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Emotional Regulation in ADHD

regulating emotions with ADHDAlthough it isn't included in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, emotional regulation has become an important piece of the puzzle in our understanding of the disorder. Children and adults with ADHD often have difficulty managing big feelings that come up in the moment.

This can present as having a quick fuse, getting easily overwhelmed, being impatient, or even being easily excitable. 

In a research review called "Emotional dysregulation in adult ADHD: What is the empirical evidence?" (link to the abstract here), the writers went so far as to say that emotions, or more specifically the dysregulation of emotions, really should be included as a core feature of ADHD.

They also offered an interesting way to look at emotional regulation that helps us understand why this might be difficult for individuals with ADHD. From their view, two theoretical components of the regulation of emotions are:

1. "Inhibition of emotional reactions to events"
2. "Subsequent reorganization of emotions"

From this perspective, regulation of emotions essentially requires impulse control, and attention (e.g. to be able to reorganize emotions and decide what to pay attention to). If you've been paying attention (pun not intended), you'll know that these are two processes that can be dysregulated in an ADHD-style brain!

Okay, so now you have some theoretical information about ADHD and emotional regulation. Now what? For a great example of tips that could help if you have trouble regulating your own emotions, check out the article Coping with Heightened Emotions when you have ADHD, written by Margarita Tartokovsky, M.S., on the PsychCentral website.


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