We are not born knowing how to regulate our emotions. Ideally, we are taught how to do this as children by observing our parents effectively handle their emotions, having our parents acknowledge and assist us with our emotions, and receiving the message that our emotions make sense given the context. Individuals with difficulties regulating their emotions are often sensitive to emotional triggers in their environment, react intensely to those triggers, and then have trouble getting back to their baseline emotional state. To further complicate matters, these individuals may also have difficulty accurately identifying their emotions, completing tasks when upset, and tolerating distressful emotions in an effective manner. These difficulties in emotion regulation are sometimes referred to as emotion dysregulation. Persistent emotion dysregulation may create problems in relationships, work, and other areas of life. In efforts to escape or decrease intense negative emotions like sadness, anger, and anxiety, individuals may develop other problems such as anger management difficulties, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, overspending, or self-injurious behaviors.
Since emotion regulation is conceptualized as a set of skills that can be learned, treatment focuses on teaching these skills in either individual or group therapy. The skills taught include the accurate identification of emotions as they are happening, learning how to tolerate emotions, learning how to change emotions, and developing the ability to be less vulnerable to emotional cues in the environment. Read more here.