The Struggle of ADHD and Regulating Emotions

It is normal to have emotions and feelings. It’s part of being human. It’s a part of life. Everyone has them. 

However, for those with ADHD, their experience with emotions are slightly different from neurotypicals. They tend to experience heightened emotions and difficulty with regulating their emotions. 

What Is Emotional Dysregulation?

Let’s start by looking at what emotional dysregulation means.

In an article on, Divine Anas explains it this way: “Emotional dysregulation is the inability to moderate emotions and often causes extreme emotional reactions, fluctuating moods, and difficulty calming down.”

Some signs of emotional dysregulation are:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Difficulty calming down
  • Low tolerance for annoyance, stress, or frustration
  • Easily overwhelmed
two yellow emoji on yellow case
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ADHD & Emotional Dysregulation

Research and studies have been done on the connection between ADHD and emotional dysregulation. Findings have shown that approximately 70% of adults with ADHD struggle to manage and regulate their emotions. 

Why is this a struggle for those with ADHD? It pretty much comes down to the brain. There are two areas of the brain that will affect our emotional responses.

#1: Prefrontal Cortex. This area of the brain is the one responsible for executive functions, including regulating emotional responses. It filters in and out all the emotions so that a person can react in a beneficial way to a situation. However, in the ADHD brain, this area is underactive, which makes it more difficult to regulate our emotions.

#2: The Amygdala. This is a small almond-shaped structure at the center of the brain. Its main responsibility is to process stimuli and respond with the right emotional responses, or its perception of it, anyway. In the ADHD brain, the amygdala is overactive. 

So, the underactive prefrontal cortex isn’t really able to filter through the emotions coming from the overactive amygdala. 

This is why those with ADHD may have a difficult time and struggle with regulating their emotions. It all comes down to the wiring of their brain. 


There are some strategies to help manage and improve emotional regulation. 

#1 Take a break & name the emotion. Sure, ADHDers are capable of recognizing emotions. However, stepping back and taking time to acknowledge the emotion can help managing and being more in control of their emotions. It can be a good step in the right direction.

#2 Triggers & coping mechanisms. Being able to know what situations trigger you can be helpful. You become more aware of your emotions. This can help you find ways to find coping mechanisms and find solutions. You can find ways to make things easier.

#3 Listening to music. Whether you have ADHD or not, studies show that listening to music can improve your mood. 

There are so many other strategies and things you can do to manage your emotions. Some things may work, while others may not. It’s important to find something that works for you. 

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