More on AD/HD and Emotions

Do you ever feel that you are frustrated more easily than others? Quicker to anger?  More emotional in general?

Blame your AD/HD!

Although regulating emotions is not mentioned in the current diagnostic criteria for AD/HD, scientists and AD/HD experts increasingly acknowledge its role.  In Dr. Thomas Brown’s model of AD/HD,  managing frustration and modulating emotions is identified as one of the six “executive functions” of the brain that challenge individuals with AD/HD. As Dr. Brown describes it:

[M]any with this disorder describe chronic difficulties managing frustration, anger, worry,      disappointment, desire, and other emotions. They speak as though these emotions, when experienced, take over their thinking as a computer virus invades a computer, making it impossible for them [to]give attention to anything else. They find it very difficult to get the emotion into perspective, to put it to the back of their mind, and to get on with what they need to do.

Facing challenges with emotional regulation is distinct from having a mood or emotional disorder. With a mood disorder, such as bi-polar or depression, the emotions are not “normal.” With AD/HD, the emotions may be normal, but their expression is not inhibited or suppressed. So, one may become frustrated, or blow up more easily, worry more, be less patient, … and consequently not hold these emotions in as easily.  At the same time, individuals with AD/HD with  strong emotional symptoms should talk with a psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor to rule out a concurrent mood disorder.

Recent research shows that a specific area of the brain —  the anterior cingulate  —  differs in size and function between individuals with and without AD/HD.  Dr. Russell Barkley, an expert in AD/HD discusses this research and its implications for individuals with AD/HD in a video posted on the ADD Resource Center website.

Addressing emotional self-regulation is important to avoid developing anxiety or depression as well as to avoid problems in relationships at home and at work.  Approaches that may help increase emotional self- regulation include:

  • awareness of your emotional triggers
  • deep breathing
  • relaxation strategies
  • meditation
  • regular exercise
  • positive self-talk, and 
  • the old “counting to ten”

Do you struggle with managing emotions? What skills or strategies help with your self-regulation? 

An AD/HD Coach can assist you in gaining practical skills and strategies for emotional self-regulation. If you are considering coaching for your self or a family member, contact me at

Posted in anger, emotional regulation, frustration

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