“Emotion regulation difficulties” is a term used to describe strong emotional responses that are often referred to as emotional storms. It is commonly found in a range of neurotic and personality disorders, most prominently in borderline personality disorder (also referred to as emotion regulation disorder). Emotional dysregulation can have wide-ranging negative consequences for a person’s functioning in intimate, interpersonal, educational and vocational areas and can also negatively impact on physical health.
Intense emotional reactions are frequently elicited by “trigger situations” usually associated with past adverse events and trauma, especially in childhood. The unprocessed, raw emotion associated with these events is triggered and becomes evident in the present situation, with a ‘flashback” being the ultimate manifestation where someone can vividly re-live a traumatic situation. The experience of strong negative emotions like fear, sadness and anger often leads to a strong urge for that person to avoid or terminate the emotional state. Common coping strategies are self-harm, other risk-taking behaviours and abuse of alcohol and drugs.
The following are just some of the methods used to help people learn more adaptive emotion regulation skills:
- Increasing mindfulness to current emotions
- Increasing awareness of habitual negative cognitions which are likely to escalate the emotional response by using “defusion” – re-directing attention from negative thought processes to present-moment activity or experience
- Regular practice of mindfulness (a number of phone apps are available for guided mindfulness practice)
- Reducing vulnerability to being in “emotion mind” by improving sleep routine, balanced and healthy diet, regular exercise and staying off non-prescribed, mood-altering drugs
- Increasing positive emotional events
Helpful website: www.actmindfully.com.au/
Contact us today to discuss emotion regulation difficulties and different treatment methods available that could lead to a more meaningful, fulfilling life.
Sources: Marsha M. Linehan; Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder
By Angelika Bastin-Popp, Clinical Psychologist