Causes, Symptoms and Associated Disorders

Emotional dysregulation refers to difficulty regulating emotions. It can manifest in many ways, such as feeling overwhelmed by seemingly minor things, having trouble controlling impulsive behaviors, or having unpredictable outbursts.

These displays of extreme emotions can affect relationships, work, school, and daily life. A person who is able to regulate their emotions can adapt their behavior when the situation calls for it. A person unable to do this may have a condition called emotional dysregulation.

Although emotional dysregulation is not necessarily a sign of a mental health disorder, it can be a symptom of various conditions, such as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

Read on to learn more about emotional dysregulation, its symptoms, treatment, and how parents can support children living with this condition.

emotional dysregulation is a condition that affects the way a person can feel and manage their emotions. He is very common in children and adolescents and may persist into adulthood.

When a person experiences emotional dysregulation, they may have difficulty regulating their emotions and may have outbursts of anger, anxiety, depression, or display self-destructive behaviors.

People with dysregulation may not have an appropriate emotional response to the situation in which they find themselves. Ultimately, the condition can impact a person’s quality of life, social interaction, personal life, work life, and relationships.

Emotional dysregulation can also be a feature of other conditions, such as, mood dysregulation disorder, borderline personality disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and others. Doctors may also call it dysregulation, marked mood swings, mood swings, or labile mood.

There are many types of emotional dysregulation and each person’s experience is unique. Generally, emotional dysregulation means that an individual has excessively intense emotions in response to a trigger. As a result, a person may feel like their emotions are out of control. They may also have difficulty recognizing their emotions and feel confused, guilty, or stressed by their behavior.

Some Common Symptoms include:

  • experiencing strong emotional reactions to events that would not normally affect other people
  • mood swings
  • feeling overwhelmed by emotions
  • having intense emotions that are hard to control
  • inability to cope with stress
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • self harm
  • excessive substance use

In some cases, the cause of dysregulation is not easy to find. Many factors can cause emotional dysregulation in a person.

Early psychological trauma due to abuse or neglect by caregivers, seems to be a likely reason. This trauma may mean that the child does not form a bond with their caregivers and may develop a reactive attachment disorder. Additionally, if caregivers themselves live with emotional dysregulation, they may struggle to model coping skills and balanced emotions.

Sometimes emotional dysregulation occurs even without any identifiable psychological cause or cause related to their upbringing. It may simply be related to the nature of the child or his neurological constitution.

Emotional dysregulation in childhood can increase the likelihood of developing other mental health disorders. the following conditions may involve some aspects of emotional dysregulation:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Doctors usually diagnose this neurodevelopmental disorder in childhood. However, it can continue into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention or controlling impulsive behavior.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): This developmental disorder can affect communication and behavior. Typically, symptoms appear in the first 2 years of life.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): People with borderline personality disorder have an ongoing pattern of problems with self-image, mood, and behavior. This can lead to impulsive actions and relationship problems.
  • Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD): Doctors can diagnose this condition in adults or children who have trauma suffered repeatedlysuch as violence, neglect or abuse.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD): This infantile condition can involve extreme moods and intense outbursts of anger. It can affect a child’s quality of life and can require clinical attention.

Doctors may recommend a combination of therapies to treat emotional dysregulationincluding medication or psychotherapy.


Doctors can use drugs to treat emotional dysregulation in people with a more serious mental health problem.

For example, methylphenidate helps with emotional dysregulation by reducing impulsivity in children with ADHD. Other drug classes, such as antidepressants, can alleviate the symptoms of dysregulation.


Doctors can use psychotherapies to help a person overcome their emotional dysregulation. We can divide these therapies into four groups:

  • dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CCT)
  • multimodal treatment such as parenting interventions and pharmacotherapy
  • other therapies, such as analytical group therapy, hypnotherapy, or neurofeedback

DBT is a common therapy for borderline personality disorder which involves learning skills that can help a person regulate their mood or emotions. People can also learn to become aware of their thoughts and feelings and to deal with stressful situations.

DBT standard may include four components, such as group sessions, individual psychotherapy, telephone coaching and consultation team.

The “dialectical” approach means that the therapist accepts the person’s emotions as they are but recognizes the need for change. The purpose of DBT is to help people balance their emotions with logic. It can help produce positive results in stressful situations, and a person may be better able to manage their emotions.

Learn more about types of therapy here.

children who can freely express and regulate their emotions often have better friendships, better social relationships and do well in school. These children may also have better mental health, better relationships, and job satisfaction later in life.

There are a link between healthy emotional intelligence and improving a person’s life satisfaction and better academic or work performance.

Emotional dysregulation can present in various childhood psychiatric disorders. This can often mean that the child may exhibit difficult behavior. Helping the child deal with strong emotions can help reduce this behavior. Therefore, it is important to put in place strategies to support these children in the development of emotional literacy.

Caregivers or parents of children with emotional dysregulation can support and help teach children to manage their emotions so they don’t become overwhelmed. It is also important for children to know that they can ask their caregivers for help, support and comfort whenever they need it.

Being a supportive and dependable parent figure means individuals need to recognize their own limitations. If the adult is living with mental health issues or emotional dysregulation, both the adult and the child may benefit from therapy. Parents who can manage their own stress and emotions can provide adequate support to the child.

Parent training is a technique that professionals can use to teach parents, caregivers, and children how to respond to irritable behavior. He focuses on predictability and consistency because the familiar pattern of these actions can have a calming effect on the child. Combining parent training with therapies such as CBT can benefit the child.

Additionally, caregivers may also find it helpful to recognize their child’s behavioral triggers. This means that they can plan to avoid their child’s intense emotional reaction.

Adults should discuss their child’s emotional issues with school teachers to come up with strategies that can help. Schools may offer special education plans to help people with diagnosed problems. Finally, caregivers should reward positive behaviors so that they gradually become the norm rather than the exception.

Emotional dysregulation means that an individual has difficulty regulating their emotions. They may feel overwhelmed, have difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors, or have outbursts of anger. These intense responses can cause problems in relationships, work, school, and daily life.

Doctors link emotional dysregulation to several mental health conditions, including DMDD, BPD, and ADHD.

Although people may experience ongoing emotional challenges, regular therapy and possibly medication can help an individual manage their emotional dysregulation.

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