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We Need to Talk About Emotional Regulation and ADHD

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ADHD is a lot more than just inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and being disorganized. Yes, those are all components of it, however, not enough is written about the emotional component. I can’t speak for everyone, but from what I’ve read as well as from talking to my family members and friends who have ADHD, and of course my own experiences — it’s become evident that regulating emotions is a core feature of ADHD, with or without hyperactivity.

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Many of us with ADHD feel things deeply. Emotions shake us to the core of our beings, causing things like low frustration tolerance, meltdowns, and poor coping to be common. I talk about this in my article here.

Many professionals agree that emotional dysregulation is an intrinsic part of ADHD, despite it not being part of the DSM-5 criteria. So, what is there to do about it? How do we lessen explosive emotions like anger, irritability, anxiety, and deep sadness?

I am not a professional, so I’m not sure I can truly answer that. Instead, I will say what I do to manage the fact that I am hypersensitive and struggle to tolerate my emotions and changes, both large and small. I see this as part of being neurodivergent as well as my trauma and mood disorder history, my unique constellation of conditions.

I think the first step is awareness that this is part of ADHD. Kids and adults who struggle with their emotions in addition to the other core features of the condition need acceptance, understanding, and love. We need others to be patient and to embrace us for the compassionate and creative beings that we are.

Sometimes we need sensory breaks and moments to unwind or cool off; other times we simply need understanding and acceptance. So, for today, that’s all I ask. When I snap in irritability or burst into a sudden fit of tears, it is important to know that I am doing my best to regulate, as are so many others like me.       

Getty image by smartboy10.

Originally published: January 11, 2022
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