Life with emotional dysregulation can feel like a continuous rollercoaster of emotions. However, there is help available for rapid and intense emotional fluctuations. In the long term, the person may become entirely symptom-free, and many are left with only mild symptoms or occasional periods of more severe symptoms.
Moving on from emotional instability
A variety of psychosocial treatments are used to treat emotional instability. Dialectical behaviour therapy, mentalisation therapy, schema therapy, transference-focused psychotherapy and the STEPPS programme have yielded good treatment results. Group therapy aiming at emotional and self-acceptance can also be useful.
Psychotherapy can help with emotional instability. Before seeking psychotherapy, it is useful to learn emotional regulation skills, as the therapy can be an exhausting process. Seeking psychotherapy too early will not help with recovery – on the contrary, it may increase the person’s feeling that nothing helps, undermining their trust in the treatment and their own ability to recover.
Conversely, an appropriate and appropriately timed therapy process will strengthen the person’s utilisation of their previously learned emotional skills and deepen their self-understanding in a way that can be lifelong.
Emotional instability cannot be directly treated with medication, but medication treatment can alleviate other coexisting psychological disorders, such as depression. Mood-stabilising medication can help in difficult cases of emotional instability.
The significance of self-care cannot be overstated. Even when working with a professional, a key aspect of the treatment is the person’s own active work and commitment to practising and thinking between treatment appointments.
If the symptoms are relatively mild, independent information gathering, looking into the person’s own emotions and behaviour and practising emotional regulation can be an adequate form of treatment. Conversely, if the symptoms are severe and involve self-destructive thoughts and behaviour, professional help is always required.
The first step on the treatment path is getting information. Many have said that they have felt a sense of relief once they have discovered that they are not alone with their challenges and there are other people struggling with the same things. Reading and hearing about emotional instability can make the person feel that there is an explanation for their situation.
Emotional instability is often rooted in a growth environment in which little attention was paid to the processing of emotions, potentially causing the person’s own emotions to be completely alien to them and difficult to understand.
The process of learning emotional skills starts with the basics: the person can practise identifying and naming their emotions at any time. Once they learn to identify their emotions, they become able to notice how particular emotions affect their actions and thinking.
It is important to accept one’s own experiences, life history, thoughts and emotions. At first, it may be difficult to accept the diagnosis or even the notion of acceptance. The person may wish to eliminate extremely difficult emotions altogether, causing the idea of accepting them to feel counterproductive. Their life situation may also feel so difficult that the mere thought of acceptance feels invalidating and unfair.
Acceptance does not mean that the person is supposed to want their own painful experiences and memories or learn to like them. It means that those things and the emotions related to them are allowed to be what they are.
In the video below, experts by experience talk about how they have learned to regulate their emotions.