Published On: September 22, 2023
Reviewed On: September 28, 2023
Updated On: September 28, 2023
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about 8% of children and 4% of adults in the United States. The condition can cause inattentiveness, impulsive behavior, forgetfulness, and hyperactivity. In addition to these common symptoms, ADHD and anger issues often coexist, making it even more challenging for people to navigate their emotions effectively.
The complex association of ADHD with anger can lead to difficulties in many aspects of life, including personal connections, job or school performance, and general mental health. The good news, though, is that with the right guidance and tools, you can learn to manage ADHD and anger.
Read on to learn about the link between ADHD and anger and hear about strategies you can use to manage both.
Many people living with ADHD struggle with emotion regulation. They might have angry outbursts or find it challenging to manage their irritability. It’s fairly common for ADHD and other comorbid conditions — meaning existing at the same time — linked to anger to exist.
Curious as to what causes anger associated with ADHD? Emotional dysregulation is pervasive in people with ADHD. In fact, according to some research, an estimated 70% of adults with ADHD have emotional dysregulation.
Other comorbid conditions are also common. For example, many kids with ADHD also have a condition known as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), which is a behavior disorder that causes defiance, hostility, and uncooperativeness.
ADHD in children has also been linked to another mood disorder known as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). Research suggests that close to 40% of children have ADHD and DMDD. People with DMDD will have regular outbursts that are more intense and last longer than what would be considered average.
Finally, some medications that are prescribed for ADHD are known as stimulants, which list anger as a side effect and can further contribute to ADHD anger.
There are several underlying factors that can lead to ADHD and anger. For example, ADHD symptoms commonly include:
Expert Insight“Challenges that get in the way of achieving goals cause frustration. Frustration tolerance is the capacity to handle frustration. People with ADHD may have a low tolerance for frustration, which can lead to rapid feelings of anger outbursts. Therapy can help manage anger and frustration by learning anger management skills.”
If left untreated, symptoms of ADHD can cause higher levels of irritability and cause many different types of anger, like displaced anger. The ripple effect can interfere with and negatively impact general mental health and well-being, further exacerbating the frequency and severity of angry outbursts that can become more challenging to manage as time goes on.
Fortunately, there are several treatments and techniques that can help you learn how to calm down from anger in positive, effective, healthy ways.
Note that some stimulants list anger as a side effect, so it’s important to discuss it with your doctor if you’re having ADHD anger issues that are more severe or different than your usual.
People with ADHD can practice what’s known as self-regulation training to learn ways to navigate their anger healthily. For example, you could focus on:
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying and then changing unhealthy thought and behavior patterns. Different types of CBT have been found effective in treating symptoms of ADHD, including anger.
Child-centered play therapy is a therapeutic modality that’s specific to treating children. Play therapy uses a relaxed setting and playtime to connect with a child so they can better express and process their feelings related to ADHD symptoms like intense anger.
Mindfulness meditation is an effective tool for centering your thoughts and being in the present. The practice can help you manage and control feelings of ADHD anger.
It’s well known that exercise releases endorphins that can improve mood and help manage several ADHD symptoms like inattention, focus, and intense anger. Working out for even 30 minutes a day can be a good way to keep anger in check if you’re struggling with ADHD and anger issues.
Expert Insight“There are many strategies that can assist those who have ADHD and frequently experience feelings of anger. People with ADHD can benefit from staying physically active for various reasons, including boosting attention, lowering impulsivity, and improving mood. Stimulant medications may help reduce symptoms of irritability. It may also help reduce feelings of hostility, which can help better manage feelings of anger. A person can become more aware of their emotions in the here and now with mindfulness, which helps you control negative feelings more effectively.”
Experiencing anger outbursts with ADHD is common. It can be linked to the various symptoms you experience related to your condition or a side effect of the medication you’re on.
Whatever the reason for ADHD anger, early diagnosis, and treatment are key in learning to manage what could otherwise be a very destructive factor in your life. Getting support in learning how to manage your anger can help ensure a positive outcome. If you’re looking for professional mental health support to help you navigate ADHD anger, Talkspace has skilled and qualified therapists who are ready to work with you in therapy for anger management.
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Bisma Anwar is the Team Lead for the Talkspace Council of Mental Health Experts. A major focus in her work has been anxiety management and helping her clients develop healthy coping skills, reduce stress and prevent burnout. She serves on the board of a non-profit organization based in NYC called The Heal Collective which promotes advocacy and awareness of mental health issues in BIPOC communities.