Emotional Dysregulation

Emotional Dysregulation involves more intense emotions like low moods similar to depression and high moods similar to mania. Those who experience emotional dysregulation may find it difficult to control their moods, especially under certain triggers. Emotional dysregulation may also lead to confusion and difficulty identifying one's emotions.


What Might Occur During an Episode of Emotional Dysregulation? 

During an episode, emotions may be poorly regulated and tend to be extreme, or out of the range of typically accepted emotions. For instance:

  • A friend postpones a meetup to meet with their parents instead. Emotional Dysregulation might appear in the form of one thinking that this friend no longer wants to be friends, leading to them being extremely sad.
  • A retail associate says they can't sell a particular damaged item but asks if an individual would like it in another colour. They lose their temper and get excessively angry.


Signs and Symptoms of Emotional Dysregulation 

  • Excessive Moods or Intense Emotional Reactions that are Difficult to Control
  • Severe Depression or Anger
  • Shame and/or Anxiety
  • Self-Destructive Behaviour (Self-Harm, Substance Abuse, Impulsive Sexual Behaviour)
  • Troubles with Interpersonal Relationships
  • Inconsistent Eating Habits
  • Suicidal Attempts/ Suicidal Ideations


Is Emotional Dysregulation a Disorder?

Emotional Dysregulation is more of a symptom than a disorder, and can be seen in  several disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Bipolar Disorder. An inability to cope with the intense feelings mentally often lead to using unhelpful coping methods, such as self-harm and substance abuse, also known as behavioural dysregulation. It is also possible that sometimes when one is unable to cope with these intense emotions, that they lose touch with reality and dissociate, or experience severe distress.

When using the term emotional dysregulation, we should be mindful that it is not a disorder, but rather a condition in which one might need assistance in learning how to control their emotions to deal with.


Emotional Dysregulation in ADHD

ADHD is a disorder consisting of symptoms of lack of attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Those who experience ADHD may face emotional impulsivity and/or the inability to cope with temper outbursts. While the main cause of ADHD is still uncertain, the impairment in controlling emotions is largely explained by our brain connections and responses. The delay in transmissions for emotional reactions and decision making results in a reduced activation between the prefrontal cortex (decision making region) and reward system. Hence, individuals are less able to comprehend and react calmly to the situation at hand.


Emotional Dysregulation in Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Both Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) involves emotional dysregulation, in which one frequently experiences abnormal moods. (While both disorders are similar in the aspect of regulation of emotions, BPD is more focused on unstable relationships and self-image.) For Bipolar Disorder, genes and chemical imbalance are the common explanations for mood dysregulation, whereas for BPD, early trauma and brain chemistry are the likely causes of intense mood fluctuation.


Can I Have Emotional Dysregulation Without Any Disorders?

It is possible for anyone to struggle with emotional dysregulation, especially if one has experienced previous trauma or attachment issues. Past experiences like abuse or neglect can lead to emotional dysregulation if an individual is not provided with warmth and healthy coping methods while growing up.

There are also instances in which one's temperament may lead to emotional dysregulation. For example, with a "slow to warm up" temperament, more time is required for a mastery of coping methods. Certain individuals also have temperaments that lead to them being more withdrawn and requiring more time to control or adapt to changes in emotions.


Treatments for Emotional Dysregulation

✽ Medications

Certain classes of medication prescribed include:

  • Stimulants for ADHD symptoms
  • Anti-depressants for depressive symptoms
  • Anti-psychotics for manic symptoms

✽ Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) focuses on helping individuals in terms of their:

  • Mindfulness of emotions and situations
  • Improving self-image
  • Exploring healthy coping methods

Please reach out to us in case you've any questions regarding emotional dysregulation and therapy in Singapore.

Find out more about emotional dysregulation by watching the video!