Anger is a common symptom for those struggling with ADHD. ADHD sufferers may be asking why they feel this way or what they can do to combat anger during an intense episode. Let’s look at why anger is closely related to ADHD, what you can do to prevent fits of anger, and ways to cope with ADHD-related anger when it overwhelms you.
If you suffer from ADHD symptoms such as anger, Klarity can help you find treatment. Book an online appointment now and meet with an experienced psychiatric health provider within 48 hours.
The Connection Between Anger and ADHD
The medical community previously classified anger as a symptom of ADHD. That isn’t the case anymore, but many researchers recognize anger as a common trait in ADHD sufferers. This condition, where sufferers have a difficult time managing strong emotions, affects children, teens, and adults with ADHD, and is called emotional dysregulation.
Emotional dysregulation is a condition that affects 70% of adults with ADHD, its impetus a result of faulty neurodevelopment. Emotional dysregulation can be characterized by some or all of the following symptoms:
- Impatience while under stress
- Sudden, sometimes explosive surges of anger
- Intense emotions
- Difficulty expressing causes of anger
- Misinterpretation of social cues and feelings
- Finding it easier to express feelings of sadness and anger than other feelings
Those experiencing emotional dysregulation may feel even more irritable and angry if they’re also struggling with conditions like anxiety or depression.
Anger and ADHD Symptoms
Irritability is a mood characterized by the steady state of some degree of anger. When you’re irritable, you are more likely to become angry, especially when expectations are not met or unannounced changes in your environment occur.
A recent study involving 696 children with ADHD discovered that 91% of them had at least one symptom of irritability. The study also determined that irritability was associated with anxiety and depression and that their prevalence in those with ADHD may be genetic.
Other studies have shown that irritability may cause detrimental effects to physical health, earning ability, and risk of anxiety and depression. Therapy and medication have proven to be effective in reducing irritability in ADHD sufferers.
Frustration can manifest in a number of ways in ADHD sufferers and primarily affects task completion. Researchers found that children with ADHD will quit a complex task in greater numbers compared to their peers without ADHD. Children with ADHD will often have strong emotional reactions to frustration and will remember the frustrating event long after it is over.
For adults with ADHD, frustration can manifest in dangerous ways. A 2012 study found that frustrated adults with ADHD commit more driving errors than frustrated adults without ADHD. Researchers found that the driving errors weren’t due to the distractions on the road, but rather the intense negative emotions.
Defined as the immediate intent to cause harm to oneself, others, or property, aggression is both an empowering feeling and a destructive force. Aggression can result in damaged relationships, a loss of employment, and can even have negative effects on your health.
Adults with ADHD sometimes become aggressive as an impulse reaction to frustration or stress. Psychologists believe that aggression may be a way for some to cope with avoidance of painful emotions. In other cases, aggression is not an impulse reaction but is planned to help accomplish a goal or task. Either case, both impulsive and planned, can be prevalent in adults with ADHD, but the impulsive variety of aggression is more common in people with ADHD.
How to Cope with ADHD-Related Anger
Understand Your Anger
In some cases, getting to the root cause of an angry outburst may provide relief for those struggling with ADHD. When you take a pause and examine a situation, backtracking to the moment the anger occurred, many will find the impetus a silly or ridiculous reason for getting so worked up.
Anger is often rooted in the expectations we keep for situations and for the behavior of others. By analyzing and reconsidering these expectations, we can recondition ourselves to be gracious and accepting of all possible outcomes. But, it is only through tracing back through the progression of our anger that we can begin to approach this more peaceful state of mind.
Walk Away from the Situation
If you’re working on how to cope with ADHD, chances are you’ve already tried this tactic. It seems simple enough, but many ADHD sufferers find it extremely difficult to walk away from situations they’re emotionally invested in.
Anger can turn a bad situation into an ugly, and even violent affair. When you find yourself reaching a peak of irritability, anger, and aggression, the best course of action is to breathe slowly, think for a few seconds, and walk away to clear your head and let the most intense feelings ebb. It’s not necessary to explain to others why you did so. You can explain later. The most important thing to do is walk away before your anger takes control of the situation.
One of the healthiest ways to both cope with ADHD-related anger and also treat a variety of mental disorders is exercise. Exercise regulates the internal systems and processes that control mood, helping the brain pump out feel-good chemicals that combat things like irritability and anger. Additionally, exercise can be a fantastic outlet for any negative energy building inside the ADHD sufferer.
Exercises can range from brisk walks and jogs around the local park to heavy bag sessions at the local gym. The important thing to remember is to just get moving. As long as you’re breaking a sweat and increasing your heart rate, your body will respond properly by rewarding you with decreased anger and more elation and calmness.
Avoid Your Triggers
When you’re working on how to cope with ADHD-related anger, some self-reflection can go a long way. Knowing your anger triggers is paramount to maintaining a healthy emotional balance. Anger triggers are situations that you recognize as the starting point for an angry outburst. These can be things like getting cut off in traffic, misplacing your keys, or being talked to in a certain manner.
The point of understanding your triggers is to avoid them. With a little practice, ADHD sufferers can easily up their chances of staying anger-free by having anger protocols in place if a situation determined to be a trigger pops up.
Humor is one of the most effective devices we use to diffuse a tense situation. It’s also a great tool for ADHD sufferers to employ should anger begin creeping up on them. Watching a standup set by your favorite comedian, telling or hearing a joke, or exchanging funny stories at work can inject a jolt of happiness into your day and demeanor.
When you get angry, you can feel your muscles tense up and your blood pressure rise. This is a common physiological reaction to ADHD-related anger. Relaxation and meditation techniques are one way to combat this.
Try sitting upright in a chair with your palms on your knees. Breathe deeply through your nose, exhaling through your mouth twice as long as it took you to inhale. Keep doing this until your breathing becomes easier to manage and your heart rate slows. Practicing this technique will make each successive outburst of anger much easier to manage and control.
Therapy can take various forms. The kind that works for you may take some adjusting and experimenting. Some people respond better to group counseling than others, while one-on-one therapy provides benefits that other forms cannot duplicate. It’s important to find a therapist who’s familiar with ADHD and the challenges for people that suffer from the disorder.
Also remember that you might not find the right therapist the first time around. Make sure you’re comfortable with your therapist and that you’re getting the treatment you need. In addition, you’ll respond best to the type of therapy that works for you.
One of the most successful methods for treating patients with ADHD is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a psychological treatment proven to be effective for a variety of issues including addiction, ADHD, marital problems, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. The basis of CBT resides in understanding negative thought patterns and changing faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking while discovering ways of coping with psychological issues.
There’s little evidence that the stimulant medications commonly used to treat ADHD have any real effect on ADHD-related anger. However, one recent double-blind study found that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which are often prescribed for ADHD-related conditions such as anxiety and depression, may help reduce irritation and tantrums in children with ADHD.
While it’s just one study, the results are promising for the potential reduction of ADHD-related anger. Your doctor will create the best treatment plan for your ADHD.
If You Think Your Anger is Related to ADHD, Get Help On Klarity
If you’re trying to cope with ADHD-related anger, and have difficulty dealing with the irritability and intense emotions that come with it, Klarity can connect you with a licensed ADHD healthcare provider.
Book your online appointment with an ADHD specialist today!