Emotional Dysregulation and Drug Addiction | Banyan Mental Health
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The Connection Between Emotional Dysregulation and Drug Addiction

woman with emotional dysregulation and drug addiction

The Connection Between Emotional Dysregulation & Drug Addiction

Drugs, especially illicit drugs, can have dangerous and even strange effects when abused.

Appearance changes and damage to a person’s physical health may be apparent, but drug abuse can also affect a person’s mental health and behaviors. While some drugs may lead to an immediately euphoric rush followed by a crash, others are associated with much more unusual or much stronger emotional effects.

What Is Emotional Dysregulation?

Emotional dysregulation is a psychological term used to describe when someone consistently struggles to control and regulate their emotions. Those with emotional dysregulation will often experience more intense and long-lasting emotions than normal that can carry over into more radical behavioral responses. The result of emotional dysregulation is typically overexaggerated responses and outbursts. In some cases, these responses can become extreme and include substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide attempts. Emotional dysregulation may also be a symptom of another mental health disorder.

If someone you care about is struggling with emotional dysregulation, you should look to get them professional help, especially if they have started to engage in more dangerous behaviors. A mood treatment center may be able to teach them to better regulate their emotions and help them manage their symptoms.

The Relationship Between Emotional Dysregulation & Drug Addiction

Like with many mental health problems, drug addiction and emotional dysregulation are sometimes intertwined.

Those who suffer from emotional dysregulation may struggle to cope with their emotions in healthy and productive ways. Instead, their overwhelming emotions may lead them to turn to drugs or alcohol. This self-destructive pattern of coping may eventually develop into a substance abuse disorder as the person becomes psychologically and physically dependent on the substances they are abusing. Research has found that deficits in emotional regulation can increase a person’s risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. One study focused on children with poor self-control associated with emotional dysregulation and found that these children developed substance dependence in adulthood at a higher rate than their peers.1 Because poor mental health can be a contributing factor to the development of an addiction, it is better to get mental health treatment before a substance abuse problem develops.

Substance abuse disorders and emotional dysregulation can interact in other ways as well. In some cases, substance abuse may lead to emotional dysregulation. Drug and alcohol use can lead to mood swings and outbursts on their own, but prolonged use of these substances can affect a person’s mental health as their overall life satisfaction declines. With time, their addiction can exacerbate underlying mental health problems that may have once gone unnoticed.

Either way, when emotional dysregulation and drug addiction are both at play, the affected individual should be treated for both. A dual diagnosis treatment center will address both issues at the same time and help the individual see how they are connected. With treatment, the individual should be able to overcome their substance abuse and learn to better manage their emotions.

At Banyan Mental Health, we help patients with mental health and substance abuse problems overcome their demons and move forward with their lives. If you or a loved one needs help, reach out to us at 888-280-4763 to learn more.


  1. Karger - Does Emotion Dysregulation Mediate the Relationship between Early Maltreatment and Later Substance Dependence? Findings of the CANSAS Study

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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