ADHD Emotions, Effects & Regulation

Emotional dysregulation is a common symptom of ADHD. From low frustration tolerance to periods of sadness, emotions may become easier to deal with over time, but many individuals continue to struggle as adults. ADHD also correlates with mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. In fact, data from ADDitude Magazine shows that 25-40 percent of adults with ADHD also have anxiety disorders. In some cases, these anxiety symptoms may even be more intense than ADHD symptoms.1 Find out why you may feel heightened emotions when you have ADHD, how the condition may affect behavior, and tips on how to self-regulate. 

Why You Feel Heightened Emotions When You Have ADHD

The prefrontal cortex is a major player in the ADHD brain. Studies have found that ADHD is associated with weaker function and structure of the prefrontal cortex, especially in the right hemisphere, the same part of the brain that controls executive functions like paying attention, planning, and organizing.2 This part of the brain also controls behavior, emotions, and working memory. For a person with ADHD, they may become so wrapped up in a present feeling that they forget to make room for other more rational feelings. For instance, a person with ADHD may become so frustrated in the moment that they unfairly lash out at the nearest person and say something harsh only to feel guilty later for overreacting. In the ADHD brain, emotions are so intense they often interfere with everyday life. 

How ADHD Emotions Can Affect Behavior

Heightened emotions aren’t always negative. People with ADHD may also experience intense feelings of joy and elation, which may lead to impulsive decisions. Lack of emotional regulation may create the following problematic behaviors: 

  • Oversharing 
  • Acting impulsively before thinking or considering repercussions
  • Losing the big picture, such as lashing out at someone in a moment of frustration 
  • Failing to see another person’s point of view
  • Acting aggressively out of frustration 
  • Leaving a job or ending a relationship on an impulse

How ADHD Emotions Can Affect Your Personality

From being overly sensitive to criticism to always feeling tense or “on edge,” there are a number of ways that intense emotions associated with ADHD may affect one’s personality. Even more, people with ADHD may find it challenging to be aware of social appropriateness and interactions, so they are at risk of being ostracized or generally misunderstood, making the person with ADHD feel ashamed and socially anxious. Some ways ADHD emotions can affect your personality include:  

  • Avoidance of situations that might trigger rejection or disapproval
  • Having a low mood or frequently feeling depressed
  • Never feeling like you can relax
  • Emotional outbursts 
  • People-pleasing
  • Tendency to be pessimistic 

How ADHD Emotions Can Affect Your Relationships

The turbulent emotions of ADHD can cause turmoil in relationships. Oftentimes, to soften the pain of rejection or disapproval, people with ADHD might distance themselves from others instead of being open to potential criticism. According to CHADD, people with ADHD may find that their relationships are overly tense and fragile because of their failure to regulate their emotions as well as their reactions to others.3 Some ways that ADHD emotions affect relationships include: 

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  • Unpredictable mood swings that cause strain in the relationship
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Impatience leading to unfair demands on others

More positively, because people with ADHD can be overly sensitive, they may also appear to be extremely caring and considerate of others. This too can become problematic when it turns into people-pleasing.

Regulating Your Emotions

While there are some individuals who treat their ADHD symptoms with prescription medications, these drugs are associated with a number of side effects, such as insomnia, appetite changes, headaches, and unstable mood.  

An alternative to prescription medication is Brillia, a non-stimulant, non-prescription medication that contains no harsh chemicals and causes no harmful side effects. Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the S100B protein, which is often elevated or out of balance in individuals with ADHD and mood disorders. Brillia works by targeting and attaching to the S100B protein and regulating its activity without affecting any other systems in the body. This process effectively reduces ADHD symptoms at the source so users can feel more balanced and in control of their emotions. Another unique factor about Brillia is that it works in tandem with healthy lifestyle choices, such as following a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, controlling one’s screen time, and practicing mindfulness. This holistic approach amplifies the effectiveness of Brillia while equipping users with tools they can use for years to come to naturally regulate their emotions. Some other ways to regulate your emotions if you have ADHD include the following:

  • Start to recognize the signs of losing control of your emotions, such as a racing heart, or clenched throat, so you can remove yourself from the situation or maybe practice a relaxation technique to calm down
  • Exercise regularly to reduce stress
  • When talking to someone, try to listen more and focus on what they are saying instead of constantly thinking of a reply
  • Avoid mood-altering substances like alcohol or drugs, which may exacerbate intense emotions or lead to poor quality sleep 
  • Work with a trained therapist to learn more helpful tools and grounding techniques for self-regulation

Find more resources on managing ADHD symptoms like emotional dysregulation on the Brillia blog.

Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.


References: 1https://www.additudemag.com/signs-of-anxiety-in-adults-with-adhd/, 2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894421/, 3https://chadd.org/for-adults/relationships-social-skills
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