ADHD is a condition that is chronically under-diagnosed in adults. The disorder is often associated with younger children, with less widespread knowledge of the ways that ADHD can affect older teens and adults. As it doesn’t present itself consistently in all people, it may fly under the radar for decades. The good news is that though having ADHD and anger in adults presents unique challenges, adults with the disorder still live happy, fulfilling lives.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurological disorder that causes difficulty concentrating. Some of its symptoms include fidgeting, impulsivity, and inability to complete basic tasks.
ADHD is likely genetic. Scientists are unsure of the cause, but have identified several environmental factors that may be linked. These include brain injury, alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy, and exposure to lead in early childhood.
What Does ADHD Look Like in Adults?
Many people with ADHD make it all the way to adulthood without ever receiving a formal diagnosis, but then realize that their difficulty focusing and issues with anger are getting in the way of their lives. They may feel that it is a personal failing, or that they “don’t try hard enough”, but this is untrue: adults with ADHD function differently than those without, but that doesn’t make them bad or lazy people.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a misleading name. it often does not manifest as literal hyperactivity, especially in adult patients. The hyperactivity aspect shows itself as chronic insomnia, talking a million miles an hour, or extreme impulsivity.
Adult ADHD Is More Than Being Distracted
Adult ADHD symptoms are usually perceived as laziness or immaturity, but that isn’t true! Adult brains with ADHD crave more stimulation than the average person, and that is completely manageable.
Another under-discussed symptom of ADHD that often gets in the way of functioning as an adult is poor emotional regulation. ADHD is often comorbid with anxiety and depression, which leads to heightened stress even if the world around the adult seems calm and organized. Since ADHD hinders impulse control, this can lead to major issues with anger and temper.
If this all sounds familiar to you, read on for a guide to managing your anger and emotional impulsivity while seeking ADHD treatment.
Why ADHD and Anger in Adults Go Hand-in-Hand
Brains with ADHD have different wiring than those without it; this gives adults with ADHD less control over their thoughts and actions. They have difficulty forcing themselves to pay attention to things that bore them, even when important, and lack the impulse control to make them consider their actions before doing them.
This extends to emotional regulation because when they feel frustrated, sad, or angry, their brain is not equipped to step back and think “Why do I feel this way? Should I go to another room and take a deep breath before exploding?”. They may want to, but in many situations, their brain goes haywire before being able to calm down.
This skill can be taught, but may be difficult for adults with ADHD to train themselves into. If you feel that your anger is alienating your loved ones, or you’re tired of feeling distracted and mad, here are a few steps to begin your healing journey.
Talk To Yourself
When you start to get angry, does your stomach roll and rumble? Does a hot flush creep up your neck? Do you clench your jaw so tight it could crush diamonds?
Pay attention to these sensations. Put words to them. Feel familiar with the way your body responds to anger; though ADHD is in the brain, many of its symptoms and side effects manifest physically in the body.
These warning signs may be difficult to notice when you’re already feeling angry and want to explode. Internally talk to yourself, even if it feels silly at first: My stomach hurts. I am angry. I do not want to start yelling. I should remove myself from this situation before I say something out of anger.
Being able to identify the anger in yourself in a tangible way, instead of just saying “I feel angry!” to yourself, can circumvent the ADHD wiring that makes you jump straight from feeling to action.
Treat Your Body Like A Temple
It may seem overly simple, but imagine how you feel when you haven’t slept, eaten too much fast food, or are stiff from being too sedentary. All of these take a toll on non-ADHD brains, but affect adults with ADHD more severely.
Exercising – even if you only take a daily walk – sets the ADHD brain up for ultimate success. When you put your hyperactivity to good use, you’ll have an easier time focusing on important things (even if they bore you!), and will have a healthier outlet for your anger.
Once you’ve recognized the warning signs of your anger and decided to distance yourself from the situation, use that angry energy to fuel you as you jog, lift weights, or do some power yoga. You’ll come back with a clear head, toned muscles, and a new habit that will help keep your anger under control.
Keep a Journal
If you’re having trouble identifying your symptoms of anger, or are unsure why you’re angry at all, set aside a few minutes each day to journal. Writing about yourself and the way you feel can lead to huge epiphanies not only about how your mind works through the ADHD, but what things may have happened to you in your life that trigger your anger response.
For example, if you used to come home from school and your mother immediately berated you for leaving chores undone, coming home to a partner who immediately asks you to do chores may set your anger off in a way that seems disproportionate.
Though your ADHD makes anger more difficult to manage, it may not always be the cause of your anger. Taking time to know yourself will give you better control over your reactions later on.
Finally, Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help
If these skills are already a part of your lifestyle and you are still struggling with ADHD and anger issues, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Don’t be afraid to see a doctor who specializes in ADHD and anger in adults, and don’t be ashamed to take medication to control your symptoms. Having ADHD or anger isn’t your fault, but it is your responsibility.