Distinguishing Deficient Emotion Regulation from Other Disorders

November 30, 2011 · Posted in Diagnosis 

Deficient emotion regulationAt the 2011 Pediatric Bipolar Disorder Conference in March, Steven V. Faraone from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University presented a plenary paper in which he described how to distinguish deficient emotional self-regulation from traditional mood disorders.

Faraone defined deficient emotion regulation as a lack of four regulating behaviors:

  1. Inhibition of inappropriate behavior related to strong negative or positive emotion
  2. Self-soothing of physiologic arousal that the strong emotions induced
  3. Refocusing of attention from strong emotions
  4. Organization of subsequent behavior in the service of an external goal

He found that deficient emotion regulation was closely related to ADHD, and progressively less similar to oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorders, major depression, conduct disorder and, lastly, bipolar disorder.

Deficient emotional self-regulation is associated with considerable functional impairment and is also characterized by these traits:

  • Quick to anger
  • Easily frustrated
  • Emotionally over-reactive
  • Easily excited by activities going on nearby
  • Loses temper
  • Argues with others
  • Touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Angry or resentful

The behaviors associated with deficient emotion regulation are also prevalent among the siblings of children who have received the diagnosis.  Deficient emotional self-regulation often occurs in families where ADHD is also present, but does not have a familial association with bipolar disorder or other comorbidities.


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