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Emotional Dysregulation Disorder

Instructor: Emily Cummins
In this lesson, we'll talk about a condition known as emotional dysregulation disorder, which involves difficulty managing emotions. We will discuss symptoms and other psychological disorders where emotional dysregulation disorder may appear.

Emotional Dysregulation Disorder

What happens when you're upset? How do you control your mood? Many people can find ways to regulate their emotions and feelings and channel them in ways that are appropriate for the situation.

However, for people suffering from emotional dysregulation disorder, this can be a bigger challenge. Emotional dysregulation is a broad term that psychologists use to describe a condition whereby people have a hard time expressing emotions in appropriate ways.

People with issues regulating their emotions feel common emotions, like anger or sadness, but they generally feel them much more intensely. For example, people might become overly upset or angry in a situation. They might be prone to outbursts or yell when it's unnecessary.

Emotional dysregulation is a set of symptoms common to a number of different psychological conditions. Let's go into a little more detail about what emotional dysregulation looks like and then we'll talk about some specific illnesses that involve difficulties managing emotion.

Symptoms of Emotional Dysregulation

When people who do not have issues with regulating emotion encounter a stimulus that is annoying or stressful or sad, they are able to regulate their mood to avoid overreacting. This could be an internal stimuli (like feeling depressed) or an external stimuli (encountering a person who is very mad).

When a person suffering from emotional dysregulation encounters these stimuli, his or her reaction might involve something like crying hysterically, yelling, or intense anger.

Although we've mentioned that emotional dysregulation is a feature of many different psychological conditions (and we'll get to that soon), there are four key dimensions of emotional dysregulation:

  • Emotion Sensitivity - This means that someone is overly sensitive to things in the environment. This might also mean they are overly sensitive to other people's emotions.
  • Negative Affect - In psychology, affect basically means the way we display our emotions. Specifically, a negative affect refers to feeling things like depression, sadness, anger, or otherwise 'bad' feelings. People with trouble regulating emotions experience unusually high levels of negative affect.
  • Inadequate Emotion Regulation Strategies - People who suffer from emotional dysregulation can have a hard time employing strategies to remedy emotional problems. For example, they may have trouble even identifying the emotions they are feeling, and may have trouble looking at a 'negative' situation from another perspective.
  • Maladaptive Regulation Strategies - This means that people engage in harmful behaviors in an effort to regulate negative affect. This can include behaviors like cutting or other forms of self-mutilation.

Psychological Disorders and Emotional Dysregulation

Now that we've talked a bit about what emotional dysregulation looks like, let's talk about some psychological disorders where emotional dysregulation is a central feature.

Emotional dysregulation is common in a number of psychological conditions, such as personality disorders. Psychologists note that conditions such as histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder involve difficulties regulating emotion.

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