Emotional regulation is a complex process that involves changing one’s mental state and behaviour in response to an external or internal event. The process plays out as follows: something internal or external (thought or event) provokes an experience (emotion or feeling) that in turn provokes a thought which is followed by a related behaviour (avoidance, physical action or expression). Emotional regulation therefore involves maintaining thoughts, behaviours and emotions within socially acceptable contexts and boundaries.
What is emotional dysregulation?

Emotional dysregulation refers to the inability of a person to control or regulate their emotional responses. In life, each individual is repeatedly exposed to events and interactions such as conflict in a relationship or personal criticism.

A person with emotional dysregulation reacts in an emotionally exaggerated manner to these environmental and interpersonal challenges which may be seen as bursts of anger, crying, accusing or passive-aggressive behaviours.

What causes emotional dysregulation?

Emotional dysregulation is a feature in a large percentage of psychological disorders. However, certain psychological illnesses involve emotional dsyregulation as a prominent characteristic, especially specific types of personality disorders.

Psychological trauma including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may cause significant emotional dysregulation together with mood disorders, such as Bipolar Disorder and Depression. Panic Disorder or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) often feature significant emotional dysregulation. These anxiety disorders can feature emotional hyperreactivity derived from anxiety or stress reactions. Persons with substance dependency may also struggle with emotional dysregulation.

What is the Prognosis for emotional dysregulation?

The prognosis for persons who are emotionally dysregulated is highly variable, depending on the severity of their underlying issues. Medication when indicated, coupled with CBT, sleep and stress management can significantly improve the quality of life of someone with emotional dysregulation.