If you often find yourself struggling to manage your anger, it’s important to consider that ADHD may be an underlying cause. Individuals with undiagnosed ADHD can experience heightened irritability and are more prone to angry outbursts because their symptoms are not effectively managed. Understanding the connection between ADHD and anger is crucial for finding effective strategies to manage these intense emotions.
In the guide below, we explore the relationship between ADHD and anger to help you determine whether your intense emotions stem from ADHD or if there may be other contributing factors at play. Recognizing the source of your anger is the first step in developing coping mechanisms and seeking appropriate treatment.
The licensed healthcare providers on Klarity can evaluate your symptoms and help you manage your anger with comprehensive treatment—100% online. Take our free self-assessment today to learn more about your symptoms and to get connected with a healthcare provider.
What Does ADHD Anger in Adults Look Like?
Emotional dysregulation—difficulty regulating and processing one’s emotions—is often concurrent with ADHD. Someone with emotional dysregulation related to ADHD may be labeled a “grump” or “hothead” because it seems like they’re constantly in a bad mood or frequently lash out over small things. Anger, being such a strong emotion, can be especially difficult to manage.
If you think your or a loved one’s hot temper may be linked to ADHD and emotional dysregulation, ask:
- Do they often get upset while completing tedious or repetitive tasks?
- Do they have trouble switching between jobs and get upset when asked to do so?
- Is their irritability increased in stressful situations?
- Are all of their emotions—both positive and negative—very intensely felt and expressed?
Examining the circumstances around behavior can help determine the reason for it. In this case, emotional dysregulation combined with other characteristics of ADHD—such as difficulty performing sustained tasks and being easily distracted—can lead to a buildup of stress and anxiety that need to be released.
Noticing symptoms and suspect you may have a mental health condition? Take a free self-evaluation on Klarity today.
How Can Adult ADHD Lead to Anger?
Those with ADHD aren’t simply “angry people.” According to research, anger is a secondary emotion arising from an initial feeling, such as fear or anxiety. These initial emotions can be uncomfortable and result in feeling vulnerable or helpless. Expressing anger is a way to regain control over a situation, albeit not always a healthy one.
These feelings can be particularly intense for those with ADHD.
Frustration with ADHD Symptoms
People with ADHD often want to do things like get organized, develop routines, and keep a regular schedule. These processes being so challenging leads to frustration that can build and cause them to lash out.
Transitions are difficult for the ADHD brain. Executive dysfunction makes initiating tasks a challenge, and a tendency to hyper-fixate makes it hard to move from one thing to the next. Being interrupted and asked to switch tasks can also cause intense frustration.
A person with ADHD gets distracted easily, and these distractions have been shown in research to invite feelings of anger and rage. Sensory distractions like background noise or bright lights can cause physical discomfort for someone with ADHD, making it challenging to focus on what they need to do.
Difficulty ignoring distractions can result in feeling overwhelmed emotionally and mentally, which increases irritability and the likelihood of losing one’s temper.
ADHD can cause turmoil in relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners because, from the outside, symptoms like forgetfulness and disorganization look like thoughtlessness or laziness. In reality, someone with ADHD is constantly struggling to overcome these internal obstacles and be an attentive, reliable partner, friend, or family member.
This dynamic can cause tension within relationships, leading to stress-induced outbursts of anger.
Lack of Impulse Control
Executive dysfunction and impulsive aggression make it hard for those with ADHD to regulate their moods, manage their emotions, and calm themselves when distressed or angry. Therefore, they’re more likely to react to their first impulse rather than take a moment to evaluate the situation before responding.
Other ADHD Anger Triggers
Difficulty expressing oneself and missing or misinterpreting others’ emotional cues are common symptoms of ADHD that can also trigger anger.
Being misunderstood is annoying at best and infuriating at worst. Struggling to express themselves clearly, only to be misunderstood, can make someone with ADHD very upset. People with ADHD are also sensitive to rejection and disapproval, making misunderstandings even more intense.
Similarly, it can make it a challenge to interpret others’ emotional cues. Once again, this can lead to assumptions and misunderstandings that cause conflict and lead to anger or rage.
How to Manage ADHD Anger in Adults
Though ADHD and anger in adults are closely linked, they’re not inseparable. A handful of methods and treatments are specifically designed to help those with ADHD manage both the intensity and frequency of their anger and resulting outbursts.
Take an ADHD Medication
ADHD medications fall into two basic categories: stimulant and non-stimulant. Which type of medication works best varies from person to person and depends on many physiological factors.
Stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin, work by stimulating the brain to produce more norepinephrine and dopamine, raising them to what medical professionals consider normal levels. The result is an increased ability to concentrate on tasks, enabling those with ADHD to regulate their emotions and their reactions to those emotions more easily.
Potential side effects of these drugs include hypertension and acute insomnia.
Medication misuse warning: Caution should be exercised when using ADHD medications, such as stimulant medications like Adderall and Ritalin, as they can potentially lead to dependency. These medications, classified as Schedule II controlled substances, affect neurotransmitters in the brain and can result in a psychological and physical reliance on the drug.
Misuse or prolonged use of higher doses can increase the risk of dependence. Abrupt discontinuation or misuse may cause withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, depression, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. It is important to adhere to the prescribed dosage and duration of treatment and to maintain open communication with a healthcare professional for proper monitoring and guidance throughout the medication regimen.
Try an Antidepressant or Anti-Anxiety Medication
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are also helpful in treating ADHD symptoms, such as anger. They fall into two basic categories:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Both types of medication work by bringing serotonin or norepinephrine levels to an average level in the brain. Like stimulant medications, this helps those with ADHD focus, regulate their moods, and temper their reactions to intense emotions.
Though these medications can take longer to produce results—sometimes up to a month—they have fewer side effects than stimulant medications.
Attend Anger Management Class
Anger management classes teach attendees techniques to reduce the emotional and physical effects of anger, enabling them to assess the situation and respond rather than react impulsively.
The goal of these classes is not to eliminate anger but to manage how the body and mind respond to it. Topics taught in these classes include learning to recognize early signs of anger, identifying what your anger is telling you, recognizing triggers, and learning how to refocus your energy.
These classes may help those with ADHD manage their anger and learn how to regulate their emotions better overall.
Give Counseling a Shot
Various modes of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, work by redirecting unproductive or unhealthy thought patterns. When you engage in a particular way of thinking, it creates pathways in the brain. The longer you use those pathways, the easier they become to navigate.
Psychotherapy helps us navigate new, healthier thought patterns, which helps alleviate anger linked to ADHD by creating new, healthier habits. Instead of acting on the impulse to shout or throw objects, the new impulse may be to take a deep breath and visualize something calming before speaking.
Control Your Environment
Controlling your environment goes hand in hand with knowing your triggers. ADHD brains pick up on tiny environmental details that neurotypical brains easily ignore. This means an overabundance of stimuli constantly bombards those with ADHD.
No one else may notice the squeak in the door to everyone’s favorite conference room, but someone with ADHD does—with painful clarity. Minor annoyances like these add up quickly and lead to overstimulation, irritation, and a higher likelihood of an angry outburst.
As much as possible, tailor your environment to your comfort by:
- Adjusting the temperature or dress to help your body stay at an ideal temperature
- Reducing irritating noises by fixing them or by wearing noise-canceling headphones or earplugs
- Adding blue light filters to your screens or wearing blue light filter glasses
- Using room spray or an essential oil diffuser to make your environment smell pleasant
Klarity Breaks You Free From ADHD Anger
If you think your anger is linked to ADHD, it’s time to connect with a medical professional who can evaluate your symptoms and help you manage your anger with a personalized ADHD treatment plan.
With Klarity, you don’t need expensive health coverage to afford our telemedicine services. Starting at $25/month, the medical health providers on Klarity will continuously work with you to ensure your treatment remains current with your changing needs.
Get started by taking our brief 2-minute online mental health assessment to get an overview of your symptoms. We’ll then connect you with a fully licensed and trained healthcare provider within 48 hours.