ADHD Meltdowns, Hyperfixations & Shutdowns: Understanding the Not So Obvious Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD Meltdowns, Hyperfixations & Shutdowns: Understanding the Not So Obvious Symptoms of ADHD

"Individuals experiencing shutdowns may appear distant, unresponsive, or overwhelmed."
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ADHD Meltdowns, Hyperfixations, Shutdowns

No two people experience ADHD in the same way. While classic symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity may be the most talked about, there are other symptoms that affect the lives of children and adults with ADHD every day, even if they’re not so easy to pinpoint. These include meltdowns, hyperfixations, and shutdowns. Understanding the breadth of ADHD symptoms is key to effective management, so read on to learn strategies for navigating the unique challenges of having ADHD and how to help channel these symptoms in positive ways.

What are ADHD Meltdowns?

ADHD meltdowns are intense outbursts of emotion and frustration. These episodes can be triggered by sensory overload, unmet expectations, or heightened stress levels and typically rather parental intervention unless the child becomes exhausted. Understanding the dynamics of meltdowns is crucial for creating supportive environments.

Signs of an ADHD meltdown:

  • Loss of control 
  • Crying, yelling, and fits of anger
  • Throwing things or hitting
  • Extreme irritability
  • Self-harm
  • Withdrawal

Navigating the Meltdowns: Strategies for Calming Stormy Moments

It can sometimes seem like ADHD meltdowns come out of nowhere for no apparent reason. But the truth is most meltdowns occur after an accumulation of small frustrations. Becoming aware of these initial frustrations — irritability, fatigue, sensory overload — can help prevent a meltdown altogether. But if it’s already happening to you or your child, you can turn down the volume on the experience by employing tools that help you create a calm environment, establish support, and become more rooted in the moment and in your body. This can be facilitated through mindfulness practices or simply seeking a designated quiet space. Such tools should be practiced consistently so that they become second nature whenever the world seems like too much.

How to calm meltdowns:

  • Practice deep breathing exercises
  • Remove yourself or your child from the situation
  • Work on identifying turbulent emotions
  • Reduce sensory stimulation like bright lights or loud sounds
  • Wait it out

Understanding Hyperfixations & ADHD

Hyperfixations, also known as hyperfocus, are a common but less visible ADHD trait. They involve intense focus and obsession with a particular interest. While this can be a strength, especially if you harness this hyperfocus to win a competition or excel at work, it's essential to balance these fixations and channel the energy positively to avoid potential pitfalls. Some negative effects of hyperfixation include losing track of time, neglecting responsibilities, ignoring self-care, and struggling to transition.

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How to Channel ADHD's Intensity in Positive Ways

Redirecting ADHD's intensity into constructive activities is vital. Engaging in hobbies, sports, or creative pursuits provides an outlet for excess energy and cultivates a sense of accomplishment.

Some ways to channel ADHD’s intensity in positive ways:

  • Decide on a time frame ahead of time
  • Set healthy boundaries to avoid the negative effects of hyperfocus and hyperfixation
  • Schedule consistent breaks to ensure you’re not neglecting responsibilities or personal needs
  • Challenge yourself to explore new interests and skills
  • Teach your friends and family about the intensity of your symptoms so they can help you come out of your hyperfixation if needed
  • Be sure to recharge after a bout of hyperfixation so you can be sure your physical and emotional well-being are not being overlooked

What Do Shutdowns Look Like?

Also known as mental paralysis, ADHD shutdowns manifest as a withdrawal or disengagement from surroundings. Individuals experiencing shutdowns may appear distant, unresponsive, or overwhelmed. In a way, a shutdown is like a form of protection, because the person experiencing it is essentially trying to limit any further stimulation that could trigger more feelings of overwhelm. 

A shutdown can be triggered by being presented with too many choices, too much sensory stimulation, feeling excessively anxious, or becoming fixated on past failures or setbacks. 

Signs of an ADHD shutdown:

  • Difficulty making choices
  • Trouble maintaining focus
  • Overthinking
  • Inability to start or finish a task
  • Brain fog
  • Avoidance

Tools to Reboot and Recharge

To navigate shutdowns, you or your child can take sensory breaks, practice relaxation techniques, or seek a designated quiet space. These tools can help individuals with ADHD reset and recharge in moments of overwhelm.

Tools to consider for rebooting and recharging:

  • Take a break from the situation 
  • Practice deep breathing exercises, take a short walk, or sit quietly in meditation
  • Give yourself permission to do the bare minimum; you don’t have to complete the whole task, just take one step
  • Make a to-do list and organize the tasks by importance
  • Allow yourself to have a reward when you meet certain milestones (starting a task, getting to the midway point, finishing the task, etc.)

Subtle Signs: Recognizing Lesser-Known Symptoms of ADHD

Beyond meltdowns, hyperfixations, and shutdowns, ADHD may present with other subtle signs. These include difficulties with executive functions, time management, and maintaining relationships. Recognizing these lesser-known symptoms is crucial for comprehensive management.

Some lesser known symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Time blindness, or losing track of time
  • Restlessness
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Sensory overload
  • Rejection dysmorphia or extreme sensitivity to criticism
  • Social anxiety
  • Insomnia

Additional Practical Tips for Everyday Challenges

There are a number of actions you can take to manage the everyday challenges of having ADHD, including the occasional meltdown, run-in with hyperfixation, or shutdown. 

Practical ADHD tips for everyday challenges: 

Following a healthy lifestyle sets a strong foundation for reducing the intensity of ADHD symptoms and potentially preventing them altogether. But if you need more support, consider using an over-the-counter medication like Brillia. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and harmful side effects, Brillia targets the very neurochemicals responsible for symptoms like hyperactivity, poor focus, irritability, and restlessness. Consisting of antibodies to the S100B protein, a crucial regulator of various different intracellular and extracellular brain processes, Brillia is clinically proven to reduce symptoms associated with ADHD and anxiety without impacting any other systems in the body or interacting with any other medications or supplements. By improving the way your brain cells communicate with each other, Brillia promotes calmness and clarity without causing nausea, making you sleepy, or masking your personality in any way. 

As part of a holistic approach, Brillia works in tandem with the healthy lifestyle habits outlined in our 5 Pillarsfollowing a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, controlling screen time, and practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques. This ensures you’re tackling your symptoms from multiple angles for long-lasting success.

There are two formulations available: Brillia for Children & Teens ages 5-18 and Brillia for Adults.

ADHD is a spectrum, encompassing meltdowns, hyperfixations, shutdowns, and various subtle signs. Navigating this spectrum requires a multi-faceted approach, combining support and practical strategies. By recognizing and addressing each aspect of ADHD, we can all gain a better understanding of how it presents differently in different people.

Learn more strategies on managing ADHD at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

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