AD/HD and Anger Management: 4 Key Steps

Everyone gets angry at times. Anger is a normal and healthy emotion. Frequent outbursts of anger, however, can contribute to problems both in relationships and in the workplace.
It is not uncommon for people with AD/HD to struggle with a temper. There are several reasons this can occur.

  • First, the AD/HD brain can be reactive – if upset, the upset can be felt quickly and to a strong degree. 
  • Individuals with AD/HD, particularly if there are any associated processing issues, can also be easily overwhelmed, another factor that can contribute to both irritability and reactivity.
  • Low self-esteem, common among individuals with AD/HD, can lead to sensitivity and defensiveness.  
  • Self-censoring can be difficult as well. 

But take heart! Temper management can be learned! Here are four key steps.

STEP 1.  SELF-AWARENESS is the first – and key – step of temper management. Consider these questions:
When do I get angry? How frequently? Is there a pattern to it?
What do I notice first (in my body) when I am getting angry?
What situations trigger my anger? Where am I when I get angry?
Who do I typically get angry at?
How do I handle feelings of anger?

Anger tracking sheets can help in developing self-awareness. Here’s one that includes triggers: Anger Tracking Chart

STEP  2.  The MAYO Clinic recommends taking a TIME OUT when feeling angry.  You 
might want to post a note or a picture in any place you often find your temper rising, to  
remind yourself to take a time out. 

Count slowly to ten
Take several deep breaths
Picture a relaxing scene or tune in to relaxing music
Remove yourself from the situation

           Take a brisk walk or do some other exercise

STEP 3.  COLLECT YOUR THOUGHTS before acting or reacting.

Use positive self-talk: “ I feel upset, but I am OK.” 
Take time to think the issue through – few situations require an immediate response
Hold angry emails, texts, and calls until the next day – you’ll find you may tone them down once you’ve had time to reflect
Rather than just focusing on your angry feelings, think about the situation

           Consider solutions, not blame


STEP 4.   COMMUNICATE CAREFULLY with self-control and constructive purpose.

Use humor to defuse tension if appropriate.
Avoid enlarging the situation: don’t use “You always….” or “You never….”
Whenever possible, use “I” statements to express your feelings:
“I feel… when…”
Ask for what you would like to see happen:
 “I would prefer if you (or we)….”

A coach can help you put these four steps or similar strategies in place. If anger persists, despite your best efforts to manage it, you may need to talk with a therapist to sort through some past issues or look at the possibility of anxiety or depression as a factor.
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