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Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale - 16-item version

Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale - 16-item version

What is DERS-16

The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale - 16-item version (DERS-16) offers a valid and brief method for the assessment of overall emotion regulation difficulties. The DERS-16 is a brief 16-item version of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS).

DERS-16 Printable PDF

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DERS-16 Scoring and Interpretation

As with the original DERS, respondents rate the extent to which each item applies to them on a 5-point Likert-type scale from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always).

The overall score is calculated.

Total scores on the DERS-16 can range from 16 to 80, with higher scores reflecting greater levels of emotion dysregulation.

Means (M) and standard deviations (SD) of the DERS-16 and original DERS scores in study samples

Table 4
Study 1Study 1Study 2 Sample 1Study 2 Sample 1Study 2 Sample 2Study 2 Sample 2















Original DERS







Study 1 - Clinical Sample - Participants included 96 women enrolled in an acceptance-based emotion regulation group therapy for deliberate self-harm at 14 different psychiatric outpatient clinics throughout Sweden. Inclusion criteria included: (a) being a woman over 18 years of age; (b) meeting at least three diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD); and (c) having a history of deliberate self-harm with at least three episodes in the past six months. Exclusion criteria consisted of: (d) primary diagnoses of a psychotic disorder, bipolar I disorder, current (past month) substance dependence, or another acute primary diagnosis (e.g. anorexia nervosa) that required immediate treatment; (e) current life circumstances that would interfere with treatment (e.g. ongoing domestic abuse); and/or (f) insufficient Swedish language skills.

Study 2 - Sample 1 - Community Sample - Participants were 102 adults from the greater Washington D.C. area recruited using advertisements posted throughout the community and on-line. The original purpose of this study was to investigate emotional and cognitive functioning in psychopathology; consequently, advertisements targeted individuals with mood or behavioral dysregulation.

In Study 2 - Sample 2 - Community Sample - Participants included a community sample of 482 young adult women drawn from a large, multi-site, prospective study of emotion dysregulation and sexual revictimization. Participants were recruited from four sites in the Southern and Midwestern United States using random sampling from the community (based on residential mailing addresses) as well as community advertisements. All questionnaires were completed online in the laboratory of one of the study sites.

CLARITY = Lack of Emotional Clarity; GOALS = Difficulties Engaging in Goal-Directed Behavior; IMPULSE = Impulse Control Difficulties; STRATEGIES = Limited Access to Effective Emotion Regulation Strategies; NONACCEPTANCE = Nonacceptance of Emotional Responses.

Higher scores indicate greater difficulties in emotion regulation (i.e., greater emotion dysregulation).

PsyPack can automatically score the DERS-16 assessment and prepare corresponding tables and graphs.

DERS-16 sample result

Further, PsyPack automatically plots a graph to help you easily track progress over time.

DERS-16 track progress

Sample Report of DERS-16


Emotion Regulation, Emotions

What does DERS-16 measure

The purpose of the evaluation is to:

  • assess overall emotion regulation difficulties.



Type of outcome tool


Assessment modes


Age and eligibility

18 years and above

Estimated time

About 5 minutes


Since the questionnaire relies on client self-report, all responses should be verified by the clinician, and a definitive diagnosis is made on clinical grounds taking into account how well the client understood the questionnaire, as well as other relevant information from the client.

Moreover, the reliance on only self-reported emotional responding is limiting, as it is likely that some individuals do not have full awareness of their emotional responses, thereby reducing the extent to which they can accurately report on those responses.

DERS-16 is a brief 16-item version of the DERS.

The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) is based on a clinically-useful conceptualization of emotion regulation that was developed to be applicable to a wide variety of psychological difficulties and relevant to clinical applications and treatment development. Specifically, the conceptual definition of emotion regulation on which the DERS is based emphasizes the functionality of emotions and focuses on adaptive ways of responding to emotional distress, including the: (a) awareness, understanding, and acceptance of emotions; (b) ability to control behaviors when experiencing negative emotions; (c) flexible use of situationally-appropriate strategies to modulate the intensity and/or duration of emotional responses, rather than to eliminate emotions entirely; and (d) willingness to experience negative emotions as part of pursuing meaningful activities in life.

Scores on the DERS have been found to be associated with multiple forms of psychopathology, including posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, major depression, eating disorders, and generalized anxiety disorder. In addition, emotion regulation difficulties as assessed by the DERS are related to a number of maladaptive behaviors thought to serve an emotion regulating function, such as deliberate self-harm, substance use, risky sexual behavior, and purging behavior. The DERS has also demonstrated associations with biological, psychophysiological, neurological, and behavioral (e.g., persistence on laboratory-based distress-inducing tasks) indices of emotion regulation. Finally, scores on the DERS have been found to change in response to treatments that target emotion regulation, including an emotion regulation group therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, suggesting that the measure is sensitive to change over time and has utility in treatment outcome research.

Given that the two versions of the DERS show similar psychometric properties, the DERS-16 is a viable replacement for the full-length DERS when a brief assessment of overall emotion regulation difficulties is required. In addition, within certain contexts, the DERS-16 has several advantages compared to the original DERS. For example, clinicians and researchers may find the DERS-16 easier to administer during ongoing sessions or repeatedly when monitoring treatment progress. Patients would also likely find the DERS-16 to be less of a burden than the original 36-item version. Finally, the DERS-16 may be more feasible for large scale studies where the space available for measures is limited (e.g., epidemiological studies).

The DERS-16 only provides an overall score of emotion regulation difficulties, whereas the original DERS provides a total score and six subscale scores. Although this may limit the amount of information one can obtain from the DERS-16, there is a substantial amount of research that supports the utility of using a global score to evaluate emotion regulation difficulties within various forms of psychopathology and in predicting maladaptive behaviors.

Attribution and References

Bjureberg J, Ljótsson B, Tull MT, Hedman E, Sahlin H, Lundh LG, Bjärehed J, DiLillo D, Messman-Moore T, Gumpert CH, Gratz KL. Development and Validation of a Brief Version of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale: The DERS-16. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2016 Jun;38(2):284-296. doi: 10.1007/s10862-015-9514-x. Epub 2015 Sep 14. PMID: 27239096; PMCID: PMC4882111.