What Is Emotional Dysregulation?

What Is Emotional Dysregulation?

Emotional dysregulation is a term used to describe an emotional response that is poorly regulated and does not fall within the traditionally accepted range of emotional reaction. It may also be referred to as marked fluctuation of mood, mood swings, or labile mood. When someone is experiencing emotional dysregulation, they may have angry outbursts, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and other self-damaging behaviors. Over time, this condition may interfere with your quality of life, social interactions, and relationships at home, work, or school.

Symptoms of Emotional Dysregulation

Signs of emotional dysregulation include:


  • Severe depression
  • Anxiety
  • High levels of shame and anger
  • Self-harm
  • Excessive substance use
  • High-risk sexual behaviors
  • Extreme perfectionism
  • Conflict in interpersonal relationships
  • Eating disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Causes of Emotional Dysregulation

There are a few different reasons why someone may develop emotional dysregulation:


Early childhood trauma. These are traumatic events experienced during the early years of a person’s life. This is deemed the most critical developmental period in human life.

Child neglect. A form of abuse from caregivers that results in a deprivation of a child’s basic needs, including the failure to provide adequate supervision, health care, clothing, or housing as well as other physical, emotional, social, educational, and safety needs.

Traumatic brain injury. A brain dysfunction caused by an outside force, usually a violent blow to the head.

Chronic low levels of invalidation. This occurs when a person’s thoughts and feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged.


Experts suspect that when you experience emotional dysregulation, there is a reduction in certain neurotransmitters’ ability to function as “emotional brakes,” causing you to remain in a prolonged “fight or flight” response. When this happens, the pre-frontal cortex — the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation — is essentially turned off during times of heightened stress.

Disorders Related to Emotional Dysregulation

PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition caused by experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening traumatic event. It’s often characterized by severe emotional dysregulation. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, uncontrollable negative thoughts, dissociation, and emotional numbing.

Borderline personality disorder. This is a mental health disorder that affects the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems with functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships.


Source: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-emotional-dysregulation

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