Emotion Dysregulation Disorder

Emotion dysregulation is a very uncomfortable series of patterns.

Emotion dysregulation refers to the inability of a person to control or regulate their emotional responses to provocative stimuli. It can also be termed “emotional hyperactivity.” In life, each individual is repeatedly exposed to events and interactions such as conflict in a relationship, a personal criticism or a perceived abandonment. A person with an emotion dysregulation disorder reacts in an emotionally exaggerated manner to these environmental and interpersonal challenges by overreacting with bursts of anger, crying, accusing, passive-aggressive behaviors, or creation of chaos. Unstable interpersonal relationships due to these symptoms point to underlying psychological issues that are connected.

EDD (emotion dysreguation disorder) is usually relational, meaning it is triggered by a close personal contact such as a family member, child, loved one, ex-loved one or someone who has power or control over that person.

Bad Habits

In order to cope with the intense emotions, some people self medicate in unhealthy ways. They may smoke, or overeat or under eat. They may throw a tantrums and strike out at others and some people with EDD may self-harm trying to regulate their emotions through feeling physical pain. With incorporating DBT skills, people can obtain new and healthier coping skills to get a handle on themselves and manage the ebb and flow of life.

It's a Balance

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation involves maintaining thoughts, behaviors and expressions within a socially acceptable range that won't harm you or others. It is a complex process that involves initiating, inhibiting, and modulating one’s mental state and behavior in response to an external or internal stimulus. The process plays out as follows: An internal or external event (thinking about something sad or encountering someone who is angry) provokes a subjective experience (emotion or feeling). Then a cognitive response (thought), followed by an emotion-related physiological response (for example increase in heart rate or hormonal secretion). Followed by a related behavior (avoidance, physical action or expression).

Let's Be Honest

You’ll be surprised at how much people struggle with emotion dysregulation. Some more than others but if you are here, you are definitely not alone. In the comments, list a few unhealthy habits that you've been guilty of and the coping skill(s) you'd like to use instead to replace them.

Effects of Emotion Dysregulation

Emotion dysregulation refers to responses that are poorly modulated and do not lie within the socially accepted range of emotive response. Based on all the areas of yourself that the disorder touches, the effects of emotional dysregulation can be broken down into four categories: behavioral dysregulation, self dysregulation, cognitive dysregulation, and interpersonal dysregulation.

Behavioral Dysregulation

  • Avoidance

  • Impulsive Behaviors

  • Reckless Behaviors

  • Harmful Behaviors

  • Mood Dependent Behaviors

Can you think of a time when you've experiences one of these?

Self Dysregulation

  • Low self-esteem/self-worth

  • Intense judgments and shame/self-critical

  • Fluctuating self-esteem or sense of self depending on situation/group

  • Confusion about one's identity/values/personality/goals/place within family/ religious beliefs

  • Have 'over-identified' with illness or symptoms

  • Sense of emptiness

Cognitive Dysregulation

  • Extreme thinking: black and white/all or nothing, catastrophizing, emotional reasoning, or other thinking traps.

  • Rumination and rigid patterns of thinking

  • Judgmental thinking about others and self

  • -"nobody undertsands me,' 'people are terrible and mean,' 'I'm useless and hopeless,' 'I should be able to handle this'

  • Difficulties thinking logically/rationally when emotion is too high

  • Impairments in concentration, memory

  • Lack of thoughts (thinking shuts down when emotions are too high)

  • Dissociation - cutting off from self

  • Delusions or hallucinations

Interpersonal Dysregulation

  • Intense need for connection, reassurance, closeness, approval

  • Strong fears of abandonment/loss

  • High expectations in relationships (easily hurt/disappointed)

  • Extreme beliefs about relationships (love/hate)

  • Difficulty with trust

  • Difficulties with boundaries in relationships

  • Social isolation/withdrawal from others

  • Tendency for relationships to "burn out" or end suddenly because others cannot handle them

  • On and off relationships

  • Problems within therapist/client relationships


Write out each Emotion Dysregulation symptom group and make a list under each.

Under Behavioral Dysregulation, list any problematic behaviors you are struggling with (impulsivity, avidance etc).

Under Self Dysregulation, list any problems you are having regarding how you see yourself, your self-esteem, or self-identity.

Under Cognitive Dysregulation, list any problems you ave with your thinking such as worrying, extreme thinking etc.

Under Interpersonal Dysregulation, list any difficulties you are experiencing in managing your relationships (wanting to isolate, dealing with conflict, neediness etc.)

For the second half of this activity, under the heading Health Vulnerabilities, list anything related to your health that make you more vulnerable (illness, pain, sleep deprivation, substance abuse, poor eating habits.)
Lastly, under the heading Strengths/Resources, list any strengths and resources you have that can help you at this time and in the future.

When are you planning to reach out to or use the resources/strengths?