What is Emotional Dysregulation?
For most people, emotions are easily manageable, but in conditions like BPD they can be much harder to control. Emotional dysregulation is when we experience our emotions intensely, more frequently and/or for longer periods of time. This can include having intense emotions that are overly intense compared to the situation that has triggered them in the first place. During dysregulation, we may feel our emotions are out of control, or ‘taking over’.
Examples of emotional dysregulation include:
- severe depression
- anxiety and panic
- distorted sense of self – high levels of dislike and shame
- substance misuse
- conflicting interpersonal relationships
- extreme levels of fear
These emotions can significantly impact your life. For example:
You have a minor argument with a friend, which causes an over-reaction of emotion. You can’t stop thinking about it, perhaps with thoughts of indignation, anger and self-loathing, after all why would they have said these things if they didn’t hate you? You can’t eat or sleep for not being able to stop thinking about it. You can’t let the emotion go, and that may lead on to further conflict which can be difficult to repair in the relationship.
It is important to understand that we are not born with the ability to regulate our emotions. Babies can’t control their emotions and soothe themselves during upset, they rely on caregivers to provide that. Nurturing relationships during childhood teach us how to regulate our emotions – not just from parents but also from other close relatives and teachers.
Children who are raised in healthy caring environments will be able to ask for help when they need it, will be given assistance in the situation and will learn that they can cope with challenging emotions by regulating them or asking for help to do so.
Children raised by parents who are perhaps themselves struggling with mental health issues have less opportunity to learn these skills – if a parent can’t regulate emotion, how can the child learn to? In some cases, the child’s emotions may be exacerbated by the angry or emotional reactions they see adults having. These children don’t have the opportunity to learn these valuable skills.
It’s important to note that emotional dysregulation doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you – these are subconscious emotions that you have no control over. What you can do, is learn how to manage them more effectively.