Reviewed by Heather Cashell, LCSW
Like everybody, people with ADHD may struggle with emotions like anxiety, anger, and impatience from time to time. People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may notice that it may magnify those emotions. One of the contributing factors is neurology, causing people with ADHD to feel and express those emotions more intensely.
Comorbidity with anxiety and depression is also prevalent and therefore leaves the ADHD patient feeling highly irritated, angry, and emotional. Also, the intrusive nature of ADHD symptoms does not exactly lean toward the relaxing spectrum. Struggling with organization or planning, for example, can make people feel overwhelmed and consequently trigger negative emotions.
The chronic feelings of overwhelm can trigger negative emotions, including anger and irritability. People with ADHD may want to defend themselves and rationalize their behaviors and therefore respond more angrily than they normally should. Mood swings can be a common side effect of ADHD. Mood swings can cause a shift from feeling content to feeling furious and destabilized within a short period. In some cases, the inconsistent moods can disrupt your friendships, job, home life, which can leave you feeling demoralized or helpless.
Aside from the mood swing, people with ADHD may also act impulsively. The impulsiveness can cause them to react mindlessly during provocation. Finally, many people with ADHD cope with stress regularly. The accumulation of stress over time can contribute to anger outbursts. If you have ADHD and tend to lose control of your emotions, you are not alone in the struggle. Many people with ADHD are in the same position.
In this article, you will discover some helpful tips for managing ADHD and anger. These strategies can help you curb angry episodes. That is not all. You will also discover ways to channel anger in more positive and productive ways.
Important tips for anger management
TAKE SELF-CARE SERIOUSLY
Managing ADHD and anger starts with self-care. Often, anger is caused by fatigue, sickness, moodiness, or frustration. These things can happen when you fail to take care of your entire being – mind, soul, and body.
To manage ADHD properly, there is a need for a comprehensive plan. Managing ADHD effectively means patients will need to monitor every aspect of their lives, including good nutrition, sleep hygiene, and taking to exercise and time to rest. Good nutrition means eating healthy foods for ADHD and staying away from foods that may exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Exercising regularly is important as it helps to reduce stress levels and increase your tolerance for daily annoyances. Finally, if you are using medications or supplements, ensure you use them consistently without skipping the dose.
Anger is not an emotion that happens abruptly. It stems from your normal life routine and the balance you keep. If your balance is unhealthy and disrupted, you will only increase the risks of eventually exploding in anger or fall into depression or self-doubt.
While caring for yourself and giving your body its needs, you are taking steps towards ensuring proper bodily functions. You also help keep the ADHD symptoms at bay. These things add up to ensure that you get to manage your temper and avoid anger bursts.
Caring for yourself might be the first step toward ADHD anger management. The second step needs to entail getting enough rest. You can meet up with everything included in your ADHD daily routine. You can work out regularly, eat properly, use your meds, and sleep well.
However, if you never create time to relax and escape somewhere to rest, you are prone to getting exhausted and burning out. After some time, even a healthy and beneficial routine can get you drained if you never create time to rest the system running everything. In this case, the system is your mind and spirit.
To ensure you do not burst out in anger abruptly, you need to create time regularly to reinvigorate your mind and spirit. If you fail to do that, minor grievances will eventually build up and aggravate gradually until you yell at your partner or a colleague. Like many things in life, breaks should be frequent and integrated into your lifestyle.
The most effective way to assess rest is to consider it on different levels. For example, a break is necessary every week, month, and year. The breaks do not have to be of the same length or as serious as the others, but it has to be there. Every week, set apart 30 minutes to get away and engage in an enjoyable activity on your own. Once a month, you schedule a one or two hour or full-day vacation. Each year, ensure you get at least a weekend, if not a complete week, of vacation from work and everything else to get adequate rest.
IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS AND MANAGE THEM
Everyone has their triggers – things that seem to shorten their fuse for some reason. When this occurs, people often find themselves reeling in anger before they realize it. For those with ADHD, the triggers can make things difficult due to poor impulse control. It would seem, in a way that people are ticking time bombs, one way or another. Some triggers might be minor, some might be significant, but whatever they are, they are the weak link in your defense against ADHD anger. You may have different methods in place to keep the temper at ay, but when the right triggers set off, you might find yourself vulnerable and unable to control the anger.
Ideally, what you can do is create a list of potential triggers and device techniques that will not only help you avoid them but also how to respond properly when they occur. In many cases, you can easily avoid triggers if you create a proper plan. For example, if you know you get very irritable when you encounter excessive traffic, you can just put plans in place, perhaps with your employer, and reorganize your movement to avoid heavy traffic periods. This is only an instance, but if you know your triggers, you can make a workaround for anything.
If you cannot seem to find a solution or the triggers happen without notice, a backup plan is also necessary. The plan would include ways to defuse a situation when the trigger presents itself. If you have planned your movement and still run into heavy traffic, what step would you take then?
You need to have a coping strategy, such as calling a trusted person to distract you from the trigger. Then again, you can count to a particular number whenever the trigger presents itself. These tips can help you keep your temper at bay.
IDENTIFY THE CALMING FACTORS
After identifying what triggers the anger and taking steps to avoid the triggers, what do you do? You need to plan for the times when the anger will occur abruptly. Often, anger outbursts are caused by the trigger you are familiar with. However, the anger may catch you completely unprepared without any trigger to note. In this case, you need to learn how to respond properly to de-escalate the problem before it gets any worse.
To aid the ADHD anger management plan, you need to identify things that calm you down, as well as what sets you off. For example, if getting a text message or a phone call from a friend or family member always calms you, you should try to have it handy if required. If you need to take a breather or go outdoors, then ensure you know the fastest way out of the building and a diplomatic way to leave if necessary. If a particular song or video calms the tension, have it saved conveniently on your phone. Consider these things as your first responders for anger management. They might not be required, but you should always be prepared for emergencies.
Many times, the anger worsens because you might feel in a tight spot or pushed to the wall. By identifying the calming factors, however, you know you have a way to escape from any situation. Just keeping this information handy can help tackle any issue that appears to be out of control.
EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS
Each human being shares the feature of being emotional. They might not often show it sometimes or at all, but they feel emotions every time and day. To maintain a regular healthy pattern, it is important that people learn to process their emotions effectively. Also, many people with ADHD have a problem understanding other people’s emotions and expressing their feelings. Fortunately, most people can learn to express emotions gradually. They can also learn that accepting and expressing those emotions can be beneficial if done in the right conditions.
For emotional health, you need to learn how to handle grief, sorrow, pain, sadness, and happiness properly. This means you should not deny the feelings but letting them free. If you fail to channel the emotions of sadness and pain out, they may eventually accumulate and cause angry outbursts.
An effective way to express the emotions is through a friend or partner by speaking out and sharing the feelings. You can also talk to a counselor or join a support group around the area. Another effective way to express your emotions is via art, probably through keeping a journal, playing a musical instrument, or making artworks like painting. These methods help you to think carefully about the emotions and release them from your mind. Gradually, consistently releasing these emotions will help you perfect controlling your temper.
EXPRESS YOUR ANGER
It may seem counterintuitive since you are trying to control anger, but it works. Managing your temper is more than just letting out your emotions, you also need to learn positive ways to release anger. Everyone feels anger, one way or another. Sometimes, anger is a result of factors beyond your control. Sometimes, it is uncalled for. Other times, however, you should know you have every right to get angry.
Keeping the emotions inside yourself can cause negative explosions. Yet, despite expressing other emotions and bottling up the anger, the anger can erupt out of the blue. To manage your temper if you have ADHD, you need to get a safe area to express the anger. This must be an area when you can be isolated and feel safe. This might be the isolated part of the house when there is nobody around.
When you are alone, you should give yourself some time to feel the anger and respond the way you want. The response could be screaming or writing down the frustrations. In some cases, if there is a punching bag around, they can release some pent-up tension by kicking or punching the bag. Depending on what works effectively for you, use the safe, secluded area to release the pent-up frustration and tension. By allowing yourself to express your anger safely, you can reduce the chances of exploding in other places.
Allow others to assist with the process
Until now, the tips have been mostly about what you can do yourself. In conclusion, you should remember that depending on other people is a good idea. This is a general recommendation. It also works for people who want to manage their ADHD symptoms, including anger.
Part of the plan for ADHD and anger management is to get the help of family and trusted friends to help you manage your anger. Many people avoid doing this because they think they have their anger in control or do not want to admit it as a weakness. If you refuse to identify the problem, however, you may never get the right solution.
You need to accept that you struggle with anger before you can get onto the path to recovery. The tip highlighted in this article will work, but that is not all. Meet with your doctor and counselor, as well as family members, on ways they can assist as well. When you have learned that everyone around you wants to help you fight the anger issues, you will soon understand that managing ADHD and anger is more effective with other people’s help. You can take an assessment test for ADHD here.