The Role of Emotional Regulation in Recovery

It is normal to lose control of your emotions from time to time. However, these emotions can sometimes go awry. The process of addiction recovery requires you to find a balance between feeling your feelings, not letting those emotions overwhelm you, and not suppressing those emotions. Feelings can be tricky, and lots of times, people may try to tell you how to feel or that your feelings are incorrect. There is nothing false about feelings, though. 

While those feelings differ from person to person based on perspective, controlling those emotions, especially during times of crisis or duress, can make all the difference. This is especially true when seeking treatment for addiction, substance use disorder (SUD), or other co-occurring mental illnesses. 

Emotional regulation, or self-regulation, can allow you to examine and modify your emotions. Learning how to regulate your feelings can help you when you are overwhelmed and feeling closer to the edge during moments in treatment or recovery.

Understanding Emotional Regulation

Regulating your emotions will require a lot of self-conscious examination. Admittedly, learning how to handle your feelings will not be an exact science. While you can not change the way you feel in certain situations, you can change how you react to those situations. 

That is what emotional regulation focuses on- changing the way you respond to a situation to create a more positive outcome. Perhaps you can generally manage and positively respond to our emotions effectively. However, this is typically a difficult process. As you mature, though, it becomes easier to regulate these reactions more effectively and unconsciously.

You may already be using methods of emotional regulation, whether they are good or bad, without even knowing it. Some positive forms of emotional regulation that you may already have implanted into your daily life include venting and confiding in friends or close confidants, exercising, hiking, or participating in other physical activities or hobbies. 

Activities such as these are great because they not only help you learn to regulate your emotions, but they can positively affect your overall mental and physical health as well. Healthy strategies such as these help to diffuse high-stress situations. They ultimately enable you to take your emotions down to a level that allows you to interpret a situation more clearly. Unfortunately, it can be easy for us to fall into bad habits of emotional regulation that can become difficult to break.

Negative Habits of Emotional Regulation

Just as some good habits and strategies help regulate your emotions, bad habits can be very quickly learned. Some may be more extreme than others, but all have negative connotations associated with them. 

One example of a harmful emotional regulation habit that you may not even be aware of is nail-biting. Often performed as a coping mechanism for anxiety, biting your nails may be a way in which you are able to calm yourself in situations of emotional distress. The habit itself is not necessarily good, though it is not as bad as other activities that may become chronic.

One negative coping mechanism you may be using that is difficult to recognize is excessive social media use. Scrolling your social media feed may have become a mindless task you employ when needing a distraction from reality. However, all this does is trigger even more negative thoughts that intensify negative emotions, not regulate them. 

Self-harm is another common coping mechanism that is incredibly dangerous and unhealthy. In many cases, self-harm is utilized as a way of focusing on something other than emotional distress. To avoid emotional conflict or distress, pain is inflicted physically, distracting from the recurring negative thoughts. However, self-harm can cause many health problems and only serves to suppress emotions instead of healthily learning how to handle them. If you are struggling with self-harm, we implore you to seek help immediately.

Emotional Regulation and Addiction

Substance use or excessive alcohol consumption is another harmful method commonly used for regulating emotions. In situations like these, you may fall victim to addiction and have a more challenging time finding recovery. The more you use it to handle emotional distress, the more you need to use it when any emotional situations present themselves. You never learn how to manage your emotions constructively, leading to further substance use.

Learning to regulate your emotions properly is essential for entering into and maintaining long-term recovery. Addiction can often be the direct cause of an inability to self-regulate your feelings, reaping catastrophic effects throughout all areas of your life. If you are looking for treatment and implementing healthy emotional regulation techniques into your recovery, reach out for help today. Do not wait any longer to start your path to recovery. 

Addiction or substance use disorder often has its roots in genetics, environment, social influences, and in many cases, is a direct result of one’s inability to regulate their emotions positively. Many of us may already be utilizing subtle but effective methods of self-regulation. This might include walking, journaling, or talking with friends. However, many may be struggling to learn proper techniques or are struggling with negative habits of regulation they’ve already formed. If you struggle with addiction, learning to regulate your emotions healthily will do wonders for your long-term recovery. You’ll be able to examine how you feel, articulate why you feel that way, and make decisions on the most productive way to deal with those feelings. This can help in future situations where you may face potential triggers or relapses that threaten your recovery. If you are looking for a place to start your path to recovery, call the Lakehouse at (877) 762-3707 today.