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Dysregulation in Children

Compass Health Center’s treatment teams provide patient-centered, comprehensive mental health care and support for Emotional Dysregulation in young children ages 5-10. The priority of individualized programming is to help young participants build the skills necessary to improve emotion identification, distress tolerance, emotional management, relaxation, and communication.

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What Is Dysregulation in Children? - Compass Health Center

What Is Dysregulation in Children?

Emotional Dysregulation is when a child experiences complications or difficulty with registering emotions, responding with emotions that are appropriate to context, and regulating emotional responses in social settings. These children often find it hard to control emotions or have excessive emotional responses. 

It is important to know that Emotional Dysregulation in children is not a disorder. Instead, it is considered an umbrella term for a range of behaviors that may occur on their own or in combination with other symptoms, such as frequent irritability, temper tantrums, and unfounded dramatic outbursts. 

Emotional and Behavioral Dysregulation can also be described as disproportionate reactions to everyday stressors. Children who experience this dysregulation often experience difficulties identifying emotions, self-regulating, and problem solving social situations. This can lead to difficulties across various settings (home, school, and in the community). 

Children can demonstrate Emotional and Behavioral Dysregulation for a variety of reasons. Dysregulation, in and of itself, is not a clinical disorder. Rather, it can be a symptom of other difficulties that children may be experiencing. Emotional and Behavioral Dysregulation can also be observed and described as frequent irritability, temper tantrums, tearfulness, unprompted outbursts, and difficulty self-soothing.

Common Symptoms of Dysregulation - Compass Health Center

Common Symptoms of Dysregulation

About five percent of children and adolescents in the United States struggle with Emotional Dysregulation. It can present as a symptom of developmental delays (e.g., Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder), as well as Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Emotional Dysregulation can be the cause of subsequent Behavioral Dysregulation. Similarly, Behavioral Dysregulation can lead to emotional difficulties, and can be the cause of a child’s severe temper outbursts and irritability.

Symptoms of Emotional Dysregulation in children may include:

  • Severe tantrums
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Outbursts
  • Aggression
  • Refusal to engage in expected behaviors / activities 
  • Frequent crying
  • Frequent negative moods
  • Thoughts of self-harm

Effects of Dysregulation on Your Child’s Life - Compass Health Center

Effects of Dysregulation on Your Child’s Life

Emotional Dysregulation can lead to a variety of problems for children and their families. Children who struggle with Behavioral Dysregulation also tend to experience increased risk of poor decision-making and developing mental health concerns as they grow older due to their inability to handle stressful and frustrating situations. Effects of Dysregulation in children may include:

  • Lack of interest in making new friends
  • Loss of peer relationships due to outbursts
  • Feelings of sadness due to uncontrolled emotional responses
  • Unsatisfactory academic performance
  • School refusal or avoidance
  • Possibility of causing stress to other children in social settings

When to Seek Treatment for Dysregulation - Compass Health Center

When to Seek Treatment for Dysregulation

It is normal for children to have tantrums at an early age; however excessive emotional outbursts in school-age children may be cause for concern. As parents, there are certain things that you can do to help, such as:

  • Recognize the triggers

It can be helpful to develop ways of helping your child prepare for stressful situations that set off outbursts. For example, if your child always has a tantrum when you take them out when they are tired, make a habit of scheduling outings when they are well rested.

  • Be a positive role model

Children who struggle to self-regulate need your help regulating their emotions. Stay calm and model desired behaviors and responses (take deep breaths, use a calm voice). It can be counterproductive to try to teach your child how to manage their emotions by punishing them or demanding that they behave in a certain way. 

  • Reward positive behavior

Point out and praise positive changes in your child’s behavior when it comes to emotion management.

If these suggestions do not help, then it may be time to seek treatment for Dysregulation, and consulting a behavioral health professional may be your next step.

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Double Quotes - Compass Health Center

Compass is a godsend. An amazing program for children who are struggling and families who are seeking help and guidance. I could not imagine that she would be so much better in less than 2 months. I wish we could have found Compass without going to the ER. Thanks for all you do!

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Double Quotes - Compass Health Center

The evening IOP program challenged me in a supportive and respectful way to help change my way of thinking. Compass provided me with the tools to help deal with life situations in a healthy way.

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