Why is it hard to regulate your emotions?
W50e all use regulation skills in our everyday lives, often without knowing we do it. For people with BPD (and other mood or depressive disorders), it can be difficult to regulate emotions. But why is it hard for us to regulate our emotions?
There are several theories as to why emotional regulation is difficult in people living with BPD. Researchers have looked at neural abnormalities, lifestyles, coping strategies, negative childhood experiences and saw that they all have an effect on emotional regulation, and it’s more likely caused by a combination of these things.
Interrupted or damaged neural systems
Trauma or prolonged stress interrupts the neural paths in the brain, rewiring them and altering their activity. This means that we may find that the parts of the brain that normally deal with emotions and emotional regulation aren’t connecting properly (think of it like an electrical circuit that gets interrupted, the electrical device won’t work properly if the wires aren’t right).
Maladaptive or Unhelpful Strategies
In the short term, these strategies may make you feel better but they will be causing you more problems in the future. Drinking alcohol, taking drugs, binge eating or starving yourself, self-harm, avoidance – they all help us feel in control and/or numb for short periods, but once we step out of those strategies we find we have the added problem of the consequences of those strategies, as well as the original problem.
A parent who has problems controlling their emotions, will struggle to teach their child how to regulate their emotions. Emotional regulation is not something we naturally have when we are born, it’s something we learn over time. The first years of our lives, we learn from those around us – mostly our parents.