How to Manage Your ADHD Emotions

Many people are aware of the most common ADD/ADHD symptoms, such as a short attention span and impulse control problems. However, there’s another challenge that doesn’t get as much publicity—difficulty managing emotions.

People with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also called attention-deficit disorder (ADD), often struggle with their emotions. They may feel things more intensely or feel overwhelmed by their emotions at times. Types of emotional issues facing people with ADD/ADHD include:

  • Emotional hyperarousal
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Rejection sensitive dysphoria

Learning more about these types of emotional challenges can help people understand how to better manage their ADD/ADHD emotions.

Types of emotional issues facing people with ADD/ADHD include emotional hyperarousal, emotional dysregulation, and rejection sensitive dysphoria. Click To Tweet


  1. ADHD Emotional Hyperarousal

Visible hyperactivity is not as common as you might think in ADD/ADHD individuals. Some data suggest it occurs in just 25% of children and 5% of adults.

Interestingly, though, the disorder’s hyperactivity can be experienced as an internal feeling of hyperarousal, where an individual is unable to calm their buzzing, overactive brain. This activity manifests in extreme emotions, a condition known as emotional hyperarousal.

Emotional hyperarousal in an ADD/ADHD individual means that they experience passionate feelings, thoughts, and reactions that are considerably more intense than a neurotypical person.

They typically have high highs and low lows. On the upside, they experience happiness intensely. On the downside, they experience criticism extremely harshly.

  1. ADHD Emotional Dysregulation

People with ADD/ADHD often experience emotional dysregulation, which may include any of the following signs:

  • Hot temperedness
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed by emotions
  • Trouble directing attention away from emotions
  • Emotional reactions disproportionate to their cause
  • Trouble calming down, even when one is aware they are overreacting
  • Low frustration tolerance

Research shows that ADD/ADHD brains tend to have an overactive amygdala and underactive prefrontal cortex, which makes emotional regulation difficult.

  1. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria in ADHD

A common form of emotional dysregulation seen in people with ADD/ADHD is rejection sensitivity. In fact, it is estimated that nearly all individuals with ADD/ADHD are hypersensitive to rejection.

Differences in brain function are believed to play a role in rejection sensitive dysphoria. In people with ADD/ADHD, the brain tends to have difficulty regulating emotions related to rejection, which renders them intensely painful and practically unbearable.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria symptoms include feeling extreme emotional pain whenever an individual with ADD/ADHD face rejection—real or perceived. This can include:

  • Rejection from a loved one
  • Loss of approval or respect
  • Loss of acceptance
  • Teasing
  • Criticism (including constructive criticism)

These intense feelings can also be prompted through self-criticism over a personal failure—real of perceived.

In general, the emotional response to a situation is typically out of proportion. In some cases, people express their pain as rage directed at the person—or situation—that rejected them. The emotional upheaval may trigger noticeable shifts in mood—quickly sinking into a dark mood followed by a relatively quick return to normal.

ADD/ADHD individuals who experience rejection sensitive dysphoria tend to cope in one of two ways.

  • Avoid taking any risks. They may stop trying new things to avoid any chance of falling short of perfection, which might trigger criticism.
  • Become a people pleaser. To avoid rejection, some individuals adopt a people-pleaser approach. They become so focused on trying to please others that they sacrifice their own desires. And in some cases, they completely lose sight of their own wants and needs in life.


There are healthier ways to cope with ADD/ADHD emotions. Here are 8 strategies to get a handle on your ADD/ADHD symptoms and emotional well-being.

  • Adopt brain-healthy habits. ADD/ADHD is a brain-based disorder. Brain SPECT imaging studies show that the ADD/ADHD brain works differently. For example, when people with the condition try to concentrate, it decreases blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. Supporting overall brain health is essential to help deal with the emotional challenges that come with the condition.
  • Eat a protein-rich diet. Eating a diet that is higher in protein and lower in simple carbohydrates helps with focus and is beneficial for most types of ADD/ADHD.
  • Keep your blood sugar balanced. Blood sugar ups and downs can lead to heightened stress, anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Eating small meals throughout the day can help balance blood sugar for better emotional control.
  • Get adequate sleep. Research shows that sleep disorders are common in people with ADD/ADHD. Make sleep a priority and try to keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends. To promote healthy sleep, try supplements like vitamin B6, magnesium, 5-HTP, l-theanine, melatonin, and GABA.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, which is helpful for people with ADD/ADHD.
  • Take brain-directed supplements. Nutraceuticals that support focus and attention include rhodiola, green tea extract, ashwagandha, and ginseng.
  • Improve your self-talk. If you’re highly self-critical, it’s time to change your negative self-talk. First, learn to identify automatic negative thoughts (ANTs), then challenge those thoughts. Gaining control of your inner dialogue can be a powerful way to improve emotional resilience.
  • Consider psychotherapy. Research has found that a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an effective intervention for emotional dysregulation.
  • Try neurofeedback. A 2021 study found that neurofeedback therapy improved emotion regulation. Neurofeedback is a noninvasive form of biofeedback that allows people to train their brain to self-regulate more effectively.

By incorporating as many of these strategies as possible, you will be better able to manage your ADD/ADHD emotions and other symptoms.

ADD/ADHD and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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