“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” – Oscar Wilde
We all have different levels of awareness, acceptance, and comfort with emotions. For some people, emotions feel natural, vibrant, and filled with useful information; for others, emotions feel threatening, confusing, or overwhelming. Perhaps you identify with one of these two experiences with your own emotions, or fall somewhere in between. One facet of emotional intelligence involves confidence in your ability to effectively regulate or manage your ongoing emotional experience. When emotions become persistent sources of distress or lead to self-destructive coping behaviors, it is time to take a step back and mindfully evaluate the manner in which you relate to your emotions.
Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale
The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS; Gratz & Roemer, 2004) is a self-assessment tool designed to obtain an overall measure of how much difficult emotions are impacting your daily life. The DERS not only provides an overall score of difficulties with emotion regulation, but also allows you to assess six specific factors related to emotion dysregulation:
- Nonacceptance: Nonacceptance of emotional responses
- Goals: Difficulty engaging in goal-oriented behaviors
- Impulse: Difficulty controlling impulses
- Aware: Lack of emotional awareness
- Strategies: Lack of access to emotion regulation strategies
- Clarity: Lack of emotional clarity
As you prepare yourself to engage in the following self-assessment, pause to take a few deep breaths in and out. Choose to use this self-assessment as a tool to increase mindful awareness of how emotions impact your overall functioning. Once you become more aware of how you are currently relating to and managing your emotions, you have the freedom to make meaningful changes where needed.
Indicate how often each statement applies to you using the following scale:
(0 – 10%)
(11 – 35%)
About Half the Time
(36 – 65%)
Most of the Time
(66 – 90%)
Almost Always (91 – 100%)
- I am clear about my feelings.
- I pay attention to how I feel.
- I experience my emotions as overwhelming and out of control.
- I have no idea how I am feeling.
- I have difficulty making sense out of my feelings.
- I am attentive to my feelings.
- I know exactly how I am feeling.
- I care about what I am feeling.
- I am confused about how I feel.
- When I’m upset, I acknowledge my emotions.
- When I’m upset, I become angry with myself for feeling that way.
- When I’m upset, I become embarrassed for feeling that way.
- When I’m upset, I have difficulty getting work done.
- When I’m upset, I become out of control.
- When I’m upset, I believe that I will remain that way for a long time.
- When I’m upset, I believe that I will end up feeling very depressed.
- When I’m upset, I believe that my feelings are valid and important.
- When I’m upset, I have difficulty focusing on other things.
- When I’m upset, I feel out of control.
- When I’m upset, I can still get things done.
- When I’m upset, I feel ashamed at myself for feeling that way.
- When I’m upset, I know that I can find a way to eventually feel better.
- When I’m upset, I feel like I am weak.
- When I’m upset, I feel like I can remain in control of my behaviors.
- When I’m upset, I feel guilty for feeling that way.
- When I’m upset, I have difficulty concentrating.
- When I’m upset, I have difficulty controlling my behaviors.
- When I’m upset, I believe there is nothing I can do to make myself feel better.
- When I’m upset, I become irritated at myself for feeling that way.
- When I’m upset, I start to feel very bad about myself.
- When I’m upset, I believe that wallowing in it is all I can do.
- When I’m upset, I lose control over my behavior.
- When I’m upset, I have difficulty thinking about anything else.
- When I’m upset, I take time to figure out what I’m really feeling.
- When I’m upset, it takes me a long time to feel better.
- When I’m upset, my emotions feel overwhelming.
To obtain your overall score, begin by putting a minus sign next to your ratings for the following items: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 17, 20, 22, 24, and 34. After you’ve done that, you can easily sum your ratings by adding the positives and subtracting the negatives (the items with a minus sign next to them). Your total score is an indication of the degree to which your upsetting emotions are impacting your life at this moment in time.
If you would like information about your scores on the six specific factors of emotion dysregulation, you may sum your ratings (as described above) for the following items:
- Nonacceptance: 11, 12, 21, 23, 25, 29
- Goals: 13, 18, 20 (-), 26, 33
- Impulse: 3, 14, 19, 24 (-), 27, 32
- Aware: 2 (-), 6 (-), 8 (-), 10 (-), 17 (-), 34 (-)
- Strategies: 15, 16, 22 (-), 28, 30, 31, 35, 36
- Clarity: 1 (-), 4, 5, 7 (-), 9
Interpret Your Score
You can get a general sense of the meaning of your results by comparing it to the average scores from the sample used by Gratz and Roemer (2004) in the development of the DERS:
- Overall Score: women = 78; men = 80
- Nonacceptance: women = 12; men = 12
- Goals: women = 14; men = 14
- Impulse: women = 11; men = 12
- Aware: women = 14; men = 16
- Strategies: women = 16; men = 16
- Clarity: women = 11; men = 11
Now that you have taken the time to assess your current levels of difficulties with emotion regulation, ask yourself what you are willing to do with the information. Do you notice particular aspects of emotion dysregulation where you seem to struggle? What about areas where you feel confident in your abilities to manage emotions? The first step toward making healthy changes in how you relate to your emotional experience is awareness.
Congratulate yourself for choosing to increase your emotional awareness by engaging in this self-assessment. Direct an attitude of nonjudgmental mindfulness toward yourself, gentling silencing the voice of the inner critic. You have the freedom to choose the next step on your journey toward building emotion regulation skills and cultivating a balanced approach toward your emotions.
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These results are intended as a guide to your psychological health and are presented for educational purposes only. They are not intended to serve as a clinical diagnosis. If you are concerned in any way about your health, please consult with a qualified mental health professional.
The DERS is a free self-assessment questionnaire designed for individuals from ages 18-60. It is expected to take approximately eight minutes to complete.
Gratz, K. L. & Roemer, E. (2004). Multidimensional assessment of emotion regulation and dysregulation: Development, factor structure, and initial validation of the difficulties in emotion regulation scale. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 26, 41-54.
McKay, M., Fanning, P., & Ona, P. Z. (2011). Mind and emotions: A universal treatment for emotional disorders. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Featured image: le reste est inférieur au diviseur… by Biscarotte / CC BY-SA 2.0