Some people, due to the environment they grew up in and biological factors i.e. they may have inherited genes that make them naturally more sensitive than others, seem to experience emotions more intensely than most people, and have more difficulty in letting go of intense emotions. Their level of emotions (arousal) goes up much more quickly, peaks at a higher level, and takes more time to return to baseline. Sufferers therefore have many crises and live with extreme emotional instability.
You may have grown up with a family or school that did not help you learn how to experience and control your emotions. In such environments, you may have been expected to be ‘perfect’ and not to show any negative emotions; or your emotions may have been dismissed as incorrect, inappropriate or silly. For example, if you got upset because you lost a toy, your parents might have responded with “you can’t possibly be upset for just losing a toy!”, and to “stop over-reacting!”. You might also have experienced trauma (e.g. sexual or physical abuse, a loss) and have been told “not to be upset about it”.
Because in these environments a ‘normal’ display of emotions is not taken seriously or attended to, this may have resulted in you expressing your emotions more intensely to get a response, e.g. screaming and crying, instead of just saying that you are feeling sad. Because of this, you may not have learned when to trust your own feelings in a situation, how to recognise, accept and control intense emotions, or how to cope with distress.
Your feelings and distress lead to destructive behaviour patterns such as overeating/undereating/bulimia/anorexia, drinking, self-harm, excessive shopping, angry outbursts etc..and in turn, these behaviours cause many problems in your relationships, work and life generally.
You feel that you shouldn’t be feeling the way you do, and that you should be able to deal with life’s problems. You might feel frustrated, ashamed and angry at yourself.
1. Problem: Interpersonal difficulties
Intense, unstable relationships, trouble maintaining relationships, panic, anxiety, dread over relationships ending, frantic attempts to avoid abandonment.
Solution: Interpersonal Assertiveness Skills
Learning to deal with conflict situations, more effective ways of getting one’s wants and needs met and to say “no” to unwanted demands or requests in a manner that maintains self-respect and respect for others.
2. Problem: Unstable emotional expression
Moods, extreme ups and downs, intense emotional reactions, depression and problems with anger (over or under-controlled).
Solution: Emotional regulation skills
Focuses on enhancing control over emotions. Accepting who we are i.e. emotionality is part of us but we can learn to modulate some emotions in order to be a bit more “mellow”.
3. Problem: Impulsiveness
Alcohol, drugs, eating, spending, sex, fast driving, Para-suicidal behaviours and suicidal threats.
Solution: Distress-tolerance skills
Learning to tolerate distress. Impulsive behaviours are usually ‘used’ to reduce intolerable distress.
4. Problem: Confusion about self and cognitive disregulation
Problems in identifying a self, pervasive sense of emptiness, problems in maintaining ones own opinions, feelings and decisions when around others, also brief non-psychotic cognitive disturbances including de-personalisation, dissociations and delusions.
Solution: Mindfulness Skills