Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS)

The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) is an instrument measuring emotion regulation problems. The 36 items self-report scale asks respondents how they relate to their emotions in order to produce scores on the following subscales.

  1. Nonacceptance of emotional responses 
  2. Difficulty engaging in goal-directed behaviour
  3. Impulse control difficulties
  4. Lack of emotional awareness
  5. Limited access to emotion regulation strategies
  6. Lack of emotional clarity

This tool can be especially useful in helping patients identify areas for growth in how they respond to their emotions, especially those with Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder or Substance Use Disorder.

This scale measures an integrative conceptualization of emotion regulation as involving not just the modulation of emotional arousal, but also the awareness, understanding, and acceptance of emotions, and the ability to act in desired ways regardless of emotional state.

Given that successful emotion regulation is a key aspect of personal well-being, difficulties in emotion regulation are theorised to be a transdiagnostic risk for the onset and maintenance across psychopathologies.

If the DERS is administered twice or more NovoPsych will graph scores over time, indicating the progress the respondent has made during treatment.

Validity and Reliability

During development of the scale it was found that the DERS had high internal consistency, good test–retest reliability, and adequate construct and predictive validity (Gratz & Roemer, 2003).

Based on a sample of 427 adults presenting at an outpatient clinic diagnosed with one or more DSM-5 disorder, Hallion et al. (2018) found that the DERS had good internal consistency, particularly when the Awareness subscale is excluded, indicating that Awareness may be a seperate construct.

The means and standard deviations for the sample are presented below.

– Total M = 89.33, SD = 22.64
– Non-acceptance M = 14.67, SD = 5.92
– Goals M = 15.42, SD = 4.215
– Impulse M = 12.58, SD = 4.97
– Awareness M = 15.55, SD = 4.92
– Strategies M = 19.67, SD = 7.31
– Clarity M = 12.01, SD = 4.04

Scoring and Interpretation

Scores are presented as a total score as well as a score for each of the 6 subscales. Higher scores suggest greater problems with emotion regulation.

Scores are also presented as a percentile rank, which compares the respondent’s scores against adults seeking outpatient psychological therapy (Hallion et al., 2018). A percentile of 50 indicates typical scores in comparison to others presenting for treatment, with higher scores indicating more severe problems. Percentiles are the preferred method for interoperation given they contextualise scores via comparison to peers.


  1. Nonacceptance of emotional responses: 11, 12, 21, 23, 25, 29
  2. Difficulty engaging in goal-directed behaviour: 13, 18, 20R, 26, 33
  3. Impulse control difficulties: 3, 14, 19, 24R, 27, 32
  4. Lack of emotional awareness: 2R, 6R, 8R, 10R, 17R, 34R
  5. Limited access to emotion regulation strategies: 15, 16, 22R, 28, 30, 31, 35, 36
  6. Lack of emotional clarity: 1R, 4, 5, 7R, 9

While higher scores on the sub-scales are indicative of more emotion regulation problems, higher scores are also predictive of bigger treatment gains from CBT. This suggests that emotion regulation is a key skill that can be learnt during therapy and mastering these skills is a an important mechanism for symptom reduction in successful treatment.


Gratz, K. L., & Roemer, L. (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(1), 41-54.


Hallion, L. S., Steinman, S. A., Tolin, D. F., & Diefenbach, G. J. (2018). Psychometric properties of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) and its short forms in adults with emotional disorders. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 539.