Have you ever disagreed with somebody, and seemingly, out of nowhere, they have a reaction that comes out of left field? In these situations, where an individual has an outburst of emotion that exceeds the tone of the discussion, a mental health professional would label it “Emotional Dysregulation”.
Emotional dysregulation can be a scary situation to navigate for individuals who aim to seek peaceful mediation. This condition can be present in children and adults. It ranges from moderate to severe and impacts every area of life. Read on to find out more about what emotional dysregulation is.
INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines dysregulation as “any excessive or otherwise poorly managed mechanism or response” (dictionary.apa.org).
Negative emotions happen to us daily, but this shouldn’t be an issue. They only pose a problem when they become overwhelming or, more importantly, unmanageable. Not all negative emotions are destructive; some can help us navigate daily life – helping to develop our behavior and concept of self. Without balance, those feelings of negativity can harm our inner peace.
Emotional dysregulation is a complex collection of processes but has been described as including four main aspects (Gratz & Roemer, 2004):
- A lack of awareness, understanding, and acceptance of emotions
- A lack of adaptive strategies for modulating the intensity and duration of emotional responses
- An unwillingness to experience emotional distress whilst pursuing desired goals
- An inability to engage in goal-directed behaviors when experiencing distress
The condition can be caused by trauma, stress, or other factors. It can also be caused by using substances such as alcohol or drugs. It can also lead to difficulties in relationships, work, or school. In some cases, it can also lead to self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION ON RELATIONSHIPS
According to pchtreatment.com, “Emotional regulation involves holding onto thoughts, behaviors, and expressions within a socially acceptable range.” And the process plays out as follows:
- An internal or external event (thinking about something sad or encountering someone angry) provokes a subjective experience (emotion or feeling).
- Then a cognitive response (thought) is followed by an emotion-related physiological response (for example increase in heart rate or hormonal secretion).
- Followed by a related behavior (avoidance, physical action or expression).
Emotionally dysregulated relationships are not easy to deal with. They can be exhausting and frustrating. But there are ways to deal with them.
People on the receiving end of emotional dysregulation can find that it’s challenging to adapt to their partner’s reactions, and, as a result, their relationship suffers. Without background knowledge of an individual’s family history, it can be challenging to understand the origin of the dysregulated behavior traits.WHAT IS EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION? Click To Tweet
When someone becomes emotionally dysregulated, they may react by becoming angry, crying, accusing, or using passive-aggressive behavior. The individual may also create conflict.
Someone who is emotionally dysregulated may also find difficulty determining what is real – this can happen when an individual’s senses shut down when they are experiencing high emotional reactivity.
Emotional dysregulation is closely related to relationships. It often originates from triggers from close relatives such as family members, children, and other loved ones. These loved ones are typically individuals who have power over the emotionally dysregulated person. In addition, an individual’s early attachment style may be a factor in their ability or inability to regulate emotions. For example, if a parent withheld affection, it could have interfered with the individual’s ability to control their emotional state.
EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION, RELATED DISORDERS, AND TREATMENT
Emotional dysregulation can be caused by various factors, including early environment, upbringing, trauma, mental illness, or substance abuse.
If an individual experiences frequent mood swings and their condition is causing them distress or disruption in their daily life, they might be diagnosed with a psychological disorder. Below are some examples of disorders characterized by emotion dysregulation:
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorders
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Complex Post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD)
There are effective treatments available to help individuals with dysregulation manage daily living. In addition to medications, the primary schools of thought in emotional regulation therapy tend to be dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). (NIMH).