Emotional regulation, sometimes called self-regulation, refers to the way we deal with big feelings like anger, excitement, frustration, or anxiety. Regulation skills can be taught at home, school, and in therapy.
Emotion Regulation is Important
Unlike small children, adults are expected to be able to manage their emotions—especially anxiety and anger—in a manner that is socially acceptable. When emotional control fails, people often say or do things they later regret and wish they had been able to keep their emotions in check. Emotion dysregulation is a component of certain forms of mental illness. Over time, it could have a negative impact on one’s personal well-being and social relationships.
The definition of emotional regulation encompasses both positive and negative feelings, along with how we can strengthen them, use them, and control them.
Mental Health & Emotion Regulation
Difficulties regulating emotions can be part of mental illnesses like:
- Attention Deficit hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Mood disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Common Emotion Regulation Strategies
It’s crucial for individuals to learn healthy emotion regulation skills. Some healthy examples include:
- Talking with friends
- Paying attention to negative thoughts that occur before strong emotions
- Noticing when you need a break or need to step away
There are plenty of ways to emotionally regulate in an unhealthy manner. A few examples include:
- Abusing alcohol or other substances
- Avoiding or withdrawing from a situation
- Physical or verbal aggression
- Excessive screen time (social media, television, etc.), to the exclusion of other responsibilities
Therapy can help you learn how to regulate your emotions in a healthy way.