Psychology Behind Emotional Regulation and Dysregulation
Self Help

Psychology Behind Emotional Regulation and Dysregulation

emotional changes

Have you ever been so angry that you felt like crying or hitting someone? Have you felt extremely happy after you achieved your dream job ? These extreme emotions. Emotions are part of the everyday life of any human being, everyone experiences it. However, there can be times when emotions feel out of control and overwhelming. Now the question is what exactly are Emotions? Emotions are reactions accompanied by bodily sensation which are a result of external stimuli. Emotions last for just six seconds. The majority of us consciously control our emotions through a variety of techniques, which allows us to adapt to our surroundings. These strategies can be healthy or not. For instance, going on a walk to manage your stress is considered a healthy coping strategy while self-injuring is a part of an unhealthy coping strategy.

What is Emotional Dysregulation?

Difficulty in managing and controlling emotions is emotional dysregulation. It includes intense and unpredictable mood swings, struggling to express your emotions, and when upset finding it difficult to calm down. It leads to problems in relations, at work, or in academic performance thus impacting the overall mental health of the individual. Therefore, trouble controlling and diffusing your emotions and how you act upon them. It’s a Vicious emotional cycle. Examples of emotional dysregulation are avoidance, denial, emotional suppression, rumination, venting, and aggression according to D’Agostino and his colleagues (2017).

Is emotional Dysregulation only in children?

Typically, children and teenagers are associated with emotional dysregulation. However, it can affect anyone and in some cases, childhood emotional dysregulation can move to adulthood. Although it is right that children are learning to express, control, and modulate their emotions, it is a period of learning. It is similar to how children have no control over their urine and bowel movement, but with toilet training at an appropriate age they are able to control it. In childhood these skills are often learned and developed as one gets older.

Emotional dysregulation has a multifaceted construct (Gratz & Roemer, 2004)
  • Lack of awareness, understanding, and acceptance of your own emotions. It is usually a primary case with children and adolescents.
  • Avoidance is unwillingness to experience emotional distress. Thus, a baggage of emotions is formed if you are avoiding your inner feelings.
  • Difficulty using appropriate coping strategies for mitigating emotions. In this case, you are able to understand and accept your emotions however the way of copying is unhealthy.
  • Difficulty in modulating physiological reaction and behavior when in distress.
  • While in distress you are not able to engage in goal-directed activity.

It can be possible that because you are unable to recognise your emotions, you might feel confused, guilty and overwhelmed. Thus, it is to a point that you are unable to make decisions in managing your behavior.

Manifestation of emotional dysregulation:
Reasons for emotional dysregulation:
  • Inconsistent caregiver or traumatic events in early childhood impact ability of emotional regulation in later stages of life.
  • Genetically predisposed to having difficulty with emotional regulation
  • Mental health Disorders such as Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder or certain types of anxiety disorder can be associated with emotional dysregulation.

DISCLAIMER – it is crucial to note that it is not necessary that every emotional dysregulation is an indicator of mental health disorder. Emotional dysregulation moments are experienced time by time by all human beings.

  • Neurological conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might lead to emotional dysregulation.
  • The use of alcohol or drugs also disrupts emotional regulation.
  • Parents who struggle with their emotional regulation would teach the same to their children as emotional regulation is a skill learned during childhood.
Impact of Emotional Dysregulation
There is a range of negative effects associated with not being able to regulate your emotions:
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Ruining relationships and friendships
  • Disconnect from social circle
  • Struggling to keep up with your academic or work performance
  • Develop Addiction (alcohol, smoking or drugs)
  • Binge eating
  • Trouble in resolving conflicts
  • Self-harm
  • At extreme levels developing a mental health condition

Imagine the volume control of a speaker is from where emotions are regulated. When the volume control is out of your hands and you are not able to manage your emotions. The speaker’s voice becomes substantially louder. Emotional dysregulation is troublesome when it begins to interrupt your daily life, relationship, career, and more. your emotional regulation. However, when you are able to control the volume you can keep a decent voice, similarly you can control your emotions by regulating them. Thus, it is known as emotional regulation.

What is Emotional Regulation?

Emotional regulation are strategy used to adjust our emotional state to a comfortable level in order to accomplish our goals. It is an adaptive pattern of regulating your emotions. It refers to the ability to effectively manage and respond to one’s own emotions. And it involves the capacity to understand, express, and manage emotions in a healthy and adaptive way. It is an essential skill that helps in maintaining emotional and mental well-being. It enables individuals to cope with stress, make decisions, and navigate relationships. Good emotional regulation helps people to establish healthy relationships, experience lower anxiety and stress, and are better equipped to handle life challenges. Therefore, when you can steer or direct your feelings and reactions means that you are able to manage your emotions.

Key aspects of emotional regulation
  • Being able to express emotion and communicate it appropriately
  • Feelings of being okay with all kinds of emotions without any judgment
  • Recognizing and acknowledging one’s emotions
  • Able to modulate that is regulate the duration and intensity of emotions
  • Recognizing the cause of your emotion
  • Choosing appropriate ways to respond to your emotions

Emotional regulation can be strengthened and developed with effort and support. It plays a crucial role in a person’s mental health and overall well-being.

Why Emotion Regulation Is Important?

It’s common to feel strong emotions or to experience emotional ups and downs. However, it may indicate emotional dysregulation if you constantly struggle to control your emotions. Emotional regulation is a balanced response that refers to monitoring, evaluating and modifying your emotions according to the situation without feeling overwhelmed about it. Effective emotional regulation is linked to healthy coping mechanisms and improved interpersonal life thus resulting in overall life satisfaction. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for emotional regulation, one needs to find it themselves. What works for you in a particular situation might be the worst decision someone else could make in their case.

Tips for Emotional Regulation
  • Maintain a healthy sleep pattern
  • Exercise regularly such as walking, cycling or swimming
  • Engage in activities that you like
  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga
Do men and women have different ways of emotional regulation?

Even in the same situation, men and women may regulate and experience their emotions differently and communicate their feelings differently. However, it is applicable to all human beings since there is a difference in our past life experiences. The disparity between men and women, however, is caused by learned behavior, socialization, and cultural conventions. Women learn that it’s okay to express their emotions to others close to them while men are expected to be tough and not express their emotions. Women may easily exhibit both mild and strong emotions, and society is often accepting of this. Men are not allowed to display any emotion, not even a gentle smile for their kids or sadness when a loved one passes away.

The ability or difficulty in controlling and managing emotions is termed emotional regulation and emotional dysregulation respectively. Emotional dysregulation results in intense mood swings, involving emotions of anger and irritability. Causes of emotional dysregulation are associated with various psychological disorders, including borderline personality disorder, mood disorders, certain anxiety disorders, and trauma-related conditions. The ability to manage and modulate one’s emotions is emotional regulation. People with emotional regulation skills can navigate themself in stressful times without being overwhelmed. Emotional acceptance, awareness, expression, modulation, and understanding are components of emotional regulation.

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