verbal assault
  • Engaging in reckless behavior, such as cheating on a partner or misusing drugs or alcohol because of a fight (e.g., using this behavior as a form of punishment)
  • Bullying to get the other person to give in to their demands or tolerate unwanted behaviors
  • Denying things that really occurred

In the instance that these behaviors have escalated to consistent emotional abuse, you should seek help in safely removing yourself from the relationship.

Help Is Available

If you need support in leaving an abusive relationship, call, text, or chat with trained staff at the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

How Can You Overcome Emotional Immaturity?  

While an emotionally immature person can exhibit emotionally abusive patterns, that isn’t always true. In some cases, there may be a way to overcome emotionally immaturity.

If you are in a relationship with someone who is emotionally immature, you can:

  • Initiate a conversation: Sit down with your partner and express how their behavior affects you. Focus on yourself as opposed to their behaviors. Then they won't feel like it is a personal attack on them.
  • Seek professional help: Talking with a trained professional can help you and your partner open up in a safe environment free of judgement. This may also help your partner become more self-aware of their actions and how they affect others.

For this option to work, your partner must be willing to make the necessary changes. You cannot force them to see the negative effects of their behavior and make the changes.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

For your partner to understand the consequences of their actions, you have to set boundaries and stick to them. This could mean:

  • Being more assertive
  • Determining which actions or behaviors you will not tolerate
  • Following through with your commitments for how to manage your partner's immaturity

Summary

Emotional immaturity is when a person has difficulty controlling their emotions, accepting responsibility for their actions, and coping with difficult situations.

While emotional immaturity isn’t always a sign of a mental health disorder, it has been associated with narcissistic personality disorder and emotionally abusive tendencies. That being said, it is not always the case that an emotionally immature person is either a narcissist or abusive.

To help cope with an emotionally immature person, set healthy boundaries, initiate productive conversations, and seek out professional help. The emotionally immature person has to want to change in order for a relationship with them to work.

A Word From Verywell

Being in a relationship with someone who is emotionally immature can be challenging. However, there are ways to take care of yourself while trying to improve the relationship. Speak frankly with your partner and set healthy boundaries and stick to them to make it clear that you will not tolerate certain behaviors. If they wish to keep you in their life, they will make the necessary changes. If they are not willing to address these issues, then you will know it’s time to move on.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you know if your partner is emotionally immature?

    There are some clear signs that your partner is emotionally immature, including throwing temper tantrums, avoiding difficult conversations, and avoiding taking responsibility for their actions.

  • Can adults learn how to be emotionally mature?

    Adults can learn how to be emotionally mature, but it does require work, self-awareness, and a sincere desire to change. Seeking out a therapist who specializes in emotional immaturity correction is a good place to start.

  • Is emotional immaturity a learned behavior?

    Emotional immaturity has a lot to do with a child’s developmental phase. Research has found that a difficult childhood without adequate parental support, or childhood abuse, could cause a person to grow into an emotionally immature adult.

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8 Sources
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