10 Minutes

Edited & clinically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Experiencing and dealing with uncomfortable feelings is a part of the human condition. We all encounter stress, grief, frustration, and conflict daily, and emotional regulation helps us get through them without losing control. Properly managing emotions makes it easier to respond to daily challenges and difficulties in a socially appropriate and healthy way.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a firm handle on their feelings, especially when things get stressful. For some, it can feel as if their emotions are controlling them instead of being the other way around. Such people are often labelled as “drama queens,” “aggressive,” or “too unstable,” but in reality, what they are suffering from is emotional dysregulation disorder.

If you or a loved one frequently experience intense emotions and have a difficult time managing them, seeking professional help is highly recommended.

Before developing insights on emotional dysregulation, it is imperative to understand what emotional regulation is and how it differs from emotional dysregulation. Emotional regulation refers to a complex process that includes initiating, modulating, and inhibiting one’s behaviour and mental state in response to a stimulus. The method of emotional regulation plays out as follows:

  • An external or internal event (for example, thinking about a sad incident) triggers a subjective experience (a feeling or emotion)
  • A cognitive response (thought) develops, followed by a physiological response triggered by emotions (such as an increase in the heart rate)
  • This is followed by a related behaviour (physical action, avoidance, or expression)

The three-step process mentioned above helps maintain thoughts, expressions, and behaviours within a socially acceptable range. Any disruption to this smoothly-working process leads to an inability to manage emotions and emotional reactions, a condition known as emotional dysregulation disorder. These emotions include irritability, anger, sadness, and frustration.

It’s common to undergo emotional changes once someone is triggered; however, most of these feelings dissipate, and the remainder is dealt with in ways that do not lead to any impairment. But for people with emotional dysregulation, such is not the case. When these individuals are triggered, their reactions get so overwhelming that they cannot process their emotions appropriately. Such people usually lack self-awareness of their feelings and always cannot regulate them. Hence, they try their best to avoid facing any negative emotions, and once they occur, they cannot control them on their own.

In the early phases of emotional dysregulation, the problem triggers intense stages. Left untreated, it precipitates a life-long struggle with friends, families, coworkers, and relationships. While emotional dysregulation usually manifests itself in different ways, the most common symptoms include:

  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Severe conflict avoidance
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Wild mood swings
  • Impulsive or risky behaviour
  • Exaggerated crying fits
  • Substance abuse
  • Extensive grudge-holding
  • Accusatory statements
  • Threats of suicide

If emotional dysregulation disorder is negatively affecting your life, it’s the right time to review immersive treatment options in a rehabilitation centre. Most experts recommend undertaking a programme that combines medical intervention with holistic treatment aimed at helping clients:

  • Improve understanding of emotions, their functions, and personal triggers
  • Develop a healthy way of relating to emotions or responding to them
  • Learn practical strategies and skills for emotional regulation
  • Learn to express emotions healthily, especially in relationships
  • Acquire techniques to let go of painful emotions before they convert into outbursts
  • Learn to change self-defeating thinking patterns, contributing to emotional vulnerability
  • Acquire skills to let go of painful emotions
  • Develop strategies and skills to tolerate stress or other difficult emotions without developing problematic ways of coping with them
  • Attain techniques to ride out impulsive urges and develop better self-control

At an emotional dysregulation UK rehab, clients will get a chance to undergo one or more of the following therapies to control their emotions and stabilise their mental state.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy helps people with emotional dysregulation develop distress tolerance and coping skills. As part of this therapy, clinical psychologists use certain methods to teach clients to regulate their moods by effectively identifying and overcoming negative triggers.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavioural therapy combines the CBT principles with the concepts of distress tolerance, mindful awareness, and acceptance to support recovery. This therapy is so effective in the treatment of emotional dysregulation that it is often chosen as the first-line therapy for clients with emotional dysregulation disorder.

Schema Therapy

Schema therapy serves as a unified, long-term treatment approach to regulating emotions. This therapy aims to identify negative emotional and behavioural patterns, break them down, and replace them with healthier ones.

Emotion Regulation Therapy (ERT)

Emotion Regulation Therapy is a manualised treatment, integrating the components of acceptance, cognitive-behavioural dialectical, mindfulness-based, and treatments. It utilises a mechanistic framework formulated using basic and translational findings picked from multiple clinical trials that enable individuals to:

  • recognise, describe, and differentiate their emotions, even when they are too intense
  • Increase acceptance of an experience and develop the ability to manage the emotions related to it, when necessary, adaptively
  • Reduce the use of emotional avoidance strategies (for example, worry, self-criticism, and rumination)
  • Utilise emotional information in recognising needs, making decisions, and managing interpersonal relationships

During the initial phases of ERT, the goal of treatment is to attain emotional tolerance and awareness so that you can start catching yourself reacting in a particular moment. As a part of ERT, clients practice mindfulness of emotions daily. Meditations are essential to this therapy to help clients gain perspective on complicated feelings, moments, and beliefs.

The latter phase of Emotion Regulation Therapy includes behavioural and exposure activation principles during and between sessions. These sessions may utilise guided imagery of featured scenarios or role-play exercises fitting a desired coping response to help clients practice how to react without getting emotionally unstable.

Emotional regulation is a beneficial skill for everyone; however, some people may have trouble implementing it in real-life scenarios. Known as emotional dysregulation disorder, this mental health issue can make it significantly to carry on with life in a healthy way.

Luckily, many treatment facilities across the UK offer treatment programmes dedicated to helping individuals with emotional dysregulation. These informed and comprehensive approaches to treatment are specifically curated to provide clients with everything they need to live an emotionally balanced life.

To learn more about the programmes for emotional dysregulation, give us a call today to talk to an admissions counsellor who can help you determine the best-suited path for you or your loved ones. 

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