ADHD and Emotional Regulation

adhd and emotional regulation
Did you know one of the primary symptoms of adhd is difficulty managing and coping with emotions? We call this emotional regulation. If you are a women with emotional regulation issues, your family and work-life suffer. You may have crying spells or bouts of anger where you yell at your children, friends, co, or spouse. You may be easily hurt, angered, or sad and have dramatic mood swings.
Do you become anxious or depressed suddenly and feel like you are on a roller coaster? It may be that until this moment, you did not know that ADHD and emotional regulation could be the culprit. Many women with ADHD feel like they are alone in these symptoms, but you aren’t; it’s prevalent!


Why didn’t you know emotional regulation was part of your adhd? How come noone told you before?

Emotional dysregulation is a core feature of adhd but it isn’t capture in the diagnostic criteria. Because of this many clincians, doctors and people with adhd themselves don’t understand this to be part of ADHD
Paul  Windsor of the Utah  group discovered that emotionality is a hallmark of ADHD.  Russel Barkley , probably the most renowned expert in ADHD, believes it should be part of the core criteria.
Russell Barkley refers to emotional regulation issues as emotional impulsivity or emotional impulsiveness. These issues are estimated in the ADHD population to impact about 45- 55 percent of ADHD adults.

What is the impact of emotional regulation issues on the life of a women with ADHD?


Emotional dysregulation (ED) impacts marriages. Emotional dysregulation can cause communication difficulties, intense bouts of depression and frequent arguments.


Emotional Dysregulation (ED) can contribute to traffic accident, road rage and even substance abuse! One-third of adults in treatment programs for substance abuse have ADHD.


Emotional regulation issues cause trouble at work. Women with ADHD can have disputes with coworker, crying spells or outbursts at work. These issues contribute to low self-esteem, and rejection sensitivity dyphoria.


Emotional regulation issues can also cause women with ADHD to have issues with parenting. Overwhlem, stress and meltdowns where they yell and lose their temper. This behavior is damaging to their relationships with their children and their spouses. Later they may feel guilty and awful.
If you are a woman with ADHD, emotional regulation issues can cause you to feel inadequate across so many domains of your life!
adhd and emotions

How ADHD and Emotional Regulation is it treated?

The great news about emotional regulation and ADHD in women is that medication alleviates it. Dopamine deficiency is responsible for the emotional regulation issues that people with ADHD suffer. Medication helps the underpowered circuits function better! There is a significant improvement in women when they take stimulants. There is also some evidence that atomoxetine is helpful, and Guanfacine extended-release has been shown to help with temper irritability and reactivity.

Other Treatments?


There is evidence for cognitve behavioral therapy, support groups, movement based therapy, and for children, the incredible years is effective in decreasing frustration.


Mindfulness-based interventions and  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy , as well as Self-compassion  work , would also be great fits

adhd and difficulty with emotions

Why do women with ADHD have emotional regulation difficulties? Four factors.

1. You generate too much emotion

People with ADHD seem to have difficulties regulating their emotions because of two reasons. The ADHD brain might have problems generating too much emotion.

Problems with generating too much emotion are called bottom-up processing. You might experience this as a flood of intense and overwhelming feeling—excessive anger, sadness, or alarm that feels unmanageable and can come out of nowhere.

2. You can ‘t regulate the emotions that are there

You also may have trouble regulating the emotions already there. We call this top-down processing. Some women with ADHD and emotional regulation issues struggle with issues of bottom-up and top-down processing. Their feelings are too intense, AND they have trouble regulating their emotions regardless of the intensity. That’s like a double whammy.

What else makes it more likely you will have emotional regulation issues if you have ADHD? Research is also showing that two other factors influence whether you will have personal regulation issues. Your childhood temperament and whether you have reward deficiency syndrome.

3.Childhood temperament.  If you have a sunny disposition, you are less likely to struggle with emotional regulation issues. Those who are prone to more negative temperament seem to be more likely to develop emotional dysregulation.


4. Reward Deficiency Syndrome.  Reward deficiency is essentially when nothing you seek satisfies you. If you find something that helps you, your suffering is intense if it’s taken away or can’t have it. ADHD people can struggle with this due to their dopamine levels. People with reward deficiency syndrome are also more prone to overeating and addiction and are at risk for aggression.

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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.