What is dysregulation?
Dysregulation is a popular term that describes a complex system of reactions to stress which ultimately leaves a person either to move towards or away from something/someone.
Dysregulation may feel like tension in your muscles, anxiety and worry. It may feel like a sense of dread, hopelessness or sadness-the desire to give up. Dysregulation may feel like an explosion of senses where the desire to act is predominate. It’s a general feeling of lack of control or agency over oneself which can be disconcerting. During periods of dysregulation you get tunnel vision where any problem thrown at you seems insurmountable.
Surpringly for many parents and teachers children can have similar experiences when they are dysregulated. Children who are easily dysregulated often report that they cannot “help themselves” when they engage in certain behaviors. The adults in their lives may not understand what’s going on, so they become increasingly frustrated with the child, which also adds to a child’s own feelings of frustration and anxiety.
In contrast being regulated is q feeling of homeostasis, balance, or expressed as feeling calm. During periods of regulation you better able to focus on the task at hand. Feelings of happiness and joy are often reported. During these times you are more apt to engage with others and find rewards in your relationships and hobbies. Theres a feeling of control and the ability to overcome obstacles which makes one feel pride in themselves.
It is normal to fluctuate. No one is regulated all the time, we are all prone to become dysregulated. It’s like a pendulum. When too much is thrown at us at one time we can be dysregulated. Typically though we can bounce back. But there are many people for which this is not their norm. They do not have the typical movement between regulation and Dysregulation but rather they live most of their lives in a dysregulated state. In fact for many people they have never truly felt regulated or if they have its such a foreign experience that they become anxious by it. This is the experience of many a trauma survivor.
Dysregulation is a response to stress. This can be stress from the outside environment or something happening internally. It begins with the complex system of neuronal networks in the brain that when activated, send messages throughout the body. This is why when you feel anxious you feel tension in your muscles (usually in the upper body-the arms and shoulders but it can also be held in the legs and pelvic region).
During stress you seek relief either by moving towards or away from something. These mechanisms are developed as a result of our culmination of life experiences and biology.
Am I Normal?
Some people are born with a more sensitive system and they require a different set of skills to help them learn self regulation skills while others have had many negative experiences, such as child abuse or (witnessing) domestic violence, during their lifetime which has effectively lowered their baseline threshold and made them more reactive (small window of tolerance).
There are many ways for chronic dysregulation to become something that plagues you but the good news is that there is help. You don’t have to be trapped by your overly reactive system. Being in a constant state of dysregulation takes a tole on the body, leading to physical as well as emotional health problems. This is where the idea of self care is really important but a key to proper self care is doing what works for you.This means you have to slow down, reflect and attune to your own body and needs. Examples can be regular exercise, including short or long walks or more extreme such as spinning, manicures, pick up basketball, art, music, hiking, and much much more.
This can be very scary and anxiety provoking for people, especially those who have a history of feeling violated by others. But with proper support you can overcome and live the life you truly want.
Trauma can have lasting impacts that can last a lifetime if those wounds go unhealed. Emotional Dysregulation is often related to unhealed trauma. I know it may seem easier to try to forget what happened and believe that it doesn’t impact us until this very day. But there comes a point in time when we realize our unhealthy patterns, our attraction to unhealthy people, low self worth, and trouble standing up for ourselves are related to that unhealed trauma from our childhood. So rather than trying to push it down down down and letting it sprout up when you least expect it, why not take your first step in your healing journey and begin therapy.