ADHD and Anger: What’s Behind Your Inner Hulk?

Julia Ovcharenko, CEO of Numo
January 12, 2024

Picture this: you're stuck in traffic, running late for an important meeting, and your blood pressure keeps rising. 

Or maybe you're drowning in a sea of tasks, overwhelmed by your to-do list, and that infuriating frustration starts knocking at your door.

You're not alone; these moments are familiar to many of us. But for those with ADHD, anger isn't just a visitor — it's practically a roommate.

Buckle up because we're on a mission to unravel this connection and equip you with the tools to navigate those turbulent emotional waters. 

In today's article, we will:

Whether you're battling ADHD yourself or supporting someone who is, stick around. 

[ADHD and Anger Connection] The Link Between ADHD and Anger in Adults

Anger is normal emotion. It's something that just occurs as lash back against frustration and worries of day-to-day life.

But with ADHD, anger sometimes can reach some draconic forms, oftentimes disproportional to the actual situation.

Well, why's that? A few reasons, actually.

ADHD and Emotional (Dys)Regulation

Emotional dysregulation is an annoying and oh so frequent symptom of ADHD that around 70% of adult ADHDers tackle daily.1 

With emotional dysregulation, feelings of anger don’t escalate in a typical, gradual way; instead, they can spike quickly and intensely.

Picture a moment where a minor inconvenience or disagreement rapidly escalates into an anger outburst. It's not necessarily that the person with ADHD is more prone to feeling angry, but rather that they may struggle to handle their anger in a socially typical manner, causing quick, intense reactions.

Such emotional spikes can be distressing for the individual and those around them.

Impulsivity and Anger Outbursts

In the ADHD mind, impulsivity is the extroverted friend who never waits for an invitation. This impulsivity, a classic ADHD feature, makes us jump into action without consulting our logical side. 

Now, imagine a scenario: You're minding your own business, and suddenly, something pushes your buttons – a teeny-tiny irritation or a momentary annoyance. 

Most folks without ADHD might have a moment of reflection before they react. In the ADHD realm, it's more like a "blink and you miss it" moment. 

Your brain goes from 0 to "Hulk smash!" 💢 faster than you can say "deep breath." 😮‍💨

The intensity is tangible, and the emotions are overwhelming. It's as if a storm cloud forms within, darkening your thoughts and clouding your judgment.

Your brain has a thing for impulsive decisions and isn’t a stickler for rules. But here’s the thing: recognizing this odd behavior is the key to keeping those unexpected bursts of anger in check.

Just that moment of awareness gives you a chance to breathe, think, and maybe, just maybe, not say that thing you'll regret later.

So, the next time you feel like your inner Hulk is about to smash, catch yourself in the act and intercept the impulse before it transforms into action.

Neurobiological Factors

Curious about the brain's inner workings? 

Inside our brain, there's a network of messengers, i.e., neurotransmitters in the science language. They are here to enable communication between neurons.

Dopamine and norepinephrine are the neurotransmitters that work together to influence and regulate our emotions, thoughts, and actions. 

In people with ADHD, these neurotransmitters tend to be lazy or just don’t do their work as they should.

While researchers are still unfolding the details of this phenomenon, one thing is clear: it profoundly affects emotional regulation.

So, in a neurotypical brain, they are here to ensure that our feelings stay balanced. However, in the ADHD brain, they occasionally take longer lunch breaks, leaving the emotions unbalanced and the tasks incomplete. 

Intensive emotions, such as anger, overwhelm the brain's ability to regulate and contain them. Understanding the biological mechanism behind the emotional turbulence will help us navigate the stormy waters ahead.

Continuous research into neurobiological factors gives us hope for addressing ADHD's emotional struggles in the future. Until then, acknowledging their role can foster patience, empathy, and self-care.

Comorbid Conditions

The ADHD and anger connection is powerful, but comorbid conditions add another layer of complexity.

ADHD often walks hand in hand with other silent yet powerful culprits: anxiety and depression. 

Coping with these combined conditions can create an even more challenging emotional experience, fueling the fire of anger within you.

For example, someone with ADHD and anxiety may be more prone to feeling overwhelmed and agitated.

Imagine always feeling on edge, thoughts racing, and fearing you're not enough. It's incredibly challenging and can push someone to the edge. 

In the face of overwhelming anxiety, anger becomes a way to cope—a reaction to a world that feels awfully daunting.

Also, depression's silent weight can be crushing for anyone, but when it intertwines with ADHD, the burden gets worse. 

It's not uncommon for frustration to mount when it feels like each step is a struggle, which can cause outbursts of anger. Individuals grappling with ADHD and depression find it almost impossible to summon the motivation and energy to tackle the day-to-day challenges.

Depression fuels anger further, making it a relentless adversary.

Make sure you recognize these comorbid conditions and give them the attention they deserve while you treat ADHD. By addressing anxiety and depression, you can make those anger-related challenges much more manageable.3

[How Impatience Leads to Anger] When Patience Wears Thin: ADHD and Anger Issues

Ever feel like your ADHD turned you into a pro-level forgetter? Or perhaps those never-ending deadlines make you feel like you’re racing against time? And ah, the timeless advice from folks around you: "Just focus!" 

Cue the boiling blood, right?

But hey, it's okay to feel angry. It's an emotion, after all. Ignoring it? Not a great plan. 

So, what's the drill when the anger volcano threatens to blow? 

First off, recognize it. 

Living with ADHD can be tricky, especially when dealing with anger. Sometimes we're frustrated and impatient, but recognizing and accepting these emotions is the first step to dealing with them.

Many of us practice some self-awareness techniques to catch those anger signals early. 

When you sense that familiar heat rising within, don't ignore it. 

Recognize it as a signal that something needs attention, just like any other symptom or challenge that ADHD presents.

Taking a moment to breathe, stepping back, and letting ourselves feel angry without judgment can be incredibly empowering. Sometimes, only the act of accepting your anger can make it disappear. 

You're managing a complex condition, so don't berate yourself for not being “normal” or “in control”. You are not defined by your anger, and it's a part of your journey. Be patient with yourself, just as you would with a dear friend facing similar struggles.

Some of us find therapy and counseling to be priceless. When you have a pro who really gets ADHD, it can turn your life around completely.

So, the next time you feel your patience wearing thin and the anger creeping in, remember you've got the power to weather the storm. 

[ADHD Aggression] When ADHD Anger in Adults Turns Into Aggression

We have learned that anger is a part of the emotional rollercoaster we ride daily. From mild annoyance to full-blown frustration, it's a spectrum we're all familiar with. 

But what happens when that anger takes a dark turn and becomes aggression?

We're not talking only about throwing punches or breaking stuff; aggression means having the immediate urge to cause harm – to yourself, others, or even objects.4 

No matter how you slice it, it's not a healthy response.

Our ADHD-driven aggression may result from frustration, a provocative comment, or excessive stress.

Ever wondered why this happens?

Experts think our brains might be trying to dodge those not-so-fun feelings of anger or hurt by chucking them out through aggression.5

However, aggression does not always reflect impulsive behavior.

Sometimes, it is a calculated move to achieve a desired outcome. Both types can happen to anyone, but impulsive aggression is a frequent visitor in the ADHD realm.

Studies have spilled the beans – adults with ADHD, especially those with hyperactivity and impulsiveness, might be more prone to self-injury or throwing around some nasty words.6

Aggression isn't solely about physical behaviors. Words can cut as deeply as actions.

Don't brave it alone! If you're contending with ongoing ADHD symptoms like irritability, anger, or aggression, reach out to a healthcare provider who can offer the help you need. Seriously, they’ve got the know-how to help you tackle this stuff. 7,8

Or, if you're feeling up for it, why not try out some of the techniques we're about to throw your way?

[Tips & Tricks] Anger and ADHD: Tips and Coping Mechanisms

Let's list a few ADHD-friendly coping mechanisms that could help you remain cool under the most frustrating circumstances.

Embrace the Power of Routine

Establishing a daily routine can work wonders for managing anger. 

Set specific times for tasks, breaks, and meals to reduce stress and frustration. However, don’t forget that you have ADHD, which means you will also need some flexibility. Especially because we’re not so good at estimating how much time we need for specific tasks.

Are you estimating a 20-minute timeframe for this task? Give yourself at least 30 minutes for it. 

Estimated time: 1

ADHD time: 1.5

With this technique, you’ll be less stressed and less in a hurry.

Timers & Alarms: Your ADHD BFFs

Use timers, alarms, or smartphone apps to help you stay on track. 

And hey, about that 'I don’t need to write it down' thought? Spoiler alert: you do. 

Save yourself from the frustration of forgetting things by setting up reminders. Your future self will thank you!

Mindfulness & Meditation

Mindfulness means being in the moment. You observe your thoughts and feelings without passing judgment. 

It helps people with ADHD become more aware of what triggers their emotions. When you start feeling angry, mindfulness can help you step back to observe it, creating a vital pause between your emotion and your reaction. 

This pause is where your strength lies — it's when you can choose how to respond rather than react impulsively.

Practicing practicing can help you develop mindfulness in a more structured way. 

Just to be clear, regular meditation practice doesn’t mean emptying your mind of all thoughts; you simply acknowledge them and bring your attention back to your breath.7

Reminder: Inhale the good vibes, exhale the bad ones.

Channel Your Energy

ADHD often comes with a surplus of energy. Exercise or take up a hobby that helps you release pent-up frustration. The following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Punching a bag (like it owes you some serious money)
  • Going for a run (and letting your frustrations eat your dust)
  • Painting (splash those colors like you're painting your anger away)
  • Swimming (because yelling underwater is totally acceptable)
  • Baking (the sweetest way to deal with bitterness)
  • Gardening (plant your frustrations and watch them grow into beautiful flowers)
  • Dance it out (spin it around, twirl it out, and let it go)
  • Loud singing in the shower (warning: neighbors might join in if you're too good!)
  • Build a pillow fort (even your frustrations will ask for the password to enter)

Remember, these activities are not just ways to release frustration; they're your arsenal against stress. So, pick one (or all) and let the frustration-melting fun begin!

[Numo: ADHD App] Numo: The Importance of a Supportive Environment

When ADHD triggers anger, having a support network is invaluable. Friends and family, equipped with empathy, play a crucial role. But if you don’t have that, you can find it at the Numo ADHD app.

At Numo, we get it; we're ADHDers too! That's precisely why we've built this space just for us, by us.

But guess what? Numo is not just for handling those ADHD-induced bouts of anger. It's your all-in-one destination for anything related to ADHD, and we've got a treasure trove of tips to assist you:

  • Planning and organization: Things can quickly go off the rails. Being familiar with those "Uh-oh, I forgot!" moments, Numo's got your back with smart planning and organization tools. Say goodbye to last-minute chaos, and hello to a calmer you!
  • Relaxing and staying focused: Have you ever felt like the world is too much to handle? Our static noise generator is like a comforting friend. It'll help you find your zen place when everything feels like it's spiraling out of control.
  • Coping with ADHD symptoms: We've got a treasure trove of wisdom in our knowledge library. Think of it as your stash of cool short stories filled with coping mechanisms and life hacks. It's like a cheat code to make ADHD life more manageable and enjoyable.

So, if you're thinking, "Hey, this Numo thing sounds like a good deal," we're here to tell you it absolutely is! 

Join our ADHD tribe, and let's conquer life together. We've got your back, and we promise it'll be a wild, fun, and, most importantly, ADHD-friendly ride. 🎉

[Conclusion] Summing Up

Now, let's summarize what we've learned today:

  • We’ve been sleuthing around the connection between ADHD and anger. Turns out those quirks of ADHD can brew up some frustration and irritability.
  • ADHD isn't just a childhood buddy; it’s the friend that sticks around into adulthood, bringing its own challenges.
  • Adults dealing with ADHD often find themselves wrestling with impulsive decisions, emotional dysregulation, and other tag-along conditions, all of which can contribute to anger issues.

But here’s the good news:

  • Seeking help and support is a crucial step. Don't hesitate to seek help from healthcare professionals or ADHD specialists who can provide tailored guidance.
  • Managing anger with ADHD is possible. By embracing routines, using timers and alarms as your ADHD best friends, practicing mindfulness, and channeling your energy into productive outlets, you can regain control.

Remember, armed with the right tools and surrounded by a squad of supporters, you can conquer anger and rock this ADHD journey. 

Life’s an adventure, and you have all it takes to make it fabulous!

[Sources] Sources

1 National Library of Medicine: Emotion dysregulation in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analysis
2 National Library of Medicine: Adult ADHD and comorbid disorders: clinical implications of a dimensional approach
3 National Library of Medicine: Impulsive Aggression as a Comorbidity of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents
4 National Library of Medicine: Understanding clinical anger and violence: the anger avoidance model 
5 National Library of Medicine: Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Violence in the Population of England: Does Comorbidity Matter?
6 The Huberman Lab Podcast: Understanding & Controlling Aggression | Huberman Lab Podcast #71
7 Hindawi: Behavioral and Cognitive Impacts of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review
8 Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: The Status of Irritability in Psychiatry: A Conceptual and Quantitative Review

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