Emotion dysregulation refers to an individual’s inability to properly control their emotions. The hallmarks of emotion dysregulation are listed below. An individual may experience some or all of these features.

  • Emotional sensitivity. A low threshold for recognizing and reacting to emotionally-relevant cues, and a tendency towards interpreting ambiguous situations in negative ways.
  • Emotional reactivity. Large emotional reactions that are often grossly out of proportion to the stressor.
  • Impairment in emotional recovery. Difficulty calming down and a slow return to baseline.

Episodes of emotion dysregulation may manifest in extreme tearfulness, panic attacks, intense shame, and/or aggressive outbursts.

Individuals who suffer from emotion dysregulation may resort to maladaptive regulation strategies in an attempt to control their emotions. Examples include substance abuse, high-risk sexual behaviors, disordered eating, self-harm, and threats of suicide. Unfortunately, this maladaptive coping often leads to new problems for the individual.

Usually individuals with emotion dysregulation problems need help building tolerance for uncomfortable feelings and learning how to deploy effective coping strategies in the face of difficult experiences.