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Emotion Dysregulation

It is common to experience feelings of frustration, guilt, anger, and anxiety throughout any 24-hour period of time. In fact, as eventful and unpredictable as life can be, that is actually the norm for most people. These emotions may arise from events and situations that occur in our relationships, work, communities, and personal lives, that we see as important to us. Emotions then enable us to notice and respond to, problem solve, or address these events when needed. In a way, they act as "assistants", letting us know that something salient is going on that we may want to attend to. And for the most part, we are able to respond in helpful, safe, and socially acceptable ways.

And yet, for some, emotions are experienced less like "assistants" and more so like tyrannical bosses. Experienced as loud, large, and intense, these emotional experiences are painful and can be physically and mentally draining.  Like being tapped on the shoulder with a third degree sunburn that others cannot see, people with very intense and painful emotions may say or do things that are more reactive, and to others don't make sense or do not seem to fit the situation. Similarly, people with intense and painful emotional experiencing may resort to extreme efforts to get their emotions to "turn off" or just decrease enough for a much needed break.

The difficulty with being able to flexibly respond to and manage emotions is commonly referred to as emotion dysregulation. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a form of cognitive behavioral therapy in which clients are taught skills and strategies for managing emotions, handling conflict, and building tolerance for uncomfortable feelings, effectively treats emotion dysregulation. It may seem at times that emotions serve to only cause more suffering, and yet, without them it is very difficult to know what is vitally important to us. With evidence based treatments such as DBT, you can know that you are the CEO of your life, and allow your emotional experiencing to assist you in navigating your course.

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