ADHD and Emotional Regulation: The Overlooked Connection

ADHD and Emotional Regulation: The Overlooked Connection

Team Psychiatry

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition of which the primary symptoms are difficulty focusing and hyperactive behavior. While these may be the most obvious symptoms of ADHD, there are some equally common and often overlooked symptoms, one of which is impulsivity that makes it difficult to appropriately manage emotions.  

If you or a loved one struggles with emotional regulation due to ADHD, this is what you need to know. 

Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation (DESR)

Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation (DESR) is the clinical term used to describe the difficulty that people with ADHD and other neurological diversities often have with emotional control. People with ADHD are often impulsive, and this symptom affects their emotional responses in a wide variety of situations. 

Emotional Impulsivity (EI) 

Emotional Impulsivity (EI) is a large part of the overall Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation aspect of ADHD. The impulsive nature of someone with ADHD often results in extreme emotional responses. The person lacks the ability to control or subdue their feelings, whether it is anger, sadness, happiness, or other emotions. They may act out with words or actions that others view as socially unacceptable. 

Problems Associated with DESR and EI 

The extreme emotional responses that result from deficient emotional self-regulation and emotional impulsivity can cause a variety of problems: 

  • Difficulty forming friendships. Big emotional reactions can be considered inappropriate from a social standpoint, making it difficult to form and maintain friendships. 
  • Difficulty with romantic relationships. DESR can make romantic relationships particularly challenging, as these relationships are highly emotional.
  • Difficulty with school or work. Lack of emotional control can cause children and teens to have behavior problems at school. Adults may struggle with emotional regulation in the workplace. 
  • Feelings of isolation. Difficulty with social relationships can lead to feelings of isolation for people with ADHD. 
  • Depression. People with ADHD are more likely to suffer from depression as a result of the difficulty regulating their emotions. 

ADHD and Emotional Therapy 

While ADHD can be treated with medication, most professionals agree that cognitive behavioral therapy is also effective and should accompany medication. Some parents and patients choose to forgo stimulants and other medications and rely on therapy to learn strategies for self-regulating their emotions. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a strategy used by psychologists and psychiatrists to help patients develop positive thought patterns and strategies to better manage their emotions. It primarily involves talk therapy, where the patient and therapist engage in conversation about the emotional challenges present. Through talk therapy the patient is able to work through complex emotions and the therapist can offer solutions for managing the symptoms. 

South County Psychiatry Provides Treatment for ADHD 

If you believe that you or a loved one may have ADHD, South County Psychiatry provides diagnosis and treatment. We offer a wide range of ADHD treatment options, including cognitive behavioral therapy for improved emotional self-regulation. Learn the strategies you need to improve relationships and other aspects of your life that are negatively affected by ADHD. 

Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions About ADHD and Emotional Regulation

Is ADHD an emotional disorder?

ADHD is considered to be a neurological disorder, but it does include emotional symptoms that can lead to emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. ADHD medication can often provide relief for emotional symptoms, but in some cases emotional disorders will need to be treated separately with medication or therapy. 

Can ADHD be managed without medication?

Many patients and parents of patients with ADHD wish to avoid medication. There are many strategies for managing the symptoms of ADHD from talk therapy to diet changes. We provide a variety of strategies for treating ADHD without medication.