The process of emotional regulation always begins with a situation that is emotionally stimulating; it could be a situation that is stressful, frustrating, exciting, and so on. When the situation occurs, an individual must pay attention to the situation and the feeling that it causes.
At this point, the situation may be evaluated and reflected on. An individual will interpret the feeling that the situation is causing, considering why this feeling was triggered. This stage in the process is important and has to do with a complex system of categorization.
Many people, with addictions and otherwise, struggle with this part of the emotional regulation process. It is common for people to improperly categorize situations and emotions, interpreting certain situations inaccurately. This may be due to cognitive dissonance, past trauma, hyper sensitivity, insecurity, addiction itself and the list goes on.
The final stage of this process is when a change occurs in a person’s response systems. This may be a behavioral, physiological, or experiential change. For example, someone may feel overstimulated with excitement, loud noise and lots of people around. The initial physiological response is increased heart rate and anxiety, but after emotionally regulating, the heart rate may slow as the person relaxes.