Emotional Reactivity

Emotional Reactivity Disorder

Emotional Reactivity Disorder (ERD) is a bouquet of irritating, often manipulative behaviors, with overly intense reaction to another person or situation. 

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There is never a calm, peaceful, and stable relationship with a person with ERD (PERD).  In romantic relationships, they are controlling, abusive, manipulative partners who can ruin not only the relationship, but also the self-esteem, finances, and reputation of the partner. The parent with ERD abuses, neglects, ignores, or psychologically damages their children. As a friend they may be irresponsible, selfish, unreliable, dishonest, and often create significant problems in the relationship. As a family member, they maintain themselves as the center of attention and keep the family in an uproar. Their need to be the center of attention and control those around them ensures a near-constant state of drama, turmoil, discord, and distress. Holidays, family reunions, outings in the community, travel, and even shopping are often turned into a social nightmare.

Primarily manifested in irritating behaviors rather than signs more commonly associated with mental illness, the disorder, therefore, frequently goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. It is estimated that 2 to 3 percent of the general population suffer with ERD. One in ten people with ERD commits suicide. Many people with  ERD don’t seek out treatment until the disorder starts to significantly interfere or otherwise impact their life.

Treatment of ERD typically involves medication combined with cognitive therapy (psychotherapy). Medication acts to correct the Neurotransmitter (brake-fluid) deficit and reduces impulsiveness, and emotional reactivity, irritability, mood swings, impulsive outbursts, and anger. Medication helps the person to perceive the effect of treatment and sets the base for Cognitive therapy.

Cognitive therapy helps the patient to learn what his characteristic maladaptive patterns are, when they are likely to be brought into play, what purpose they serve, and how to substitute more adaptive coping strategies. When the PERD begins to examine his / her behaviour pattern, and takes steps to correct it they will be able to sustain and nurture relationships, thereby improving their self image and self esteem.



Impulsive behaviors with a majority of the following symptoms:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  • Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
  • Significant mood swings with intense episodic emotional distress, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  • Excessive sensitivity to things happening around them in their environment.
  • Unstable and intense relationships.

ERD can only be diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, such as a neuro psychiatrist. Family physicians and general practitioners are generally not trained or equipped to make this type of diagnosis.