Area of Focus

Behavioral 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 Behavioral Dysregulation in Children? - Compass Health Center

What Is Behavioral Dysregulation in Children?

Behavioral ER techniques that are harmful are referred to as behavioral dysregulation, and they might include (but are not restricted to) binge eating, excessive social reassurance-seeking, and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Emotional Dysregulation in children is when a child experiences complications or difficulty with registering emotions, responding with emotions that are appropriate to the 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 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 Behavioral Dysregulation on Your Child’s Life - Compass Health Center

Effects of Behavioral 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 an 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 wellrested.

  • 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 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.


Often times, this can present as verbal and/or physical aggression that takes place in the home, at school, etc. Every child is different. For some, you might see only verbal vs physical aggression. For others, behaviors might only be displayed in the home.

Often times, children have difficulty regulating and managing their emotions. This is developmentally appropriate as it is a skill they are learning. Emotional dysregulation can be impacted by biology/genetics, environment and age.

The young child program works with children ages 5-10 years old. The child program works with children ages 10-14.

Yes, our contact center conducts an initial screening to determine if an intake assessment is appropriate. If so, a family will then complete a 1-1.5 hour intake assessment where clinical information is obtained and a recommendation for treatment is made.

It depends. It certainly can change/improve as a child ages and often intervention with therapeutic and/or psychiatric treatment can support improvement in symptoms of dysregulation.

Yes. Depending on your program, there are parent support groups. Additionally, family therapy/support is a part of treatment. This can look like family session (onsite or virtual), parent only sessions, parent coaching via phone, etc. The level of intervention will be determined by your treatment team.

At Compass Health Center, we want to make sure that your child can get the healthcare they need, regardless of your insurance coverage. We accept most commercial insurance plans, and we offer flexible payment plans to help make our services more affordable. Our billing team works with the patient/family to establish any plans needed.

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Our Success Stories

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Compass saved my life! I came into Compass with suicidal ideations and no hope. After a couple of weeks of being in the program, I did not have those thoughts anymore. Compass helped me change my mindset, from a negative pattern of thoughts to a more positive and optimistic frame of mind.

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My child is leaving Compass more equipped to handle her emotions, her anxiety, her depression, and the things that all trigger these. She is willing to use the skills, which is a huge change, and this is all due to how well Compass worked for her.

Parent of Child Patient
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I liked how in Compass, everyone was respectful of my opinions, pronouns, and preferred name. There was no judging, and you can open up to people. I also like how I can relate to other kids. I also really appreciate learning new skills.

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!

Parent of Child Patient
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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Service Areas

In-Person and Virtual Mental Health Services for Illinois & Maryland Residents