Emotional Dysregulation Facts
What is emotional dysregulation?
Individuals with emotional reactivity experience intense emotions more frequently and for longer durations. They have significant skills deficits in emotion regulation. Individuals who experience emotion dysregulation have difficulty accepting their emotional response which can lead to behavioral dysregulation including, non-suicidal self-injurious behavior, suicidal ideation and attempts, excessive substance use and impulsivity. These behaviors serve to immediately decrease the current level of emotional distress. Individuals with severe emotion dysregulation are often misdiagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder due to the extreme mood lability, sometimes even within a given day.
Emotional dysregulation symptoms
Signs of emotional dysregulation include:
- Severe depression
- High levels of shame and anger
- Excessive substance use
- High-risk sexual behaviors
- Extreme perfectionism
- Highly conflictual interpersonal relationships
- Disordered eating
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
If you are feeling unsafe or in crisis, please call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to communicate with a trained professional.
What causes emotional dysregulation and who’s at risk?
Some causes can be early childhood trauma, child neglect, and traumatic brain injury. Individuals can have biological predispositions for emotional reactivity that can be exacerbated by chronic low levels of invalidation in their environments resulting in emotional dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation can easily be missed as a concern in individuals diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders. Women are more than likely to have emotional dysregulation than males due to more intense experience of emotions, rumination, and more frequent environmental invalidation.
How common is emotional dysregulation?
- Chronic emotional dysregulation lies at the core of borderline personality disorder, which is present in over 50% of those who are psychiatrically hospitalized and 4 to 6% of the general population.
- Emotional dysregulation is more prevalent in female teens than their male peers.
- In substance use disorders, borderline personality disorder is more prevalent in males than females.
Emotional dysregulation treatment
The empirically based treatment for emotional dysregulation is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This can be accessed in a traditional outpatient setting but is also available in high levels of care such as inpatient care, residential care, and specialized outpatient treatment, such as intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP).
Rogers uses an evidence-based treatment model for all patients with methods that have been proven to provide relief for a patient’s symptoms.