Emotional outbursts and ADD/ADHD seem to go hand-in-hand for many adults.
Emotional regulation is one of the less often discussed challenges associated with ADD/ADHD.
Most of the time, discussions about ADD/ADHD are about the problems related to focus and attention. These are certainly all important issues to address.
But, surprising to many, people with ADD/ADHD can struggle a lot with regulating their emotions.
Having trouble with emotion regulation is not a part of the diagnostic criteria for ADD/ADHD, even though it is a commonly associated problem.
However, because it happens so often in ADD/ADHD, and because the impact that it has on people’s lives is so profound, it warrants a serious discussion.
Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation.
People who struggle to regulate their emotions may have a condition referred to as Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation, or DESR.
The severity of ADD/ADHD symptoms and the severity of DESR tend to match one another.
In other words, when someone has heightened ADD/ADHD symptoms, their DESR is usually worse, leading to more related problems.
What’s the Impact, Daily and Long Term?
Studies have found that adults who have both ADD/ADHD and DESR tend to have a lower quality of life.
For instance, they are more prone to be unmarried or divorced, and they have a much higher rate of traffic incidents. Clearly, this problem has very real and tangible implications for those who struggle with it.
With DESR, people who struggle with ADD/ADHD can be quick to worry, lash out in frustration or anger, fixate on anxiety, and struggle to calm down. DESR can cause someone with ADD/ADHD to be especially prone to depression.
It’s important to note that DESR applies to all emotions – not just the frustrating or troublesome ones. Those with ADD/ADHD and DESR can feel a heightened sense of intense interest, elation, excitement, etc.
This sounds wonderful, but it can be just as problematic for managing day-to-day needs, relationships, and activities.
DESR is usually the culprit in when it’s difficult to calm down. But it can be equally implicated in the difficulty associated with bringing out emotion when it’s appropriate.
The Impact on Motivation.
Do you find it difficult to start and finish a task?
Or, conversely, do you find that your motivation soars when the task is to your liking?
There’s a strong link between emotional regulation and the ability to motivate yourself on a timely basis.
Being able to emotionally arouse yourself to perform any task drives your level of motivation. The mystery behind why you don’t pay your bills on time isn’t due to laziness, but instead to some dreaded emotion or fear that you have around the bill paying process.
Figure that out and your motivation may soar.
What Can You Do?
If you struggle with regulating your emotions in addition to your ADD/ADHD, there are a few things you can do.
If you are not already on medication, I encourage you to consider it.
There is no medication that can help someone with ADD/ADHD regulate their emotions. However, what medication can do is it can help increase your focus.
This can allow you to put some focused attention on calming and managing your emotions when they become difficult.
Routine and structure.
Routine and structure can help to minimize frustrations that can surface about everyday situations.
Rather than being subject to the whims of circumstance around you, structure can help to streamline your day and activities which can reduce the risk of throwing your emotions off and feeling out of control.
Learning how to calm yourself and become more focused is a gift you can give yourself through meditation. Mindfulness meditation is frequently cited as an effective means to notice where you are in the moment, rather than impulsively dashing off to the next activity. Very helpful if you find that you frequently jump out of your car without your phone, agenda and other critical management tools.
Do you struggle with ADD/ADHD and DESR?
I offer a free :30 minute phone consulation that could change your life.