Let’s understand why sometimes emotions get the better of us for the worse
Do you usually have a tough time managing emotions? Do you wonder what's going on when your emotions feel out of control? The American Psychological Association (APA) defines dysregulation as “any excessive or otherwise poorly managed mechanism or response”. In the field of mental health, a commonly studied type of dysregulation is emotion dysregulation, which has been known to impact negatively on an individual’s life.
Experiencing emotions is not a problem in itself, even the negative ones, but when it starts to get overwhelming, they no longer serve us but rather start to harm our well-being.
Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)
When these feelings come too often, too quickly, then it puts us in a state of emotional dysregulation. This state is completely outside the window of tolerance - Where you can manage them and not get overwhelmed.
Most of us try to decrease this emotional distress through behaviours like :
- Self Harm
- Substance Misuse
- Suicidal actions or ideations
How to notice when you are emotionally dysregulated?
More often than not you will find that Emotional Dysregulation involves an extreme and heightened sensitivity to emotional triggers and a noticeably reduced ability to return to a baseline emotional state soon.
This can, however, varies from individual to individual in terms of what causes it which can range from reaction to procrastination to crying spells to mood swings.
Some of the signs you can notice are:
- Being easily pressured down
- Feeling overly emotional
- Crying easily or feeling upset for ‘No Reason
- Frequent Mood Shifts
- Finding it hard to deal with stress or stressors in life
- Frequent anger outbursts
- High anxiety levels
- Depressive feelings
- High levels of shame
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Relationship conflicts that are frequent and intense to handle
All of these indications can also be highly indicative of mental health disorders, so keeping them in check is important.
Some of the mental health conditions include Emotional Dysregulation
- Bipolar Disorder
- Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Some Depression and anxiety disorders also include emotional dysregulation.
How to treat Emotional Dysregulation?
- Medication management - The doctor may prescribe medication like antidepressants or for impulsivity if the emotional dysregulation is part of a larger mental condition.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) - The ‘dialectic’ approach means that the mental health professional accepts the person’s emotions as they are but also acknowledges the need for change. DBT’s goal is to help bring balance to people’s emotions with the help of logic. This can help to produce positive outcomes in stressful situations for those who struggle.
- Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (M-CBT) - Mindfulness is an important part of CBT for emotion regulation. It allows people to identify their emotions before they get too intense to manage. It also helps with cognitive control strategies, teaching people to not fixate on unhelpful ways of thinking which leads to overwhelming emotions.
- Regular Exercise - Intense feelings and emotions can feel like high levels of energy running through our bodies. One of the ways to release that energy is a physical activity like going for a run or doing anything physically enjoyable. You are more likely to feel better.
All in all, everyone experiences strong emotions from time to time, but it is important to notice when you are unable to manage them in healthy ways. The persistence and intensity of overwhelming can indicate emotional dysregulation.
So, let’s try to become more mindful and seek the help that we need.
Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)
Anjali Gulati (Psychologist)
Faith Hospital, Chandigarh