Emotional Dysregulation

Have you heard people say that they fear to be around you because of your unpredictable nature? Is it common for you to receive comments like, you overreact too much, you have so much negative energy around you, you are incredibly sensitive and freak out for no reason about trivial matters? If this is the case, then it is an indication that you might be a patient of emotional dysregulation.

What Is Emotional Dysregulation?

Emotional dysregulation can be described as a mood disorder that is found in around 3% American people. It can lead to behavioral and emotional irregularities and can make it difficult for a person to control his response to external stimuli. The emotional responses made by people suffering from this mental health problem usually do not fall within the range of conventionally accepted emotive responses.

Combativeness and aggression are quite common in patients of this disorder and they are always looking for a fight. Since it is misinterpreted a lot of the time, this disorder can cause strife and confusion among people and greatly affect the patient's social interactions at home, school or at work.

What Are the Symptoms of Emotional Dysregulation?

  • Symptoms of emotional dysregulation that are likely to be present in most patients include addiction, self-mutilation and smoking.
  • Since this disorder hampers a person's ability to feel and control emotions or to express them in a positive manner, it can lead to somatoform disorders as well.
  • People who can't control their emotions frequently suffer from eating disorders and are more prone to substance abuse as they tend to use substances or food for modulating their feelings and emotions.

What Causes Emotional Dysregulation?

The cause of emotional dysregulation is not clear but studies done on this disorder have come up with some ideas. A number of researches reveal that most of the patients diagnosed with this disorder have a troubled childhood or were abused when they were young. The following are some of the other reasons that can cause emotional dysregulation.

1. Traumatic Experience in the Past

Experts believe that a traumatic experience suffered during early childhood can be a probable cause of this disorder. Such traumas can affect the way the child sees the world around him and can thus cause him to react negatively to even the most insignificant things. An example of this is a child who reacts negatively when disciplined by their teachers.

2. Amygdala

Chemical imbalances in the brain are also considered to be a reason for emotional dysregulation. A 2003 study published in the Biological Psychiatry revealed that the amygdala of patients suffering from this disorder overreacts when they are faced with visual stimuli. It showed that people with this disorder find even the most neutral faces threatening and have an overactive amygdala.

3. Brain Injuries

Mood disorders are likely to be caused by an injury to the frontal lobe of the brain. A prime example of this is post-traumatic stress disorder which is common in veterans who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

4. Family History

Genetic have been linked with some mental disorders as well. If the parents of a child suffer from any kind of mental illness, then there is a very high chance that the child is going to suffer it too. More research is needed to find out the extent of the role genetics plays in mental health.

How to Deal With Emotional Dysregulation

Mental illnesses are quite complicated and most of them don't have a cure and no treatment works for everyone. This is true for emotional dysregulation as well, which is why development of an individualized treatment plan with the help of the doctor becomes necessary and beneficial in managing the symptoms of your disease. Treatment for emotional dysregulation is a combination of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs and dialectical behavioral therapy.

  • The SSRIs help in regulating chemical imbalances and elevating mood by increasing serotonin levels. In order to achieve the best results, it is important to reassess and adjust the dosage of the medication and the frequency and level of dialectical behavioral therapy. Parents usually don't like putting their children on SSRIs because of their harmful effects but doctors consider them to be safer than typical anti-depressants.
  • The dialectical behavioral therapy is all about asking patients to talk individually and in a group with the presence of a therapist, which helps them learn coping mechanisms to adjust his perception of the world and regulate his responses to external stimuli. This treatment method takes time as the patient learns to alter his way of thinking so that he can perceive the world in a better manner. 

Doctors believe that dialectical behavioral therapy can get a better result if it is accompanied by meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy which tries to teach patients of this disorder to sharpen and regulate their core beliefs.

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