Emotional Dysregulation: Can You Recognize An Emotionally Immature Person?


Can you recognize an emotionally immature person? A person whose emotional age is far behind their chronological age.

Of course, this does not include children and adolescents. Children and adolescents are not expected to have a full grasp of their emotions. Part of their development process is learning how to regulate and control their emotional responses.

Yet once we reach adulthood, you will encounter two distinct types of people: the emotionally mature and the emotionally immature. You will be able to detect quite quickly the type you are dealing with.

Emotionally mature people master control of their emotions meaning they are emotionally regulated. Emotional regulation involves maintaining thoughts, behaviors and expressions within a socially acceptable range. Therefore, you are not going to break down in tears in public or in the middle of a tense work meeting. You are not going to start screaming at other people or make a scene in public. You are not going to hurl insults and name call your coworkers or clients. You are able to appropriately respond to life stressors. Emotionally immature people never develop this ability and tend to struggle with emotional dysregulation.

Emotional dysregulation is a term used in the mental health community to refer to an emotional response that is poorly modulated, and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive responses. Possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation include angry outbursts or behavior outbursts such as crying or melting down, high levels of anxiety, being inflexible, aggression towards self or others, inability to adapt, etc.

Emotion dysregulation is associated with many psychiatric disorders such as major depression, PTSD and C-PTSD, mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder/borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse.

Emotional maturity is defined by the ability to control your emotions and take full responsibility for your life.  A large part of being emotionally mature is having the ability to handle anger, disappointment, fear, jealousy, resentment, insecurity, and a myriad of other feelings appropriately. Emotional maturity is defined when you have the ability to experience these emotions and then let them go. People who are immature seem to remain stuck in these negative emotions, unable to get past them.

Emotional maturity is the ability to see life clearly and accurately, and to deal with it. Often we may not like how it is but we are mature enough to recognize that it is what it is. We are not in control of much in life–including circumstances and other people. For many of us, this is just a given.

Emotionally immature people cannot do this-they often expect life to be easy or comfortable all the time and if it isn’t—they look at who or what is to blame. They often try to control others and their environment since they struggle to control themselves. These are very childish people in terms of their emotional responses.

No matter who we are, we will all eventually meet, perhaps at work or our extended social circle, an impossibly immature person.  The person may look mature, and have many adult responsibilities, but emotionally, they are still a child. A person who can at times present themselves appropriately but can turn on a dime acting hurtful, rude, inappropriate, tactless,and dangerously childish whenever the need suits them.

Emotionally immature people can be extremely challenging to deal with, because their ability to interpret and react to the variety of life’s challenges is often impaired.

Emotional immature adults are known to throw “adult temper tantrums.”  Whereas adults tend to stay calm, emotionally immature adults are quick to anger and rage. They cannot control their emotions much like a toddler. They can cry uncontrollably and be unable to hold themselves together when confronted with the slightest inconvenience or the smallest amount of stress.

Now this is to not say we all do not have our moments. None of us are perfect and we all will have our off days. What I am talking about here is a pattern of behavior over time.

Emotionally immature people tend to struggle with emotional dysregulating i.e. the ability to regulate their emotion responses.

Whereas mature adults, respond not react, immature adults are impulsive and can blurt out hurtful, tactless words.  Mature adults recognize sometimes it is better to say nothing than to say something we will live to regret. We are not going to flip out on our boss because we got passed on for a promotion or tell our sister to screw off because we are upset with her. We are able to think before we speak as to not make things worse for ourselves (and others). This is because people who are psychologically mature have impulse control. Emotionally immature people never cultivated such an impulse control.

Often for one reason or another, the person never quite grew up.

Below are the telltale signs of an emotionally immature person:

  • A person who is emotionally immature will: be reactive; see himself as a victim; act out his emotions (intense or gut reactions, like explosive anger, sudden crying, etc)
  • A person who, like a two-year old will throw temper tantrums because they are entitled to get their way even to the detriment of those closest to them (they feel they have the right to attack anyone who thwarts their wants, needs, goals)
  • A person who is be self-centered and concerned with self-protection; appear to always be justifying his actions to himself or others
  • A person will be manipulative; be motivated by fear or a feeling that he “has to” do something,” as well as a need to avoid failure, discomfort, and rejection
  • A person who whines & complains frequently or literally acts like a crybaby
  • A person who must be right and is incapable of hearing differing viewpoints
  • A person who escalates things emotionally
  • A person who loves to blame and name call
  • A person who has a low frustration tolerance. They are not able to deal with every day stress. As the result, they will become excessively emotional
  • A person who speaks recklessly without thinking about potential consequences (adults resist the urge to react in order to avoid shooting out hurtful words/action–they self-soothe). Such a person believes they can blurt out whatever they think or feel even if it hurts or alienates those around them
  • A person who bullies. Adults respect boundaries.  Emotionally immature adults do not
  • A person who has immature defense mechanisms. Children tend to regard the best defense as a strong offense.  Similarly an emotionally immature adult attacks anyone who expresses a viewpoint different from what they want
  • A person who is passive-aggressive. Subtle insults, sullen behavior, stubbornness, or a deliberate failure to accomplish required tasks.

As we grow up and mature, we learn that much of life we cannot control including other people and circumstances. We recognize life is constant change. The ability to adapt and evolve is a must.

We recognize much of life is unfair.

We do not get the job we deserve. We are passed over for the promotion. We have health problems. Financial problems. People we love pass away. Friendships fade, relationships end. People we love move away. We do not have perfect parents, the perfect partner. We are not perfect partners or parents either.

Yet there is a sense of humility in the emotionally mature. With emotionally maturity comes the recognition that many things in life are complicated. We develop the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. We humble ourselves when necessary. We also recognize most things will pass and get better. If we let them. But emotionally immature people cannot get out of their own way.

Emotionally mature people recognize the complexities of life. We will not always get what we want. We will be disappointed. We cannot always get our way. Things will not always go according to our plans. Other people will let us down. We will let ourselves down.

As a counselor, often what brings people initially into treatment is an ongoing struggle with an important relationship in their lives: spouse, child, parent, etc. Our level of maturity will determine how we manage everything in life including our relationships.

Emotional mature people are able to acknowledge others are entitled to live their lives the way they see fit, to not like us; to leave us. We understand others have the right to speak badly about us, or even to hate us. This is not to say we do not try to discuss it with the person at hand or make things better but we know that this is not always possible. As I wrote on a previous post, this is where it is important to be psychologically flexible.

Emotionally mature people recognize we are only in control of ourselves. This is where our power is. We can be agents of positive change or negative change, the choice is ours. Mature people recognize they are not entitled to anything in life. A mature individual does not lose control and give into irrational thoughts simply because they haven’t gotten their way.

As a clinician, it surprises me how many people growing up, were never taught coping skills. I have seen many people were never taught to self soothe or regulate their emotions. They never learned how to effectively handle the problems in their life or deal with stressors. Some people will not be able to cope with the difficulties of life and do not have the ability to face and overcome obstacles. These people will continue to exhibit childish behaviors.We all have our bad days but if you generally function as a grown-up, the more clear you are about what qualifies grown-up behavior, the more you will be able to stay a grown-up even when you are interacting with someone who is acting like a child.

Emotion regulation is essential for healthy functioning (Grecucci, Theuninck, Frederickson, & Job, 2015). If you experience emotion dysregulation, you should consider seeking qualified professional help.

If you are interested in scheduling a session:


Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed., LPC, NCC

Theodorou Therapy, LLC

590 Franklin Ave.

Suite 2

Nutley, NJ 07110



Why am I So Angry All the Time?

Anger has many costs. While it can feel so justified, so right in the moment, it is in the aftermath where it becomes a source of regret and guilt. What may of seemed so deserving and just, now leaves behind hurt, scars, and alienation.

If you get angry on a regular basis, every relationship in your life can be affected. Take a second and reflect on your life as of late. Do you find yourself getting angry with people all the time? Being more sarcastic lately? Acting very impatient with others?  Or maybe you are feeling that your default mood is becoming pissed off Or perhaps you find that you may even be struggling with being angry at yourself?

Our anger takes its toll on those around us—friends grow distant, coworkers avoid or try to sabotage you, your relationship can become a minefield with your partner walking on eggshells to avoid setting you off.  Anger is an emotion that drives people away.

Anger also affects your health. It is well-known anger’s negative impact on your heart. Anger triggers our fight or flight response—pumping cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones through our body. Our blood pressures rises. Our heart races. Anger can be deadly.

When we talk about the emotion of anger, we are talking about the emotion of self-preservation. You become angry when someone is not showing you respect, speaking ill of you,  creating conflict, or bringing some sort of tension into your life. When someone or something activates your sense of self-preservation, you want to stand up for your principles, your convictions, for who you are.

If you are struggling with anger, then likely something in your life isn’t going quite right. Most people don’t get angry when things are going well. Anger stems from being displeased about someone or something. It can often mask other emotions—fear, sadness, jealousy, hurt, disappointment. Anger can be a way to deal with a situation when you aren’t ready to face your more vulnerable feelings.

Here are some reasons you can be feeling so angry

  1. Powerlessness. Anger can be viewed as a state of powerlessness. All of us on some level, feel the need to be in control. If you are struggling with a sense of no control over a situation, or a goal of yours is being thwarted, this can explain your state of anger.  Anger can be an empowering emotion.
  2. Fear. Fear of loss, hurt, shame, weakness, embarrassment, and other vulnerable emotions. One can see that anger is an emotion that can be intimidating and threatening. If you are feeling afraid or threatened by someone or something, you might display anger as a way of protecting yourself from what you perceive to be a threat. Yet as the wise Yoda says, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.”
  3. Hurt. Hurt and anger are just different sides of the same coin. Hurt is the vulnerable expression of the experience and feeling hurt is what usually leads us to anger.
  4. Pain from the Past. If you are holding onto pain from the past, it can be showing up in your life as anger. You can feel wronged or hurt by something someone did to you a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, OR years ago. Pain like this can mature into bitterness.
  5. Stress. Stress is likely to increase anger in those who are prone to it. There is strong link between anger and stress. Stress comes into play in the physiological response to anger—the hormonal response we have to this emotion.   We see people acting out their  stress and anger on the daily in our society–road rage, workplace violence, mass shootings. It is an epidemic.
  6. Jealousy. Jealousy is a naturally occurring emotion. If you ever watch kids play, you can witness how easily this emotion bubbles to the surface. A child’s jealousy is developmentally appropriate because jealousy is a sign of undeveloped thinking.  As we mature and grow,  we usually focus less on others, and more on our goals and our own values.  Psychologically healthy adults know it is pointless to compare their lives to others. We all start in different places and are running different races. Yet many people still struggle with jealousy in adulthood. Jealousy can produce tremendous feelings of anger.
  7. People pleasing. Even if you are the most agreeable, nicest person on the face of this Earth, repressing your needs for others time and time again, is going to breed resentment. That repressed anger is going to spill out in one way or another–eye rolling, facial expressions, procrastinating, Freudian slips. People pleasers often share many traits with codependents. Codependency and anger go hand in hand (right alongside those feelings of powerlessness and yearning for control).
  8. Entitlement. A sense of entitlement often starts the vicious cycle of anger. When you expect others to do what you want, regardless of their own desires, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Both of which lead to anger.  Now adays, more than ever, we are living in an age of entitlement.
  9. Self-importance. Anger and resentment are self-important emotions. Anger and self-importance go hand in hand. Often you can spot a self-important person by their anger. If things are going their way, they can be charming and wonderful. If someone or something gets in their way, say hello to full on rage.
  10. Loneliness. The price of anger can be loneliness–no matter how caring or sincere a person may be towards them, the angry person can’t appreciate it. Angry people often have a general disdain for humanity.  People who struggle with their anger tend to keep other’s at arm length and in doing so experience less fun, less support, and less joy in life.

How to Overcome Your Anger 

Anger is always a choice. It is also a habit. For a person who habitually suffers from anger, they tend to blame shift another person for their pain. Many times when we experience emotional pain we may ask ourself, “Who is responsible for this?” An angry person never takes responsibility for their pain.  Angry people look for someone to point the finger at and assign blame to.  Once there is a target of blame,  they can discharge their hurt with anger to this person.

There is a certain pleasure we feel in blaming others. It means in that moment we don’t have to look at ourselves, our shortcomings, our problems, our faults; we can put the spotlight on them. When we have someone to blame, we get to point out their sins and what is wrong with them, turning the focus completely off us.

The problem with doing that is we can’t make someone else responsible for what we feel including our pain. You and you alone are responsible for the quality of your life. Whether you are happy or not, whether your needs are getting met, whether the relationships in your life are going well, is determined by the choices you make. Thus the only way to stop being an angry person is to accept the fact that currently you are in fact an angry person. Then and only then can you begin to take responsibility for your anger.

Look at the costs of anger to your life, especially, in terms of your health and your relationships.  Be realistic about the causes of your anger and begin to keep an anger journal to observe and monitor the patterns of your anger. The journal can be helpful in  processing all the triggers and circumstances in your life that’s gotten you feeling so angry all the time.

Anger can only be controlled if you change the way you assess and interpret what goes on in your life. You can begin to control your anger by changing the thoughts that trigger it.  These trigger thoughts are a bit different for all of us but they tend to be grounded in a lot of “should” thinking.  We all have our own guidebook about how we and others should behave.  When someone does not follow one of our “rules” we get angry. Stop policing other people’s behavior because it only leads to feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment and resentment.  The word “should” inherently implies what you think you is correct and what the other person thinks is wrong, bad, stupid, etc. People are never going to act how you think they “should.” If you expect people to play by your rules, I can guarantee that you can find a reason to be angry every day, for the rest of your life.

Managing your anger is an active process–a process only you can control. I have faith that you can. But if you don’t learn to control your anger, it my friend, will come to control you.

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in seeking counseling with me:


Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC


590 Franklin Ave.

Suite 2

Nutley, NJ 07110