Why Is It So Hard for Adults With ADHD to Manage Emotions?

As an adult with ADHD, you may find that you struggle on a daily basis to manage emotions. Certain circumstances may make you feel out of control and overwhelm you, leading to outbursts or emotional breakdowns.

Whether your ADHD diagnosis is recent, or if you’ve been living with it long term, emotional issues are a side effect that you should learn to manage to help you live the life you want. When you’re able to identify your triggers and pinpoint the onset of an emotional reaction, you’ll be able to address the issue with a clear head.

If you want to learn how to manage your emotions and live with adult ADHD, read on to learn what triggers these intense feelings and learn some tips to regain control.

Why Is It Hard to Manage Emotions with Adult ADHD?

Emotional dysregulation and managing your emotions start in the brain itself. ADHD can often result in memory impairments that allow emotional reactions that are stronger than anticipated. As a result, your brain is flooded with one intense emotion like anger, sadness, or frustration.

When emotions rule, you’ll have a lower tolerance for frustrations and be more reactive than others. With ADHD, the brain can sometimes allow one emotion to flood your system, which results in a stronger than average reaction. Your brain locks onto a feeling and crowds out other functions that would typically modulate your response.

Adults with ADHD may suffer from anger management issues or emotional outbursts because they react and are affected strongly by outside influences. Even if you don’t suffer directly from the impact of your environment, you may realize that you’re often unable to tolerate others’ emotions because your social skills aren’t tuned to helping you regulate your responses. When left untreated for an extended time, one could even experience negative action urges like screaming which is an unhelpful response to emotion.

If you live in a state of frustration or negativity long term, it can result in you feeling sad or having low self-esteem and energy. Emotions help motivate us into action, whether to engage or avoid, but when you’re fully engulfed in one feeling, you’re less likely to know how to react.

manage emotions

How to Manage Your Emotional Issues

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means that your brain is more affected by emotional situations. While emotional reactions are normal throughout life, the overreactions can become a nuisance if you don’t closely monitor them. 

These five helpful tips can help you learn how to manage emotions so you can live your life without worrying about an outburst. With the right tools in place, your action urge can be transformed into an opposite action to give you more time to process with a clear mind.

1. Identify Triggering Situations

If you often feel angry, sad, or another powerful emotion in a specific situation, work to start avoiding that if possible. If your job or relationship is triggering, it can be difficult to cut things off, but take steps to identify those situations affecting you. With ADHD, you may find that you can immediately bounce back after an outburst, but your reactions can have lasting and damaging results on others.

2. Express Yourself

Rather than defaulting to an emotional response, how can you express yourself in a different way? Your emotions are a signal that you need or want something, so if you can express yourself calmly, you can offset the emotional response. Your outburst could be a habit because you haven’t learned how to clearly express yourself to that person.

3. Set and Maintain Your Boundaries To Manage Emotions

If your emotional response is caused by someone who continually pushes your boundaries, it’s essential to learn how to put those boundaries up and then maintain them. Your boundaries are crucial to your comfort, so don’t sacrifice them for someone else’s benefit. When you’re able to preserve your comfort level, you’ll feel more respected and are less likely to have an emotional reaction.

4. Plan and Find Routine

Living with ADHD can feel stressful because you’re often overwhelmed by external sources. If you find that you’re always running late, getting angry at slow drivers, forgetting appointments, and more, you may benefit greatly from creating a strict routine. When you’re able to plan and leave a little early in anticipation of these frustrations, you’ll have more time to avoid stress and anger.

5. Exercise To Manage Emotions

When you exercise every day, your stress levels will reduce, and you’ll be able to tolerate daily annoyances more easily. Meaning your emotional responses will be less intense, and you’ll be able to handle your emotional reactions with a clear head. Even a simple walk or climbing a few flights of stairs can direct your emotional energy elsewhere so you can relax.

Where to Start

If you’re struggling with emotional issues, daily tasks can be more difficult. You may start to anticipate your reaction to specific situations, leading to an even bigger response. 

Start by taking the time to learn what situations make you feel the most emotional and see if you can pinpoint why you feel that way. Pick one of those situations and mentally think about how you felt before your emotional response, how you felt during it, and how you felt afterward. See if you can identify what exactly triggered your reaction.

Once you start picking these moments that make you emotional, you’ll be able to apply some of the tips to help you manage your reactions. The more prepared you are for these outbursts ahead of time, the more you’ll be able to control your response.

If you think that you may have adult ADHD, but you haven’t been diagnosed yet, you can take our adult ADHD test. For more information about living with adult ADHD and managing the effects, contact us.