ADHD and Emotional Dysregulation: What You Need to Know

Hello brains! Did you know ADHD affects our emotions? Like, all our emotions? :::intro music::: I’ve always been told I was “too sensitive;” I cry easily, I get excited easily, and my mom deserves some sort of combat award for surviving the emotional storm that was me growing up. Turns out what creates this emotional roller coaster is something called emotional dysregulation, and it’s a big part of how ADHD affects our lives, but I didn’t know that because – The DSM, which is what doctors use to diagnose ADHD, doesn’t even mention it! Inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity… Nope! Which is kind of weird if it’s such a big part of ADHD Right? Well, there’s a story behind that and it’s super interesting. Wait for it… Cool history stuff! :::glass breaking:::: :::helicoptor engine and wind sounds::: That looks fine, it looks fine. :::cool HISTORY stuff intro::: Basically, ADHD is nothing new. It’s gone through a bunch of name changes over the years but the symptoms have been documented as far back as the late 1700s and the trouble with emotions we tend to experience has always been a part of its description – until the 1970s. What happened in the 1970s? Researchers get serious. Understandably, they wanted to focus on the aspects of ADHD they could measure in a lab and emotions are kind of hard to measure in a lab. Based on their findings, the first official DSM descriptions of ADHD were born and even though later evidence of emotional dysregulation kept showing up in ADHD research it was kind of too late to add it back in. But the understanding of ADHD is improving all the time and whether it ever makes it into the DSM or not it’s now understood that there is a connection between ADHD and emotional dysregulation. More research needs to be done, but for now this is what we know. Those of us with ADHD experience normal emotions. As in, it’s totally understandable that you got upset when that person insulted you –
most people would – but the way we feel and respond to those emotions can be more intense and last longer than it does for neurotypical brains. Why? Even though we experience normal emotions, our brains have trouble regulating those emotions. The ability to regulate our emotions is what allows us to calm down and make good choices when something gets us worked up. Sounds simple but emotional self-regulation is actually a pretty complicated four-part process and it relies on stuff the ADHD brain tends to have trouble with. First, inhibition, as in not impulsively reacting to an emotion. Not super easy for those of us who are naturally impulsive. In fact, according to Dr. Russell Barclay, the more generally impulsive we are, the more emotionally impulsive we are too. And with that kind of impulsivity, we may not even make it to the next part. Two! Self soothing – the ability to calm down that initial emotion. Most of us do have ways to self-soothe, but they’re not always healthy. Three. Refocusing our attention – literally the exact problem that we yeah, yep. Moving on. Four. Responding in a way that makes sense based on our goals. This shouldn’t be too hard, right? We just have to remember what our goals are, then be able to remember what the other person said, what we wanted to say, how it worked out for us the last time we responded that way, consider all the different variables in this particular situation, and then predict the possible different outcomes based on those responses and then choose the best action that fits with our goals! Actually, that’s a lot for somebody with ADHD We have limited working memory. This kind of trouble with emotional self-regulation is obviously a problem for things like anger and frustration and that’s a lot of what gets us into trouble at school, work, and in our relationships. But ADHDers experience emotional dysregulation with other emotions too. Sadness, happiness, even fear. It can affect us in ways we may not even realize. As in we are working on an important assignment and someone we like texts us! The excitement makes us respond to the text, forget about the assignment, and five hours later that assignment isn’t done! Even though it’s A) really important and B) due tomorrow. Is emotional dysregulation all bad? I don’t think so. Personally, I love feeling and expressing strong emotions. I get excited easily and for the most part that makes me pretty fun to be around. And I love hanging out with other ADHD brains for the same reason – we’re passionate, interesting, expressive people. Besides emotions are a good thing, they communicate to us. They motivate us. Me acting impulsively on my emotions is the reason this channel exists. But for those times when emotional dysregulation makes us not so fun to be around or gets in the way of our goals… What’s a brain to do? Well like any ADHD symptom emotional dysregulation varies from person to person and even from situation to situation, so first it helps to figure out when and how it is getting in the way of your goals. A great way to do that is to use an emotion tracker. You can create your own or use this one which we link to in the description below. Basically, when you have an emotional reaction pay attention to it. Afterward write down what happened, what you felt, how you reacted, and the consequences good and bad of that reaction. No judging! This is for informational purposes only. Try to have a sense of curiosity about it. “Wow, when I put off studying completely I feel really guilty and embarrassed, but when I work on it even a little I feel better, huh.” “I totally get angry and defensive every time my boss points out that I’m late.” “It does not work out well for my diet when I offer to buy everybody donuts.” Pretty quickly you should start to get a sense of when your emotional reactions are getting you into trouble or throwing you off your goals. The good news is there are plenty of strategies that can help. I’ll go into some of those in future episodes, and I’ve linked to some great articles as well. But even better news, just the act of noticing your emotions can help you slow down your emotional reactions. So you have time to decide how you want to respond instead of just reacting. It’s called mindfulness and according to research it works. That’s it for this week. Give it a shot! Let us know how it goes. Of course if emotional dysregulation is really getting in the way of your life it can help to work with a therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, in particular is great for those of us with ADHD. Special thanks to Patrick for being an amazing research consultant and suggesting the emotion tracker. Thanks to Alex Pastusco for creating an actual combat award that you can print out and give to a heart in your life! There’s two links in the description below one like mine and the other one that you can fill out yourself. You know what you did. And of course thank you to my brain advocates and all my patreon brains. Because of you, Edward and I are able to work nearly full time on these videos, and they’re really making a difference. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Like, subscribe, click all the things and I will see you next week. Bye brains! Question time – LLMYouTube asks – are there any tips you can offer for ADHD people who are trying to organize their thoughts for things like writing essays, etc.? Yes! I have to write these episodes every week and it is really hard for me to organize my thoughts as well. So before I even start to write I do a brain dump. Just put everything you think might be helpful on the page without worrying about the order or anything, Literally, as it comes to you write it down. Like just dump. Blah. Once your ideas are on paper it’s a lot easier to organize them than if you’re still trying to hold them in your head. I usually do a brain dump first, outline second, then write. That’s my process. Hope it helps. You can also try things like mind mapping which we’ll go into in future episodes…

100 thoughts on “ADHD and Emotional Dysregulation: What You Need to Know

  1. Brain dump, outline, organize. But when I do the brain dump well……. …… what' was I going to say….. oh never mind. Are there any donuts in the house ?

  2. Then someone tells you to calm down cuz like we’re already trying. Like bro telling me to calm down like it’s easy just makes things work.

  3. Is it wrong I want to cry after watching this ? Thank you for the videos – knowing more helps me recognize the chaos that is going on daily.

  4. So I have ADHD. For this reason, I am aloud to doodle in class (it helps me pay attention better) no matter what teacher I have. They have no say in that, I’m aloud to doodle.
    I was doodling. Then, boom, science teacher. He points me out in front of the class and everyone was looking at me! I was almost crying. I’m 15. Everyone always says that I overreact about things, “Don’t be so upset, it’s just a joke!” I hate those people. Like dang, shut up… it’s not my fault

  5. I love your channel! I love the way your mind works, and I especially like the way that you translate your thoughts verbally to share with others. My sister is a lot like you, and your video on The Wall of Impossible helped my whole family tremendously! Thank you for all that you do, and thank you for using your struggles to help others.

  6. You speak right out of my mind and heart.
    I must admit, when I get angry at someone or some relationship goes too well, I do seek trouble and start an argument. But, cowardous as it is, I initiate or maintain the dispute via WhatsApp etc., not verbally face to face. That is unfair and mean of me.
    It's just happens now and then and I try to work it out it since I am aware of that mistake but I cannot completely avoid it.

  7. I was diagnosed with ADHD, and I struggled a lot with emotional dysregulation. I remember being bullied in 3rd and 4th grade because I was really emotional, and it was easy for the bullies to get a reaction out of me. Over time, I became ashamed of my emotions and tried to bottle them up. Now , it’s a toss up between lethargy (depression) and emotional breakdowns.

  8. I have ADHD I have to take meds my dad yells at me alot which dont help he gets mad at my ADHD soo..what do I do ;-;

  9. I have adhd and I seem to forget important things and remember completely useless thing that I would normally never need to remember ever is that normal

  10. I was diagnosed with adhd a few years ago and even knowing all these years I’ve had it I’ve never done any research on it but I am so glad that I did tonight and glad I chose this video beacuse I never even knew that it caused emotional dysregulation. I’m struggling with life and my relationship pretty bad rn due to this

  11. You’ve helped me so much just by making and posting this video thank you, I’m learning so much about myself and my adhd

  12. when i was a little kid, i used to throw these big tantrums over little things that made me upset and cry for hours on end about it. now, whenever something big happens to me, good or bad, the reactions i have are practically not there since i repress my emotions so much after what i did as a child. i don’t know why im saying this, but this rly gave insight as to why i did this and do this now. thank you.

  13. hey Jessica, heres an emotional rollercoaster for you, when i want to be happy or get excited or when something great happens i want to get super excited but i force myself to get mad /upset/ angry for some weird reason its like standing outside the concert watching mad at everyone in there… I found out a few months ago at 29 yrs old i have adhd and your videos are spot on 100% and my adderall has made me into such a better person ,, I try to explain it like its not a miracle drug.. but it helps you help yourself and then that snowballs and the quality of your life gets better and easier little by little

  14. I don’t know if it’s an ADHD thing but sometimes I don’t register emotions until too late. Like, someone will say something that I don’t realize made me angry until later that day. In the moment I just smile and nod but thinking about it later on it will make me sad/angry. This leads to confusion with friends and family because they never realized they made me upset.

  15. I have ADHD + Borderline and its the most exhausting thing I have ever felt. I am currently waiting for therapy and it can´t happen soon enough

  16. Thank you! I can finally understand my partner. The signs were there and I will admitted I didn’t always know how to approach him in those deregulated moments. But now I have more confidence. And can love him better!

  17. Growing up I was so expressive and emotional.I was raised in a home and environment my whole life where showing emotion and being myself was highly discouraged. I was diagnosed with ADD but I was always taught to ignore it or push through it, Now I just feel these things but I never express them because I am so used to suppressing my emotions, which I feel is causing so emotional damage. Not really sure what to do about it.

  18. this is completely unrelated to the content of the video, but! (as someone who, as it turns out, VERY likely has adhd) i really appreciate how you list all of the music you use plain and clear in the description! i love collecting royalty free songs, but they're almost never labeled in online videos

  19. I’d like to see a person with ADHD in a reanimated video.
    Brain mapping and brain dump !!!!
    Awesome !

  20. I definitely have been having issues with regulating my emotions. I have two infuriating roommates, and since this is my first year in college I have never had to be forced to live in close quarters with people other than my family. They’re really loud through most hours of the day and at night which drives my ADHD brain crazy. I work really hard to focus in classes during the day that by the time I get home, I really need to be quiet and unwind. But since they refuse to be quiet or respectful, I often get worked up by my annoyance and anger towards them, and it takes me a long time to soothe myself. I rarely ever fight with them because I hate conflict and confrontation, but I fight with them in my brain if that makes sense.

  21. So, I was on tumblr (I know, I know) and i was scrolling endlessly like ya do and a post popped up that was about the 3 less talked about symptoms of ADHD. The first 2 were pretty standard (I live with them and experience them daily so its whatever) but the last one i read and my brain just kinda exploded! Thats how i found ADDitude magazine and found out what RSD was. Im 99.99% positive that I have this (I dont know if I need it officially diagnosed so the 99 instead of 100) and as I read about it I started to cry cause for the first time ever, in all the ADD/ADHD posts id seen, no one had ever talked about this. So RSD is Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria what this means is that some of us ADHDers experience rejection on a level that can cause such severe emotional pain that we physically react. I feel rejection and criticism to the point where the emotional pain causes my entire body to go numb. Theres very little I can do about this other then just deal with it. Im still pretty new to the channel so I havnt quite deep dived yet but still, I wanted to talk about this. Cause it made me feel less… Crazy… Shameful… I dont know. So far, the handful of these videos that ive watched have helped lessen those same feelings… And I cant wait to watch more.

  22. This might explain why I got labeled as so sensitive when I was a child. Seriously, my report card from grade school said “needs to develop more confidence”. Idk I still question if I have ADHD since I was never diagnosed as a child and always had good grades. But I always forget things, act impulsively, etc.

  23. I'd also like to point out that DBT might also work wonders for someone who seriously struggles with emotional dysregulation. It was originally created for those with borderline personality disorder, but is super helpful for anyone with emotional dysregulation in general.

  24. Great videos, but in classic style, the amount of times I get out of my seat and wander off during even a 7 minute video is ridiculous……

  25. One thing for me. I like hallmark movies, even though I know who will get the girl, the first kiss will be interrupted, and the former boyfriend will make a last stand! LOL

  26. Hit the likes at the words "I've always been told I was too sesitive" (then posted this comment)

  27. I like how you had pop up bubbles above your head as if you were thinking out loud. It covered your message well. I had never heard of the emotional disconnect errr… wrong word but the strong emotional responses and the poor regulation

  28. I feel like I've always been good at thinking about why I am saying certain things or how I should probably react to situations, however, when it comes to actual practice it's not so great. I feel like I'm insane half the time because I can literally yell at someone for no reason just because I'm stressed and in my head, before I even react I'm like, hmm lashing out isn't a good option, you know that you are going to cause more problems than good, you shouldn't do this, remember all the times before? and then suddenly I'm like OH WELL and then I lash out :'( is this just a me problem or is there actually some correlation to my adhd? bc I have the motivation, I have the reminders in my head, but I seem to lose interest and motivation in doing the right thing so unbelievably fast and then I am ashamed that I can't seem to keep that drive to do the right thing.

  29. Hello, I’ve been following your vlog for a while and I found it very useful. Is it possible , though, that adhd stimulant medicine is only effective for a year? I found what this doctor is trying to say very contradictory and confusing…
    please give your advice on this

  30. I was diagnosed with adhd, I had adhd for years. I grew out of it. I use it to my advantage so it cannot be considered a disorder. I adapted to it instead of medicating myself to force me adapt to Their World. And after all, it is a different world that they have made. With ADHD it really is a matter of them vs. Us. And we will prevail in the end.

  31. I’m so happy that you are doing these videos, as a kid I felt like I was all alone but with these videos you can show little kids like me that we are not all alone and there are people like them

  32. Emotional dysregulation, thats a familiar thing. I can experience wide range of emotions in matter of couple of hours. Fortunately my Concerta medication helps a lot.

  33. I once flunked a semester of school because an anime wrecked me. Another time, my girlfriend dumped me because she thought she wasn't as important as school. She wasn't, but at least now I have a name for my junk.

  34. I wish I could focus on the information being conveyed here instead of the beautiful woman conveying it. Darn ADHD.

  35. Jesus Christ I love you omg I’ve been struggling so bad lately and it’s honestly almost killed me I’m so happy I came a tossed your videos you are so smart and so easy to listen to!!! I love you 😘 You are a rockstar … Thank you for making your videos so understandable 🙏🏻💛😭

  36. Jesus Christ I love you omg I’ve been struggling so bad lately and it’s honestly almost killed me I’m so happy I came a tossed your videos you are so smart and so easy to listen to!!! I love you 😘 You are a rockstar … Thank you for making your videos so understandable 🙏🏻💛😭

  37. Jesus Christ I love you omg I’ve been struggling so bad lately and it’s honestly almost killed me I’m so happy I came a tossed your videos you are so smart and so easy to listen to!!! I love you 😘 You are a rockstar … Thank you for making your videos so understandable 🙏🏻💛😭

  38. Jesus Christ I love you omg I’ve been struggling so bad lately and it’s honestly almost killed me I’m so happy I came a tossed your videos you are so smart and so easy to listen to!!! I love you 😘 You are a rockstar … Thank you for making your videos so understandable 🙏🏻💛😭

  39. I have used the same process for writing since I was in elementary school. I always tell people that I hated writing in school. The truth is I needed more time. I had to get all of my thoughts out, organize them and then write. Since the additional time wasn’t allowed, I panicked and felt anxious with any writing assignment due while in class. By the time I reached college, I lost confidence and became a major procrastinator. Even now, almost 20 years later, I get anxious when writing. Creative writing is the worst for me. Thanks for answering the question about writing. It reminded me that it’s okay to continue to use this process without feeling inadequate or ashamed.

  40. I like how u make your videos makes it east to keep interested and my adhd is pretty bad I appreciate your videos a lot its helped me learn about myself and my whole life and my reactivness.. 🙏🙏🙏😇 thanks

  41. I hava adhd only found out 2 weeks ago am 22 always wondered why am different I fit all these symptoms

  42. I would love to record why I went off but I usually can’t remember why I went off to start with just remember the emotions. Oops 😬

  43. I was diagnosed with a few borderline personality traits then after diagnosed with ADHD at 55 which dismissed the BP traits I believe.

  44. Hi thank you very much for all your advices
    Please I need tips for moms with ADHD!
    Managing the household!
    Parenting and preventing burn outs!
    Is there any adhd trait in moms that can actually benefit their kids??

  45. This was so affirming, I cried, even after discovering Russell Barkley's lectures shortly after my diagnosis. Talk about emotional dysregulation 😂😂😂

  46. When I'm upset I tend to throw stuff and hit things. My brother says I'm too sensitive. And gets upset sometimes when I get really excited in public.

  47. I have not been diagnosed with ADHD, but someone close to me has so he keep sending me these videos. I'm in a mindfulness class currently and I have trouble organizing my thoughts so I think I will try the brain dump thing.

  48. While watching this, you said something that triggered me to stop watching and do something that triggered me to do five other things and… oh jeez! Finally, I got back to finishing watching your video

  49. When you're young and your skin is that glowy and your teeth are straight and your cheekbones and lovely eyes etc etc people are much more tolerant of your intensity…. wait until you are 50 and are not cool anymore and people expect you to be demure and mature and somber and etc people are far less tolerant of ADHD the older you get

  50. Growing up and even still now (like last night), I cry easily for seemingly dumb things. I don't mean to cry, but it's like my body just makes it happen. Then I get reprimanded for being "immature" and crying over nothing, usually rooted in the belief certain criticisms mean other people don't see me as reliable or responsible* (even if they say the opposite, that's not what I feel). And the cause for all that could be emotional dysregulation and possibly rsd. So yay…?

    I can take criticism, but it depends on how you say it. *Some people don't understand that and think I get sensitive to all forms of criticism just because that's all they see 🙄. Hmmmmm, have you considered talking to people differently?

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