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Emotions and ADHD: Dispelling the Myths and Unravelling the Complexities

Embarking upon the journey of life with ADHD is not solely about attention management. A frequently overlooked aspect is the emotional encumbrance that this neurological difference carries - largely misunderstood and underrepresented. 

It is time to debunk misunderstandings, starting with the notion that ADHD'ers are either "emotionless" or "hyperemotional." Like the rest of the human race, we possess a dynamic and vibrant inner world governed by a unique set of rules impacting how we experience and articulate our sensations (Barkley, 2015). Why does it matter to distinguish myth from reality about emotional experiences in ADHD? Let us explore.

ADHD'ers possess a unique emotive spirit, marked by shifting highs and lows. Far from being emotionally shallow, ADHD'ers experience the full spectrum of human emotions in equal depth as others. However, how these emotions are processed and expressed may differ dramatically, resulting in a distinct emotional journey (Bunford et al., 2015).

An image of a woman who has no facial expression text that reads myth #1 ADHD'ers Lack Emotion,Multiple ..............

Myth #1 

asserts that ADHD'ers are devoid of emotions, which obscures a broader perspective of their emotional experiences. The converse is true. ADHD'ers often experience emotions at an amplified level, a volume knob slightly too enthusiastic to reach its peak. 

Dr Thomas E Brown's research on emotional flooding or dysregulation describes this as the point at which emotions become so intense that regulation becomes difficult. This can lead to impulsive behaviour, decision-making difficulties, and muddled thinking (Brown, 2005). By becoming aware of personal emotional triggers and developing coping mechanisms, ADHD'ers can learn to manage emotional flooding more effectively.

An animated emoji with an excited facial expression text that reads myth #2 ADHD'ers are HyperEmotional

Myth #2

ADHD individuals are incessantly hyperemotional. The truth is a balancing act between intense emotional reactions and periods of calm. Navigating this terrain means rapidly learning to manage shifting feelings, a confluence of everyday emotion and drama (Nigg, 2017).

Intense emotional experiences in ADHD’ers can be attributed to various factors, including differences in brain function affecting emotional regulation and processing, heightened emotional sensitivity leading to strong reactions, experiencing rejection-sensitive dysphoria causing intense responses to criticism, struggling to shift focus from intense emotions, impaired emotional regulation due to working memory challenges, and increased emotional reactivity under high levels of stress and overwhelm. Understanding these factors is essential for developing effective strategies to manage and navigate intense emotions associated with ADHD.

An image of a man sitting on a yoga mat in the Lotus pose with many different images emanating from his mind. The images depict multiple different thoughts that imply various emotio

Myth #3 

Incorrectly assumes that ADHD'ers fail at emotional regulation. This assumption undermines the exertion required to maintain a delicate balance. Emotional regulation is a mastered skill, a waltz between high tides and subsequent ebbs, transforming emotional energy into productive expression.

ADHD'ers may experience challenges in regulating their emotions effectively due to executive function challenges and unconscious emotional influences. However, with support and understanding, we can learn our unique emotional needs and build a life that supports them! 

Understanding ADHD emotional experiences is not merely about fostering empathy; it is pivotal for mental well-being. The tailor-made emotional support that addresses the unique emotional challenges faced by ADHD'ers can pave the way for healthier mental living (Barkley, 2015). 

An image of a head with stars for a brain and flowers around the head. Text that reads is mindfulness the answer?

Is Mindfulness the answer?

Mindfulness is a mental state characterised by focused awareness on the present moment, accepting feelings, thoughts, and sensations without judgment. It involves being fully present, observing experiences without labeling them, and cultivating acceptance and compassion towards oneself and others. Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation, breathing exercises, and mindful movement to develop awareness and emotional regulation. By integrating mindfulness into daily life, individuals can enhance self-awareness, reduce stress, and improve emotional well-being, fostering resilience and a sense of presence in each moment.

ADHD often comes with emotional reactivity such as anger, tears, frustration, and shutting down. Research shows mindfulness can help improve emotional awareness and management (Barkley, 2015). By allowing yourself to take a few minutes to notice your emotions without getting caught up in them, you can build patience with your emotions and anything else that triggers you. 

It's essential to note that mindfulness is not a passive activity, but it requires intention. During the rest of the day, you may have to deal with various issues and tasks that require your attention, but for at least 10 to 15 minutes, you can choose to focus solely on observing your emotions and attempt not to react in your typical ways.

In essence, the key is to train yourself to observe your emotions, and you will gradually learn how to manage them more effectively. By cultivating this practice, you can build a deeper understanding of your emotions and learn to control them rather than allowing them to control you.

By illuminating the unique emotional journey traversed by ADHD'ers, we are not merely indulging in scholarly pursuits. We move towards an inclusive world where every emotional nuance is valued for the richness it adds to the collective human experience. Let us persist in breaking down the barriers of misunderstanding, one article, one conversation, and one empathetic heart at a time. The reward is a world where emotional experiences, irrespective of where they fall on the ADHD continuum or the human diversity spectrum, are not judged but embraced fully. Surely, such a world is worth believing in.


Barkley, R. A. (2015). Emotional Dysregulation is a Core Component of ADHD. In R. A. Barkley (Ed.), Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment (4th ed., pp. 81–115). New York: Guilford Press.

Brown, T. E. (2005). Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Scales. San Antonio, TX: Pearson.

Bunford, N., Evans, S. W., & Wymbs, F. (2015). ADHD and Emotion Dysregulation Among Children and Adolescents. Clinical child and family psychology review, 18(3), 185–217.

Nigg, J. T. (2017). Annual Research Review: The relationship among self-regulation, self-control, executive functioning, effortful control, cognitive control, impulsivity, risk-taking, and inhibition for developmental psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(4), 361–383.

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