7 Truths About ADHD and Intense Emotions
People with ADHD feel emotions more intensely than do people without the condition. For many, difficulty with emotional regulation is one of the most challenging symptoms to manage.
You’re not imagining things, ADHD really is linked to more powerful, sudden, and unruly emotions.
But, once you understand your difficulty with emotional regulation, you can get it under control. In this video, learn how.
7 Truths About ADHD Emotional Regulation
Truth #1: Intense emotions are a hallmark of ADHD.
Few doctors factor in emotional challenges when making a diagnosis.
Yet, research shows that people with ADHD experience acute difficulty with:
Truth #2: Emotional challenges begin in the brain.
The brain connectivity networks that carry emotional information don’t work well for people with ADHD.
“Processing emotions starts in the brain,” says Thomas Brown, Ph.D. “Sometimes the working memory impairments of ADHD allow a momentary emotion to become too strong, flooding the brain with one intense emotion.”
Truth #3: People with ADHD can be swept away by a single emotion – fast.
A momentary emotion can gobble up all of the space in the brain, just like a computer bug can devour a whole hard drive.
That one emotion crowds out any other information that might help modulate the feeling and regulate behavior. This explains why reasoning sometimes fails.
Truth #4: Emotions motivate action.
Brain imaging shows that delayed rewards don’t register for people with ADHD.
They are more motivated by the instant gratification that strong emotions deliver.
Truth #5: Faulty memory impacts emotions.
Working memory impairments diminish the emotional energy needed to plan, monitor, or self-regulate.
This leaves people with ADHD disorganized, quick to anger, or likely to procrastinate.
Truth #6: The ADHD brain doesn’t always differentiate between minor problems and dangerous threats.
As a result, a person with ADHD may struggle to deal rationally and realistically with events that are stressful, but not of grave concern.
Truth #7: Treating ADHD emotions requires a multimodal approach.
ADHD medication may improve the emotional networks in the brain.
But talk therapy is also needed to manage fear or low self-esteem
Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.
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Updated on March 24, 2021