Regulating Emotions

As I mentioned in last week’s post, kids and adults with ADHD tend to feel their emotions more intensely. It can be so nice, when we’re feeling happiness, grateful, and accomplished, just to name a few. 

However, this is just as true for the less pleasant emotions, like anger, sadness, frustrations, etc. When we’re feeling these negative emotions, things don’t always look pretty. It’s like an emotional explosion. Comes out of nowhere, and with very little warning to anyone.  

ADHDers can easily get carried away with how they’re feeling. After all, many of us struggle with impulsivity.

The thing is ADHDers struggle with regulating their emotions. 

Term For It …

There have been some studies and researches done on this aspect of ADHD. 

These researchers have attributed some terms to it. There are two terms. Some will refer to as emotional dysregulation. It is also referred to as deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR).

Both terms refer to the same issues about the struggle ADHDers have with regulating emotions. 

Why Is It Such A Struggle?

Research and studies have been done to better understand why those with ADHD struggle with emotions and regulating their emotions. The bottom line is it pretty much comes down to the brain. 

So, of course, if we want to better understand this issue, we have to discuss the brain a bit. I will keep it simple. 

There are a few different areas of the brain that are connected with emotions. Each having a different task. Several parts have similar jobs/tasks and will messengers to each other (neurotransmitters). Here are a few areas in charge of emotions.

One is the amygdala, which is a small almond-shaped cell. It is located near the base of the brain. The amygdala deals with processing emotions and memory. It is also the part of the brain associated with the ‘flight or fight’ response.

When brain scans were done on an ADHD brain, researchers noticed that the amygdala was smaller than the ones in a neurotypical brain. This certainly makes it more difficult for ADHDers when it comes to emotions. 

Then there’s the prefrontal cortex. This is the part is of the brain that is responsible for thoughts, emotions, behaviour, and executive functions. It is also in charge of regulating behaviour and emotions. 

Researchers have noted that this area of the brain is weaker in the ADHD brain. For those with ADHD, this shouldn’t be too surprising, as we are aware of our struggles with anything that has to do with executive functions. This is why our brains struggles with executive functions. Because the prefrontal cortex does work in the same way as in the neurotypical brain.

The frontal cortex, the security checkpoint, is also weak in the ADHD brain. So, it cannot easily stop negative emotions from wrecking havoc. It has little control to slow down outbursts.

At the end of the day, the ADHD brain isn’t wired and doesn’t function in the same way as the neurotypical brain. 

Triggers

There are different things that can trigger negative emotions and explosions of emotions. ADHDers can be triggered by so many different things. They can be triggered by negative criticism, by a baby crying, or by negative self talk.

Some with ADHD also struggle with low patience and low tolerance for stress, which can make it difficult.

The thing to keep in mind is that we’re all different. And so our triggers most likely won’t necessarily be the same as someone else’s.

What Can I Do?

Yes, keeping our emotions under control can be difficult for those with ADHD. Sometimes, it’s so easy to get carried away and let our emotions take over.

That being said, there are definitely ways to help us with emotional dysregulation.

For some, medication can help with some emotional disturbances and irritability. Research has shown that these will improve.

Taking to a therapist can be another way to help with emotional struggles. Counselling can for various different issues.

There are a lot of other ways as well. For example:

– exercise

– practice mindfulness 

– making sure you get enough sleep 

– eating well and healthy 

– identify negative self talk

These are just some things we can do to help us gain some control over our emotions.

Final Thoughts

Struggles with emotions are a real issue for those with ADHD. It’s not something that always comes to mind when thinking of it. 

Emotional dysregulation is certainly something that we should be aware of and get help with, as much as needed. The more we learn and know about it, the better. 

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