What it is: Emotion dysregulation is a term that describes a pattern of difficulties in responding effectively (i.e., consistent with values and the situation) in the presence of an emotional trigger. Dysregulation may come in the form of difficulty regulating the intensity of one’s emotions, difficulty regulating how quickly emotions fire, and difficulty regulating how long emotions last. Individuals with emotion dysregulation may manage their emotions by reacting impulsively and in ways that either exacerbate the situation (e.g., screaming at someone) or prevent the situation from resolving (e.g., shutting down and refusing to speak to someone).
Emotional dysregulation difficulties occur on a spectrum. Lower level concerns with dysregulation often involve the ability to function fairly well in day-to-day life (e.g., attending work), but may involve distress or exhaustion in doing so. Moderate level concerns with dysregulation may involve greater impairments in functioning, such as difficulty with interpersonal interactions. Severe difficulty with emotion dysregulation may involve substantial functional impairment (e.g., difficulty holding a job), substantial interpersonal conflict (e.g., inability to keep friends, high conflict with family), or the development high risk coping mechanisms (e.g., suicidality, self-injury, aggression).
Associated Concerns: Low to moderate dysregulation is often associated with anxiety, mood disturbance, shame, and may involve unhealthy coping mechanisms (e.g., substance use, avoidance of interpersonal situations). Severe difficulty with dysregulation may be associated with disorders such as PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, or oppositional or disruptive behavioral disorders (often in teens).
Evidence Based Treatments offered: Treatments offered will depend on the severity of your dysregulation and an understanding of the potential causes of dysregulation. For severe dysregulation, Trauma Therapies or DBT may be appropriate. For low to moderate levels of dysregulation, additional treatments such as the Unified Protocol (UP), emotional resiliency, self-compassion, or CBT may be appropriate.