Emotional Rollercoaster of ADHD
Do you and your child feel as if you never know what emotion will come next?
Do not worry. You are not alone.
Frequently children’s meltdowns will improve with medication treatment of ADHD, however, having difficulty regulating emotional responses may still cause distress to you and your child.
We have medications to address the inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity of ADHD but emotional issues are another story.
> 30% of adolescents and adults with ADHD list their emotional instability as the most impairing aspect of their ADHD
Some of the common expressions of the emotional rollercoaster:
- Flash temper
- Low frustration tolerance
- Being easily overwhelmed by emotions
- Feeling the pain of others, but also can be unaware of the emotions of others
- Exquisite sensitivity to rejection and criticism
- Feelings of hopelessness
The ADHD brain has a hard time regulating emotion because it struggles to distinguish between dangerous threats and minor problems.
This leads to:
- Panic over relatively small challenges
- Hyperarousal and hypervigilance
- Lack of feeling at peace
- Mind feeling as if it is going 100 mph until exhaustion
A child with ADHD hears 20,000 additional critical or corrective messages before his/her twelfth birthday and therefore:
- Most grow up with the feeling that they are uncool, unwanted, defective, and incompetent
- People with ADHD are “the last picked and first picked on”
- The resulting shame and guilt often negate positive feedback and the formation of a positive self-image
Sometimes the negative self-image also includes:
- An extreme emotional sensitivity and emotional pain triggered by feeling: – rejected – teased – criticized – and having disappointed important people in their lives
- If this emotional response is internalized, it looks like major depression.
- If the response is externalized, it manifests as a rage at the person or situation that wounded them
- 50% of people who are court-mandated for anger management treatment have previously unrecognized ADHD
So if this describes you or your child, what should you do?
- Please speak with your doctor about your concerns
- Options to help with the emotional rollercoaster are available
- non-medication options
- medication options
- Recognize that parenting a child with ADHD is challenging and especially challenging if that child has significant emotional distress
- Remember to really LOOK for the positives and give compliments on good behaviors whenever possible-CATCH YOUR CHILD BEING GOOD
- For example, compliment your child on not crying if you say no to a request
- Or tell your child thank you for not fighting with their sibling for the last 10 minutes
- Or tell your child you are proud of their coloring, writing, completing a homework assignment etc.
- Children who have negative self-images will find it hard to accept compliments but will eventually believe that you “mean it” if you continue to find positives and give honest compliments for behaviors that you value
- Children will seek attention whether it is for good or bad behaviors
- If you give more attention to good behaviors, then more good behaviors will occur
- If you give more attention to bad behaviors, then more bad behaviors will occur
- When your child escalates the drama and continues to push your buttons, show your child how to “not fight”, “remain calm”, and “walk away” (You can do this!! But it is really hard)
- Try not to “engage” with your child when your child is angry, yelling, and in the middle of a tantrum. They cannot hear you anyway.
- Give yourself and your child a “time-out” to calm down
- When you and your child are both calm, revisit the issue in a rational way with a quiet voice