Emotional dysregulation describes the inability to handle emotional experiences. If you have ADHD, the rush of fear, frustration, or anger can be too much for you to process.

Past studies have discovered emotional dysregulation in approximately 34–70% of ADHD adult patients. Separate research suggests that the inability to regulate emotions is more difficult to handle than core ADHD symptoms like inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity.

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Emotional Dysregulation Causes

Emotional dysregulation ADHD arises from executive function control disorders which result in:

  • Impatience, anger outbursts, and reactive aggression.
  • Self-soothing problems make it difficult for ADHD patients to control their emotions on their own. Individuals may struggle with self-soothing strategies like visual imagery and self-speech.
  • Difficulty redirecting attention from intense emotions, causing trouble with ruminating thoughts.
  • Poor cognitive flexibility makes it hard to organize appropriate responses.

As such, ADHD patients are likely to experience the following daily struggles:

  • Road rage and accidents
  • Social rejection and bullying
  • Divorce and marital problems
  • Conduct problems and crime
  • School expulsions
  • Job loss
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Verbal abuse and physical aggression
  • Focusing on a situation’s negative aspects
emotional dysregulation ADHD Signs

Emotional dysregulation ADHD Signs

How ADHD Causes Emotional Dysregulation

Emotional regulation involves pursuing your goals despite what you feel.

It involves:

  • Reevaluating upsetting situations
  • Focusing on what makes you feel good and ignoring what doesn’t
  • Choosing situations that reduce negative emotions and increase positive ones
  • Controlling only what you can
  • Ditching habits triggered by negative feelings can worsen your situation

Emotional regulation doesn’t come easily to ADHD patients. Emotional dysregulation ADHD occurs when emotions divert your attention from the task at hand.

Emotions either last longer than usual or are intense and quick to show.

Regardless of the trigger, your brain’s prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) cannot handle the surge of feelings. That’s where your emotional brain comes in.

A collection of previous studies identified the following categories of emotional dysregulation [1*] :

  • Emotion Reactivity/ Negativity/ Liability

It describes the emotional reaction’s tone and intensity.

  • Empathy/callous-unemotional Traits

It’s the strong sensitivity or insensitivity to other people’s feelings.

  • Emotion Recognition/ Understanding

It’s the ability to recognize your feelings and those of other people.

ADHD patients mostly experience emotional dysregulation in emotional reactivity. The emotional dysregulation and ADHD connection in these emotional dysregulation categories increase with age.

Symptoms of ADHD, such as emotional dysregulation can be managed– Click below to get professional help.

Note that the DSM-5 doesn’t recognize emotional dysregulation as an official ADHD symptom. That’s because emotional dysregulation isn’t a defined neurodevelopmental disorder feature.

Overcoming Emotional Dysregulation ADHD

The first tip on how to improve emotional regulation is treating physical illnesses.

Infections like flu and colds worsen emotional volatility, making it necessary to manage these illnesses with supplements and prescribed medication.

Diet is also crucial to overcoming emotional dysregulation ADHD. Food increases your body’s ability to regulate emotions. Moreover, spacing your meals appropriately stabilizes energy and blood sugar levels.

You can also treat emotional dysregulation ADHD with exercise. Past research confirms the benefits of exercise in reducing ADHD symptoms among children and adults.

Besides triggering mood-boosting chemicals, physical activity offers a stress outlet. You can also embrace mindfulness to control emotional dysregulation ADHD.

Instead of dwelling on unpleasant memories, concentrate on dealing with strong emotions in the present.

If the thoughts get overwhelming, you can ground yourself by naming what you see, taste, smell, hear and feel on your skin.

Another mechanism for coping with emotional dysregulation ADHD is filtering negative thoughts. Don’t limit your thinking to extreme outcomes.

By viewing a situation as either black or white, you miss all the possibilities that could occur in-between.

What’s more, avoid emotional reasoning and overgeneralization: past mistakes don’t condemn you to a lifetime of failure.

You can also plan for situations that trigger emotional responses. This involves defining boundaries and mastering affirmation and calming exercises.

Emotional Dysregulation ADHD

Emotional Dysregulation and Other Disorders

Other Disorders Associated With Emotional Dysregulation

ADHD patients aren’t the only people who struggle with emotional dysregulation. The following conditions also expose you to emotional dysregulation.

1. Borderline Personality Disorder

The condition affects how you view yourself and other people. Although BPD patients fear abandonment, their mood swings and anger might push people away.

The emotional dysregulation ADHD vs BPD debate may also arise. Although ADHD and BPD patients struggle with emotional dysregulation, the symptoms are more severe in Borderline Personality Disorder.     


This condition occurs when you witness traumatic events. It presents emotional dysregulation symptoms like anxiety, emotional numbing, flashbacks, and uncontrollable negative thoughts.

3. Frontal Lobe Disorders

When your brain’s frontal lobes sustain an injury, you can suffer emotional dysregulation, lack of motivation, and impulsivity. In most cases, frontal lobe disorders arise from explosive violence. Cancer, brain infection, and stroke patients can also get this infection.

4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD invites unwanted thoughts and the urge to perform actions repetitively. Disrupting the brain’s prefrontal region can cause severe emotional dysregulation.

ADHD signs can be well managed– Click below to get them treated.

Further Support

Emotional regulation is necessary for your wellbeing, even if you’re not an ADHD patient. Besides offering peace of mind, emotional regulation promotes healthy relationships and intentional decisions.

We also treat other mental conditions like depression, OCD, and anxiety.

You can book an appointment with EZCare Clinic for further emotional dysregulation ADHD support.

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.