Emotional Regulation

emotional regulation

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Emotion regulation is the skillful management, influence, and modification of our emotions, expressions, and responses. When mastered, it empowers individuals to adapt to various situations while nurturing their psychological well-being.

What Is Emotional Regulation?

Emotion regulation refers to the process by which individuals manage, influence, and modify their emotional experiences, expressions, and responses. It involves various strategies and techniques that people use to handle their emotions in order to adapt to different situations and maintain psychological well-being.

The concept of emotion regulation has its roots in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. It emerged as researchers sought to understand how individuals navigate their emotional experiences and responses.

Emotion regulation is considered a fundamental aspect of human behavior 1 , as emotions play a significant role in shaping our thoughts, actions, and overall well-being.

Gender Differences In Emotional Regulation

Research 2 has suggested that there maybe some gender differences in emotion regulation skills. While both men and women use a variety of emotion regulation strategies, they may exhibit different preferences in certain situations.

For instance, women tend to be more likely to seek social support as a way to cope with emotions, while men may be more prone to using distraction or avoidance strategies. However, it is essential to note that these differences are not absolute 3 and can vary widely between individuals.

Components Of Emotional Regulation

The common 4 components of emotional regulation include:

  1. Awareness of emotions
  2. Understanding emotions
  3. Acceptance of emotions
  4. Modification of emotional responses
  5. Cognitive reappraisal
  6. Distraction techniques
  7. Expression regulation
  8. Emotional regulation goals
  9. Emotion regulation strategies
  10. Emotion regulation flexibility
  11. Monitoring and evaluating emotions
  12. Context sensitivity

Emotion Regulation And Mental Health

Emotion regulation and mental health outcomes are intricately linked 5 . When individuals possess effective emotion regulation skills, they are better equipped to cope with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, leading to improved mental well-being.

By developing awareness and understanding of their emotions, individuals can identify triggers and apply appropriate strategies to manage emotional responses.

Engaging in positive emotion regulation techniques, such as cognitive reappraisal or seeking social support, can help reduce the impact of distressing emotions and prevent them from escalating into more severe mental health issues.

On the other hand, poor emotion regulation can contribute to the development and exacerbation of mental health disorders, as individuals may struggle to handle overwhelming emotions and experience a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and other psychological challenges.

Emotional Regulation In Therapy Settings

In therapeutic settings, emotion regulation is often a focus of intervention 6 for individuals struggling with mental health difficulties. By learning and practicing adaptive emotion regulation strategies, individuals can build emotional resilience and gain greater control over their mental states.

Emotional regulation therapy and mindfulness-based interventions have shown promising results in enhancing emotion regulation skills and promoting better mental health outcomes.

Read More About Therapy Here

How Mental Illness Affects Emotional Regulation

Mental illness can significantly impact emotional regulation, leading to difficulties in managing and expressing emotions effectively. How various mental illnesses 7 can affect emotional regulation include:

  • Anxiety: Heightened emotional reactivity, making regulation challenging.
  • Depression: Difficulty experiencing and expressing positive emotions, while negative emotions become overwhelming.
  • Schizophrenia: Disrupted emotion perception and expression, leading to inappropriate emotional responses.
  • Bipolar disorder: Struggles with extreme mood swings, impacting emotion regulation.
  • Personality disorders (PD): Maladaptive emotion regulation patterns, varying with the specific disorder.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Challenges in recognizing, expressing, and responding to emotions, affecting social interactions.

Read More About Bipolar Disorder Here

Why Do We Need To Regulate Our Emotion?

Emotional regulation is necessary for several reasons 8 :

  • Mental well-being: Promotes positive mental health and well-being.
  • Stress management: Helps cope with stress and reduce negative emotions.
  • Interpersonal relationships: Fosters healthier and satisfying relationships.
  • Decision-making: Enhances rational decision-making, reducing impulsive reactions.
  • Adaptability: Enables effective adaptation to different situations.
  • Physical health: Linked to better physical health outcomes.
  • Social functioning: Facilitates smoother interactions and social functioning.
  • Emotional resilience: Builds resilience to cope with life’s challenges.
  • Productivity: Enhances productivity and performance.
  • Self-reflection: Allows for personal growth and self-reflection.

Read More About Decision-Making Here

Assessing Emotional Regulation

Assessing emotion regulation is vital in clinical and research settings as it helps identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, guide treatment planning, and understand the role of emotion regulation in mental health and well-being. Various assessment tools have been developed to evaluate emotion regulation across different populations.

Common measures 9 include the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) for cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, and the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) for assessing challenges in impulse control, goal-directed behavior, and emotional awareness.

Additionally, self-report questionnaires 10 , behavioral observations, and neuroimaging techniques are used for a comprehensive evaluation of emotion regulation.

Tips To Develop Emotion Regulation Skills

Consider the following measures 11 to develop effective emotional regulation strategies:

  1. Practice mindfulness to increase awareness of emotions.
  2. Recognize situations that trigger strong emotional reactions.
  3. Challenge and constructively reframe negative thought patterns.
  4. Seek Support and talk to friends, family, or a therapist about your emotions.
  5. Engage in physical activity or exercise to release pent up emotions.
  6. Use deep breathing techniques or exercises to calm down.
  7. Write about your emotions and experiences in a journal to gain insight.
  8. Practice patience, allowing yourself time to process emotions before reacting.
  9. When possible, minimize exposure to stressors that trigger your emotions.
  10. Accept negative or distressing emotions without judgment or guilt.
  11. Develop healthy and positive coping mechanisms like hobbies or relaxation techniques.
  12. Establish clear boundaries to protect your emotional well-being.
  13. Avail professional help, including cognitive-behavioral and emotional regulation therapy.

Read More About Mindfulness Here


Emotional regulation is a crucial aspect of our lives. Understanding its concept, components, and impact on mental health provides valuable insights for individuals seeking to enhance their emotional well-being and overall life satisfaction.

By developing effective emotion regulation skills, individuals can build resilience, cope with stress, and foster healthier relationships, contributing to a happier and more fulfilling life.

At A Glance

  • Emotion regulation is essential for maintaining psychological well-being and positive mental health outcomes.
  • It involves various strategies to manage and adapt to emotions effectively, with gender differences influencing preferred regulation techniques.
  • Understanding and developing emotion regulation skills are crucial for coping with stress, building resilience, and improving interpersonal relationships.
  • Emotion regulation and mental health are intricately related, as mental illnesses can significantly impact emotional regulation.
  • Assessing emotion regulation helps identify strengths and weaknesses, guiding treatment plans and research.
  • Common emotion regulation strategies (such as emotional regulation therapy) are drawn from self-awareness, patience, establishing boundaries, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is an example of emotional regulation?

An example of emotional regulation is taking deep breaths and using relaxation techniques to calm oneself down when feeling anxious.

2. What are the three types of emotional regulation?

The three types of emotional regulation are cognitive regulation, behavioral regulation, and physiological regulation.

3. What are the 5 stages of emotional regulation?

The five stages of emotional regulation are situation selection, situation modification, attentional deployment, cognitive change, and response modulation.

👇 References:
  1.  Kadović, M., Mikšić, Š., & Lovrić, R. (2022). Ability of Emotional Regulation and Control as a Stress Predictor in Healthcare Professionals. International journal of environmental research and public health20(1), 541. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20010541 []
  2.  McRae, K., Ochsner, K. N., Mauss, I. B., Gabrieli, J. J. D., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Gender Differences in Emotion Regulation: An fMRI Study of Cognitive Reappraisal. Group processes & intergroup relations : GPIR11(2), 143–162. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430207088035 []
  3.  Mink, A. J., Maddox, M. M., Pinero, A. J. Z., & Crockett, E. E. (2023). Gender differences in the physiological effects of emotional regulation. The Journal of social psychology163(2), 256–268. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2022.2064732 []
  4.  Martin, R. E., & Ochsner, K. N. (2016). The Neuroscience of Emotion Regulation Development: Implications for Education. Current opinion in behavioral sciences10, 142–148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2016.06.006 []
  5.  Côté, S., Gyurak, A., & Levenson, R. W. (2010). The ability to regulate emotion is associated with greater well-being, income, and socioeconomic status. Emotion (Washington, D.C.)10(6), 923–933. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021156 []
  6.  Zhang, W., Provensi, G., & Maffei, A. (2022). Editorial: New challenges and perspectives in emotion regulation and processing. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience16, 1006627. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2022.1006627 []
  7.  Gross, J. J., Uusberg, H., & Uusberg, A. (2019). Mental illness and well-being: an affect regulation perspective. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA)18(2), 130–139. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20618 []
  8.  Wilms, R., Lanwehr, R., & Kastenmüller, A. (2020). Emotion Regulation in Everyday Life: The Role of Goals and Situational Factors. Frontiers in psychology11, 877. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00877 []
  9.  Grant, M., Salsman, N. L., & Berking, M. (2018). The assessment of successful emotion regulation skills use: Development and validation of an English version of the Emotion Regulation Skills Questionnaire. PloS one13(10), e0205095. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0205095 []
  10.  Ivcevic, Z., & Eggers, C. (2021). Emotion Regulation Ability: Test Performance and Observer Reports in Predicting Relationship, Achievement and Well-Being Outcomes in Adolescents. International journal of environmental research and public health18(6), 3204. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063204 []
  11.  Beck, K. B., Conner, C. M., Breitenfeldt, K. E., Northrup, J. B., White, S. W., & Mazefsky, C. A. (2020). Assessment and Treatment of Emotion Regulation Impairment in Autism Spectrum Disorder Across the Life Span: Current State of the Science and Future Directions. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America29(3), 527–542. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2020.02.003 []