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Malminder Gill MNCIP
Integrative Psychotherapy Counselling & Hypnotherapy for individual & corporate clients
96 Harley Street, Online & Home Visits (UK & Internationally for intensive work)

Hypnosis In London Diffuse Physiological Arousal

Diffuse Physiological Arousal – How To Avoid DPA When Arguing With Your Partner

Have you ever had an argument with your partner where neither of you is making any sense? Do you or your partner constantly retort with; “you’re not listening to me!”? Maybe every conflict with your partner makes you feel like you have to put on armour as if you’re fighting with a lion rather than trying to resolve a problem? If any of these ring true for you, it is likely that DPA or Diffuse Physiological Arousal is getting in your way of successful conflict management. To help your relationship, and to prevent major emotional fallout every time you disagree, find out exactly what DPA could be doing to you and your partner.

What Is Diffuse Physiological Arousal?

Diffuse Physiological Arousal, also known as emotional flooding, is where you get so stressed during an argument that you cannot think straight, hear your partner or manage the situation. It is like an emotional overload which can cloud your brain of thinking clearly and creatively problem-solving.

This emotional flooding, or Diffuse Physiological Arousal, occurs when you are pushed into a reactive state. It is your body’s natural and primitive response. When your body perceives a threat, it will alert you to danger through a physiological reaction. This bodily reaction is a flood of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenalin, and catecholamine to prepare you for a fight or flight response.

Unwittingly, your physiology is preparing you for a battle. For this conflict with your partner, your body is giving you the same tools as it would if you were fighting a sabre tooth tiger! With this in mind, your body is prioritising self-defence and saving you from harm. This means it is trying to protect you, but it will not help you to save your relationship or manage the conflict effectively.

Of course, when your body reaches this state, it is impossible to deploy constructive conflict resolution tactics. Your body and your emotions have gone into overdrive. If you or your partner are suffering from Diffuse Physiological Arousal, then it is crucial to be aware of this as soon as it happens, to avoid any reckless decisions, emotional overload or unnecessary, damaging conflict.

How To Spot Diffuse Physiological Arousal

Some of the critical signs that your body have been emotionally flooded include;

  • Increase in body temperature
  • A rapid increase in heart rate (usually above 100bpm)
  • Reduction in hearing (you may hear white noise, silence or even music)
  • Defensive posture, you cannot be sympathetic or empathetic to your partner
  • Inability to think clearly or problem solve may lead to repeating yourself
  • Cannot give or receive any affection or access sense of humour
  • Increase in sweat, such as sweaty palm.
  • Deploy tactics of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

What Happens In The Body With Diffuse Physiological Arousal

As soon as you begin to see a loved one as a source of threat, then the body starts to alert you to the danger. The brain will begin to release stress hormones such as cortisol and catecholamines. In your brain, the amygdala will then activate – this is the emotional centre of your brain, which causes a flood or wave of emotions that cloud your clarity.

At the same time, the frontal lobe activity decreases; this reduces your ability to make decisions or judgement or practise impulse control.

Due to this high state of alert, your body compensates other functions. This means there is a reduced oxygen concentration in the blood, a decreased blood supply to other organs in the body as well as immunosuppression. Consequently, it is vital for your health not to enter this stage of emotional flooding regularly.

How To Manage Emotional Flooding

The first thing to do when Diffuse Physiological Arousal takes place is to stop the conflict and remove yourself physically from the situation. Whether DPA is affecting you or your partner, there is no constructive benefit of continuing at this stage, and a break is best for everyone.

Once you spot the issue, suggest that you and your partner take a 30-minute break and resume the conversation then.

Explain to your partner why this break is essential and set a specific time to meet again to discuss the issue. It can help to provide reassurance, explaining that you really want to come up with a resolution, but that you need time to process your emotions so that you can think clearly when you come back to the discussion.

The Gender Difference

It is important to remember that Diffuse Physiological Arousal affects both men and women. However, studies indicate that it typically affects men earlier in a conflict setting. Similarly, once men are in a state of emotional flooding, they can stay in this state for longer than women. This means if the conflict involves a male and a female, the male should indicate when they are feeling calmer as this could take longer to achieve than for a female. As a result, you don’t want to jump back into conflict when there is still heightened emotion.


During the break, it can help to address the physiological response by doing something physical; this could be going for a walk, practising yoga, cycling, or anything else you enjoy that gets the body moving. Just remember to come back to your partner at the set time to resume the discussion.

Change Your Mental State

If you spend the break time ruminating on the conflict, then you won’t be in the right headspace to resume the discussion and practise conflict management. Try to spend this break by focusing your mind on being present.  Meditation or mindfulness can really help to create calmness and clarity. Alternatively, it may help to focus your mind on something completely different, like reading a book, listening to music or challenging your brain with a puzzle or a creative activity.


When you are both ready, resume discussions. Hopefully, with time away and without emotional flooding, you can both come up with a solution that works best for your relationship.

Taking Charge Of Emotional Flooding

If Diffuse Physiological Arousal or emotional flooding is affecting your relationship, then I can offer a bespoke therapy service encompassing hypnotherapy for relationships and emotion management. So that I get to know you and your unique concerns, I offer a free initial telephone consultation. To book your first free consultation, please email

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