Whether you know it or not, ADHD affects our emotions in major ways.
I did a YouTube video about how I was still in shock from the diagnosis of ADHD. When I first got diagnosed, I subsequently did research and started learning so much more about ADHD than I ever had before. I want to break down a bit more about how ADHD affects our emotions.
Keep in mind, how this looks for me will look different for different people at different times. (I remember that phrase used to give me so much anxiety. I just wanted an answer, some direction, and I wanted it now! Now I understand just how different we all are, even if we share many of the same challenges).
What doctors say about how ADHD affects our emotions:
According to ADDitude magazine, a website catering to people who have and interact with people with ADD (now more commonly referred to as ADHD):
Challenges with emotions start in the brain itself. Sometimes the working memory impairments of ADHD allow a momentary emotion to become too strong, flooding the brain with one intense emotion. At other times, the person with ADHD seems insensitive or unaware of the emotions of others.
This statement was reviewed by ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.
The publication names feelings like extreme sensitivity to disapproval, social anxiety and giving in to avoidance and denial (two of my favorite emotional dishes served together!) as results of the phenomenon that happens in the brain that is called emotional dysregulation.
(I want to stress that this happens in the brain and isn’t a conscious choice). They also mention how all of these emotional reactions can make it really hard to FOCUS AND GET STARTED ON WORK, or anything productive.
As I read and research, in my head I’m like, “I feel all of that doctors”. You can read the article for more details on how they say our emotions are affected by ADHD. But now I want to share how it feels to me.
I think it’s important to look at things from a wider point of view and to understand what’s already been written about ADHD, but to also really tune into how YOU experience whatever challenges and issues you’re going through.
What I say about ADHD affects my emotions:
Although there have been times where I feel that getting up and moving around can help me with overwhelming emotions, I find that the emotional aspect of ADHD is a continual challenge for me.
In one instance that I can remember physical activity working, I had a boyfriend who yelled at me during an argument, and I just allowed myself to get extremely consumed with how upset he was at me. I worked off that feeling of powerlessness and anger by sweeping up the hair at the salon I worked at. I remember thinking “Work IS a savior.”
I felt like I was on the verge of doing something irrational, erratic and self-destructive because I didn’t feel HEARD, so I used physical work to distract me. (And not feeling heard is a theme I see coming up for me a LOT. I guess it’s one of my triggers.)
My new digital lifestyle makes it more challenging to do what works to shake off bad feelings faster – being physical.
Chalk it up to having such a free schedule and less structure. As a writer, and freelancer, most of my days and about 40% – 60% of my time is spent being stuck (did I say stuck? I mean melded, by choice) to a computer or phone. Juggling multiple loving relationships with friends and semi-romantic partners means a lot of texting and social media.
In an attempt to get more done and be less distracted and consumed, I often take social media breaks from a few or all platforms for a while. But that still leaves texting. And when I get into passionate discussions, whether personal or about culture or other issues, I find myself getting really riled up and most recently have been looking at how I jump to conclusions that someone is saying something that they actually aren’t. Instead of asking what they mean, I rapidly respond in raging texts, and it has happened over and over again.
I get fixated on a phrase or word…mostly by text. And I get so stuck on what I think is being said that I don’t remind myself to first ask myself “would this person who has proven through time, words and actions that they love me say what I think they’re saying?” I also stay seated and forget to get up, move around, and help calm and distract myself from that negative fixation with movement.
I had no idea that feeling like little things were “life and death” and that I had to respond to them RIGHT NOW was an aspect of ADHD.
I used to think of this as a testing behavior associated with what I think is my insecure anxious attachment style. And it might be. Through intense research (and experience, my Lord) I’ve found out that ADHD often travels with its buddies anxiety, bipolar, and more.
But now, I realize that even though I have learned to slow way way down and I have gotten so much better at my reactions, my brain still sees rejection and insult in so much of what others say. I see it in women, colleagues, and associates as well. It gives me a pain in my chest. I just don’t let myself react to it the same way that I do with my partners. And what is most amazing is that I had no idea that this wasn’t what most people were thinking and feeling. When I express this feeling to others, they don’t express that they feel the same – unless they have anxiety!
Having emotionally intelligent partners helps me cope when my emotions get out of control.
If I didn’t have emotionally sensitive men in my life – who knew how to tell me that what I was doing was hurting them, and the patience to hear me first make excuses, then later apologize, and then even later start to change the behavior – they would not have the emotional intelligence to help me process my feelings. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but they have patience.
Having a creative outlet is essential to coping with the intense emotions of ADHD too.
Writing helps. And blogging, actually publishing my writing, helps me feel that all those emotions that don’t feel so good aren’t being felt for nothing. I put them in my art.
It was really important for me to learn about how emotional dysregulation or emotional hypersensitivity is tied to ADHD. It really helped me make sense of my overwhelming feelings and helped me stop blaming myself so I can focus on managing my reactions to my emotions.
Stay up, Happy Dreamers. Love y’all.
Check out the video I did on ADHD and emotional dysregulation: