Emotions & Shame

“I Feel Some Emotions As a Physical Sensation.”

“My biggest emotional dysregulation burden is the constant anxiety that I feel about not living up to my potential. There’s so much I want to do and achieve, but my mind spins so fast that my emotions can’t keep up. It’s like one of those videos where someone is sitting still, but everything else around them is moving fast; the sun comes up and goes down and they are still sitting there.”

Young woman suffering from bipolar disorder, psychological diseases, schizophrenia. Happy young woman with and her ghostly sad twin behind.  Concept of Bipolar disorder. Flat vector illustration.
Young woman suffering from bipolar disorder, psychological diseases, schizophrenia. Happy young woman with and her ghostly sad twin behind. Concept of Bipolar disorder. Flat vector illustration.

Outsized anger, irritability, shifts in mood, and intense sensitivity — despite exclusion from the diagnostic criterion for ADHD, symptoms of emotional dysregulation are a debilitating facet of ADHD for many adults. Recently, ADDitude readers answered the question: “What kind of ADHD emotional dysregulation most impacts your life and how do you deal with it?”

Rejection sensitive dysphoria is a prevalent concern among ADDitude readers, who report struggling to try new things and risk exposure to negative feedback. Impulsive anger impedes effective communication for others. Read on for more stories about the daily impact of emotional dysregulation and share your experience in the Comments section below.

The Impact of ADHD Emotional Dysregulation

“I struggle to regulate frustration and grumpiness. When I feel those emotions, I shut down and can’t communicate. It tends to be triggered by plans changing, which happens a lot with three young girls! Luckily, my wife is brilliant at being patient with me and helps me recognize what is happening.” — James

[Download this Free Resource: How to Rein In Intense ADHD Emotions]

“Emotional dysregulation manifests as rejection sensitivity for me. The fear of being perceived negatively has stopped me from trying new things. I’m an artist but I don’t draw anymore; I couldn’t bear to hear a single negative comment about my work.”  — coco

“My life is most impacted by how easily and quickly I become frustrated and angry. I respond impulsively in social interactions and make comments that, in retrospect, I realize may be perceived as rude or inappropriate. I am currently trying to manage this by practicing these steps: ‘stop, breathe, think, do/say.’” — Kiloura

“My biggest emotional dysregulation burden is the constant anxiety that I feel about not living up to my potential. There’s so much I want to do and achieve, but my mind spins so fast that my emotions can’t keep up. It’s like one of those videos where someone is sitting still, but everything else around them is moving fast; the sun comes up and goes down and they are still sitting there. That image captures my inability to act and implement changes that could actually help.” — distracted

“Most of my life, I would ignore or put off feeling my emotions until it was way past the moment when they could have been resolved. I struggle to trust my ‘gut feeling’ and intuition, which contributes to my anxiety and depression.” — mjohnson

[Read This Next: The ADHD-Anger Connection: New Insights into Emotional Dysregulation and Treatment Considerations]

“Rejection sensitive dysphoria is my biggest emotional challenge. I am so hard on myself and take even the silliest of slights so personally. I am fairly successful at my job, but fear of failure always holds me back.” — Cruiser

“My biggest issue is depending too much on emotional support from my parents and my boyfriend. I’m at a place where I don’t feel like I could survive without either of them.” — Lenri

“It’s car rage. Not road rage — no one else is threatened — but when I’m sitting inside my car my brain rewinds to recent or long-past insults, the bad news of the day, or anything else that triggers me. I end up doing the ‘70s primal scream therapy thing (which is why I sound like I’ve smoked 10 packs of cigarettes). When the insults or stressors happen in real time, my brain goes into a fog of what I now assume is cortisol overload: there’s an ocean-like roar in my head that freezes me up and makes me useless and unable to react.” — frumpster

“The area of emotional dysregulation that most affects my life is criticism from others and from myself. I feel some emotions as a physical sensation — how can others receive criticism so calmly? Most people don’t understand my hypersensitive reactions. I am finally seeing a counsellor and implementing CBT techniques, which has helped.” — kath

ADHD Emotional Dysregulation: Next Steps


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