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Over the past decade, emotion dysregulation has become a very popular term in the psychiatric and clinical psychology literature and it has been described as a key component in a range of mental disorders. For this reason, it has been recently called the “hallmark of psychopathology” (Beauchaine et al., 2007). However, many issues make this concept controversial.
To explore emotion dysregulation, focusing on problems related to its definition, meanings and role in many psychiatric disorders.
To clarify the psychopathological core of emotion dysregulation and to discuss potential implications for clinical practice.
A literature review was carried out by examining articles published in English between January 2003 and June 2015. A search of the databases PubMed, PsycINFO, Science Direct, Medline, EMBASE and Google Scholar was performed to identify the relevant papers.
Although, there is no agreement about the definition of emotion dysregulation, the following five overlapping, not mutually exclusive dimensions were identified: decreased emotional awareness, inadequate emotional reactivity, intense experience and expression of emotions, emotional rigidity and cognitive reappraisal difficulty. These dimensions characterise a number of psychiatric disorders in different proportions, with borderline personality disorder and eating disorders seemingly more affected than other conditions.
This review highlights a discrepancy between the widespread clinical use of emotion dysregulation and inadequate conceptual status of this construct. Better understanding of the various dimensions of emotion dysregulation has implications for treatment. Future research needs to address emotion dysregulation in all its multifaceted complexity.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.
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