Do you find yourself being uncontrollably emotional? Have you noticed that every now and then, you have intense feelings and find it challenging to manage them? There are many possibilities, but you might have emotional dysregulation.
Humans are emotional beings, and since we find ourselves in different circumstances that will cause us to respond or react differently, it is expected to experience various emotions each day. However, you must know that there is a problem when you do not know how to manage these emotions such that they affect how well your daily life goes.
If you are curious and have questions like “what is emotional dysregulation?”, “what causes it?”, “Is there a cure?” “how do I manage my emotions?” or if you know someone who you might be able to help, then read on to learn more about emotional dysregulation.
What Is Emotional Dysregulation?
Before we define emotional dysregulation, it is a good idea to separate the two words and break them down separately. Then, we will fully understand what the term means. Let’s give emotion and dysregulation meaning. Emotion in humans is the reaction to situations, and it is usually instinctive or intuitive, not necessarily something done from reasoning. There are said to be six major types of emotions that exist, according to psychologist Paul Ekman. They are fear, disgust, anger, surprise, joy, and sadness. Dysregulation, however, is when there is a difficulty to control or regulate as it would in a regular functioning system. This brings us to our definition.
Emotional dysregulation occurs when you constantly find it difficult to manage or control your emotions (fear, disgust, anger, surprise, joy, and sadness) when they show up. This causes you to be stressed and constantly overwhelmed.
Emotional Dysregulation Disorder
A question pops up in people’s minds when they notice symptoms. It is “Is emotional dysregulation a disorder?” Here is the answer: Though some call it emotional dysregulation disorder, please know that it is not a disorder of its own. Instead, it is a pointer to other mental health conditions. Some of these conditions are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Causes of Emotional Dysregulation
Since we have established that emotional dysregulation of itself is not a disorder, it is good to know some of its causes. We have also mentioned that it is a pointer to mental health issues, so we can establish that whatever the reason, the effect is on the brain because that is the human cognitive faculty. Here are some of the reasons:
- Mental health issues: While mental health issues can have various causes, it is a significant cause of emotional dysregulation. It could affect logical reasoning and the ability to control oneself and one’s emotions.
- Accident: The prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible for the control of emotions and impulses. Accidents that impact the head can cause significant damage. This means that it will function better than it ought to.
- Neuro-divergent conditions: Neuro-divergent people do not process information the way everyone normally would. For one reason or another, they would process things differently, and their behavior will be somewhat different from what is termed regular.
Behavioral dysregulation is an offshoot of emotional dysregulation. In a bid to cope with the surge of intense emotions, instead of learning to manage or control it, people can find themselves indulging in unhealthy and unsafe behavior to soothe themselves or calm themselves down. Two examples are binge-eating and drinking excessive alcohol to numb the feelings.
Emotional Dysregulation Examples
Here are a few emotional dysregulation examples:
- Sam, 19 years old, works as a customer service representative in a store. He responds to a customer in an unseemly manner right in the presence of his boss. His boss then calls him into a private place and criticizes his method of customer interaction calmly and kindly. What is expected is that Sam receives the criticism and goes on to explain and apologize when he has to. Instead, Sam yells at his boss and storms out, slamming the door behind him. He spends the rest of the day unable to carry out his duties properly.
- Tim, a 7-year-old, was in class one afternoon. The class teacher had given out class work to be done individually. As Tim works on him, he encounters a problem that he cannot solve. Tim is expected to ask for help or wait until it is time for a general solution as a class. Instead, he begins to cry and throw tantrums. His teacher tries to step in and calm him down, but he refuses to be calm and continues his loud sobs.
- Agnes, a 60 year old, lives in the suburbs with her husband and her pet. She returns home one evening to find her pet missing. After announcements and searches, her pet is found dead in another street a week later. Agnes experiences a cloak of sadness and grief. She blames herself for the death of her pet, finds it difficult to control her sadness and tears, and decides to remain indoors and binge-eat. Slowly, she slips into
- Marcus and Rachel are a married couple. As expected, married people have disagreements, but theirs that evening blew up into a heated argument. Suddenly, he picks up the flower verse and smashes it on the floor. He yells, stomps his foot, picks up the television remote, and throws it at the glass window. He finds it hard to manage his emotions of anger.
Emotional Dysregulation Symptoms
In both children and adults, emotional affective dysregulation reveals itself in different ways. It shows up in the struggling actions in effort to contain the loud emotions. Let’s take a look at some emotional dysregulation symptoms.
For children, it could look like:
- Throwing temper tantrums
- Excessive fear of being separated from the caregiver.
- Constant resentment or rivalry among siblings.
- Crying beyond normal limits
- Acting impulsively in moments of anger.
For adults, it could look like:
- Aggression and giving outbursts of anger, even when unnecessary
- Excessive mood swings
- Binge eating
- Unnecessary conflicts in personal relationships and the workplace.
- Hypomania (over-active, high-energy behavior)
- Depression and isolation due to the inability to contain sadness
Can Emotional Dysregulation be cured?
As mentioned earlier, emotional dysregulation is not a disorder but a symptom that could point to some mental health conditions. For this reason, there may not be a permanent recovery from it. But, its symptoms and the conditions it points to can be well managed with the help of professionals so that you can live a healthy life without the disruption from these conditions. So, how can it be treated?
Emotional Dysregulation Treatment
Anyone with emotional dysregulation can get better. All they need is to learn how to manage it. That learning cannot happen without the help of another person—a mental health professional. There are various ways emotional and behavioral dysregulation treatment can occur. Here are some of them:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
This form of talk therapy helps point out the specific challenges and patterns that anyone experiencing emotional regulation may have. Since being emotionally dysregulated is most likely a pointer to some underlying mental health condition, this therapy is an excellent way to narrow down the challenges to the main one(s). It has a strong effect on the thinking patterns and will help to, over time, alter the practices of anyone with its symptoms.
This could be taught in a class or on one. In this treatment, you learn how to identify what triggers you. You also learn how to control and manage your anger. Anger management teaches you to self-regulate and relax when facing intense emotions. If you are wondering where to get this help, professional counselors are always available to help you tackle this challenge.
Psychotherapy, or emotional psychotherapy, like the earlier mentioned cognitive dysregulated behavior therapy, helps you point out and own your emotions. It uses techniques similar to cognitive behavioral therapy to help you be more mindful and take charge of your feelings. It is best to seek help from mental health professionals, and only they can recommend the best help that you need.
Emotions are a part of human life and add color to the human experience. However, there is a tendency for many to find it challenging to contain negative emotions, and this will hurt their lives and relationships with the environment. Emotional Dysregulation is usually a pointer to one or more underlying mental health conditions. Although there is no particular cure, it can be managed with the help of mental health professionals so that anyone living with it can cope and lead an everyday and healthy life.