ADHD News & Research

Study: Emotional Dysregulation Improved with ADHD Medication Use

Stimulant and non-stimulant medications for ADHD may also help adults regulate unwanted emotional expression, according to a recent study.

August 3, 2022

Psychopharmacological treatments for ADHD are likely to improve emotional behaviors in adults with deficient emotional self-regulation, according to a study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.1

In a review of 14 clinical trials of adults with ADHD available on PubMed, researchers found that 13 reports showed methylphenidate, atomoxetine, or lisdexamfetamine treatment interventions had a positive impact on at least one measure of emotional behavior. Methylphenidate (brand names Concerta, Ritalin, Daytrana, Jornay PM, Quillivant XR, and others) and atomoxetine (brand name Strattera) showed the greatest improvement.

“Undesirable emotional expression patterns are common in a range of mental health conditions identified in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual classifications of disorders,” the researchers wrote. “However, evidence suggests that impaired emotional regulation may be integral to some versions of ADHD.”

Researchers also compared changes in emotional behavior to changes in ADHD symptom ratings such as inattention and impulsivity/hyperactivity. Treatment effects ranged from 46% to 110% for methylphenidate, 56% to 129% for atomoxetine, and 36% to 96% for lisdexamfetamine.

“These findings suggest these treatments can have favorable effects on patterns of emotional expression, and that these effects are measurable using available rating scales.”

The current study included trials with systematic, validated measures conducted under controlled conditions and with treatment interventions that were replicated in another study. Emotional behavior measures included ratings from interviewing clinicians, observers, and self-reports.

Though not comparable to the current study, a review of behavioral therapies found cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness interventions also had a positive impact on emotional control in unmedicated adults.

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1Surman, C. B. H., & Walsh, D. M. (2022). Do Treatments for Adult ADHD Improve Emotional Behavior? A Systematic Review and Analysis. Journal of Attention Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1177/10870547221110926

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