Symptom Tests

[Self-Test] Could You Have Emotional Hyperarousal?

Emotional hyperarousal is common among children and adults with ADHD — but its symptoms of intense, quickly shifting emotions are rarely recognized by clinicians or included in diagnostic tests. Use this self-test to determine if you may be experiencing symptoms of emotional hyperarousal, and bring the results to a medical professional to explore your treatment options.

Reviewed by William Dodson, M.D., a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Specialists Panel.

What Is Emotional Hyperarousal? What Does It Look Like in People with ADHD?

The physical hyperactivity so often associated with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) — jumping on the couch, barreling across the playground, or talking without a pause for 10 minutes straight — is far from universal. In fact, this external symptom occurs in only one quarter of children and 5 percent of adults with the condition. The vast majority of people with ADHD instead experience hyperactivity as an internal feeling of hyperarousal — they can’t turn off their whirring, overactive brains. This symptom often manifests as extreme emotions, a condition known as emotional hyperarousal.

People with emotional hyperarousal have passionate thoughts, reactions, and feelings that are more intense than those of the average person. In other words, their highs are higher and their lows are lower — which means people with ADHD often experience both happiness and criticism more powerfully than everyone else. This can make them appear overly sensitive and be off-putting to those around them — which, in turn, can do deep, long-term damage to their self-esteem.

Most clinicians are trained to recognize the intense emotions that come with mood disorders, yet they are wholly unfamiliar with the emotional symptoms of ADHD — particularly emotional hyperarousal. Take the results of this self-test to your doctor to discuss your emotional symptoms and a treatment plan that can help.


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What To Do Next:

1. Take This Test: Do I Have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?
2. Take This Test: Symptoms of ADHD in Women
3. Learn More: The 3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks
4. Download: 15 Ways to Disarm (and Understand) ADHD Emotions
5. Watch the Free Webinar: “Emotional Distress Syndrome and the ADHD Brain”
6. Read the ADDitude eBook “9 Conditions Often Diagnosed with ADHD”

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