We are always expected to display emotional responses that should be socially accepted and traditional, even conservative at times. But we can sometimes react so emotionally and expressively that it will hardly fall into the traditional category. Such reactions are known as emotional dysregulation. It is often linked to mood swings and unstable (labile) mood.
People under the influence of emotional dysregulation are given to worrying and depression. They have marked suicidal tendencies and are prone to self-abuse and substance abuse. As time goes by, the worsening condition is sure to affect the life quality, ruin work/school performance, and all kinds of personal and professional relationships.
How does emotional dysregulation look like?
Emotional dysregulation manifests itself in a shoddy emotional state that makes it impossible to hold emotions in check; the afflicted person has strong outbursts or is easily depressed, and apt to indulge in self-damaging responses.
Emotional dysregulation makes all emotional responses to current circumstances either overblown or underplayed. Being largely inappropriate, they interfere with the smooth run of life, relaxing social activity, and mar relationships.
How will this kind of behavior express itself in real life when the sufferer is confronted with an unpleasant situation?
Your expectations for a romantic night out fell through. Since your significant other has let you down, you spend a tearful evening drinking alcohol and stuffing yourself with junk food.
You take a phone call to hear that the delivery of your ordered goods has been delayed for several days. You lose your temper and take it out on the interlocutor in a fierce manner.
At a merry party, you suddenly feel an odd one out; it depresses you so much that you drink more than is good for you and eat into the night trying to inveigle yourself into a better mood.
In kids, the condition may be more pronounced or take various forms, leading to throwing tantrums, precluding contact with parents and other adults, bursting into tears and acting out.
You can tell that a child has emotional dysregulation if they acquire the following behaviors:
- Defiant and rebellious outbursts
- Unwillingness to honor their parents’ or schoolteachers’ requests
- Difficulties in maintaining peer relationships
- Poor concentration abilities
- Emotional dysregulation signs
- Experiencing intense emotions that are difficult to control
- Severe depression
- Mood swings
- Being overly ashamed or angry
- Excessive substance use
- Feeling overwhelmed by emotions
- High-risk sexual behaviors
- Being overly perfectionist
- Problems with relationships, frequent conflicts
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Self-harming behavior
What Causes Emotional Dysregulation?
Reasons behind emotional dysregulation are numerous and various. Among them there are:
Childhood trauma. Humans are dramatically vulnerable in their first years of life. If they go through traumatic experiences, it leaves a lasting effect on their psychological development.
Childhood neglect. A child who had to undergo abusive treatment from those who cared for them, who was refused bare necessities, got by without proper clothes and health care, didn’t feel safe and had other social disadvantages could also grow up to be oversensitive emotionally.
Head and brain concussions, injuries. Head traumas resulting from falls and/or vicious blows can lead to bad dysfunctions of the brain.
Problems with constant invalidation. They arise when an individual’s feelings and beliefs are dismissed and judged on a regular basis.
According to psychologists, emotional dysregulation is linked with a weakened ability of a person for “emotional braking” – their neurotransmitters fail to provide the necessary protection, and the person falls back on the basic choice of “fight or flight.” So when under stress, the area of the brain that helps with emotional regulation (the pre-frontal cortex) remains passive and inefficient.
What Disorders Are Associated with Emotional Dysregulation?
Emotional dysregulation can often be encountered alongside a number of other ailments:
- Bipolar disorder
- Complex PTSD
- Frontal lobe disorders
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
Cases are known where emotional dysregulation is added to a graver mental disorder; then different stimuli can cause a stronger emotional response, and the person is bound to find it hard to restore his or her emotional equanimity after things have blown over.
What treatment can there be? Emotional dysregulation is commonly dealt with through:
Taking counseling. Especially hopeful is cognitive-behavioral therapy employing strategies which improve emotional regulation by developing a mindful and tolerant attitude.
Fighting depressive states with special medications.
Minding eating habits and exercise. Counseling and/or medication can be made far more efficacious when backed up by a salubrious diet that provides delivery of the required nutrients and vitamins. Regular workouts also do a lot towards maintaining a bright mood and ensuring proper self-care.
Working on coping with emotions. An effective emotional regulation being crucial, enlist the help of a mental health expert so you can achieve higher control and learn to express your feelings in a positive acceptable way. You will need to develop pertinent skills and regulate strong emotional outbursts by mastering certain techniques that will set you on the right path (for example, grounding techniques).
Being aware of underlying conditions. Emotional dysregulation can develop as a consequence of a physical ailment. Then you need to get the correct diagnosis and undergo treatments that will set your health right, as well as settle your emotionally disturbing extreme expressions.
The aforementioned techniques and skills should be practiced under the guidance of an experienced coach who will ensure that you will be able to use them advantageously and regain the quality of your life.