Emotion Regulation and Psychopathology

Emotion regulation (ER) is the ability to respond to and manage emotional experiences. Impaired ability to cope with emotions- especially strong, negative emotions- is a feature of many different mental health diagnoses.

ER is a central skill clients learn in DBT.  ER is a primary deficit for persons with borderline personality disorder, and learning different skills to improve ER is a major aspect of treatment.

Of course, many clinicians focus on ER deficits in their clients across diagnoses. One recent study examined ER as a "transdiagnostic construct central to the maintenance of psychopathology." Analyzing 67 studies, the authors found the following differences after treatment:

  • decrease in symptoms of their diagnosis
  • emotion dysregulation decreased
  • use of maladaptive ER strategies decreased

These differences were seen across diagnoses and treatment type, supporting the idea that emotion regulation as a transdiagnostic construction, related not just to specific disorders, but psychopathology in general.