Emotional regulation is our ability to turn the volume up or down on our emotions. We need emotions just like we need thinking and breathing, but when we let our emotions control us, we often run into trouble. Emotions may be excessive, counterproductive, or just inappropriate. For example, it’s normal to be sad over a breakup, but you don’t want to become depressed because of it. If a colleague makes a mistake, you may be justified in becoming angry, but shouting at your colleague won’t fix the mistake or help your relationship. If you were abused, it makes sense to fear your abuser, but not to fear anyone who resembles your abuser. In these kinds of situations, and many more, it helps to be able to assert some control over our emotional responses. Learning emotional regulation is important for every mental health challenge. In fact, most mental health challenges are essentially an inability to regulate your emotions. Sadness leads to rumination and depression, worry leads to anxiety disorders, and using drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions leads to addiction. If you struggle with addiction, there’s a good chance you also struggle with another mental health issue too. Learning to regulate your emotions allows you to rely on yourself rather than drugs or alcohol to change your emotional state. Until you become adept at managing sadness, stress, fear, anxiety, and anger, you will be vulnerable to relapse. There are several well established strategies for managing your emotions. The trick is to figure out which ones are healthy and which are unhealthy, and which strategies work best for you. Which strategies are healthy depends on the circumstances. For example, avoiding a trigger, such as a bar, is a healthy strategy, especially early on. However, avoiding getting a job or starting 12-step meetings because you’re afraid of the stress is not so healthy. Emotional regulation is a major part of common types of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. Emotional regulation is especially important in DBT because it was originally developed to treat people with borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by wild mood swings and strong emotions. Since emotions are harder to regulate the stronger they get, DBT also focuses on distress tolerance, or how to endure strong emotions without letting them control you. DBT has been shown to be effective treating a number of difficult conditions other than borderline personality disorder, such as severe depression, eating disorders, and addiction.
If you’re struggling with substance use, Recovery Ways can help. We offer intensive outpatient treatment as well as residential treatment. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.