Emotional dysregulation is a significant hallmark of ADHD. If you have ADHD, you experience emotions, just like another person. However, emotions may be more intense than other people and may also last longer and occur more frequently.
Research suggests that the difficulty self-regulate in cognitive functions also applies to emotions. As such, if you have ADHD, you may be prone to suffering from depression, psychological distress, and also struggle to place emotions in context.
The emotional dysregulation may lead to problems with families, friends, and seniors. You may also struggle to cope with regret, loss, and frustration. Learning how to regulate emotions while living with ADHD is, therefore, important.
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Emotions for People with ADHD
Emotions are signals for your body. You go through different situations that trigger different emotional responses and, consequently, different reactions. The triggers can be external, such as another person commenting on your shoes, or internal, such as you judging your performance. The emotional response to a situation can vary depending on how much attention you give.
If a situation is important to you, you may react severely to it, but if it’s not, you can ignore it. The intensity and duration of the emotion largely depend on your ability to self-regulate. Factors such as depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, stress, and habits also affect how you react.
Sometimes, when triggered, you may activate the fight or flight mechanism. This is a protective mechanism that kicks in when you are in danger. In that state, your blood pressure and heart rate rise rapidly, glucose moves to the muscles and heart, the muscles get tense and non-essential functions such as digestion and immunity stop. These are only physical manifestations of what is happening psychologically.
Over a long period of going through similar physical and emotional reactions every day, you may slip into depression and anxiety. When experiencing negative emotions, it’s not easy to create healthy interpersonal and social relationships. It’s essential to learn self-regulatory skills to control emotions.
Learning how to regulate stress is essential for anyone with ADHD. This is because stress triggers other ADHD symptoms by making changes to the brain. It’s impossible to experience a life without stress, but with the right skills, you can maintain stress to a certain level.
You can achieve this by regulating the number of stressful situations you handle every day. Delegating activities at work and home is one way to reduce stress. It’s also helpful to take time and try to think about your reaction to a situation. By practicing being mindful, you may realize that you’re overthinking a situation.
Planning and organizing activities for each day, depending on their urgency, can help regulate your life and, in turn, keep stress away. By knowing that you have time spaced out for most activities, you can avoid stress caused by forgetfulness.
Seek Social Support
Support from friends and family is vital for mental health. A person you can trust to help out when things are tough is a great way to regulate emotions. They can listen to you and also offer a solution to the problem. However, socializing doesn’t have to be through talking therapy. You can play together, take trips, hike or sing together.
Diets that are high in processed sugar cause rapid spikes in your blood sugar, which results in emotional mood swings. Avoiding processed foods and eating for whole foods, fresh fruits, whole grains, legumes, plain yogurt, and fermented foods work better for your body, and improves your emotional regulation.
Besides minding what you eat, you should also watch when you eat. It’s important to have regular meals to ensure that you have a steady boost of energy. Drinking water, not skipping meals, and exercising regularly also helps with emotional regulation.
Undergoing different types of therapy treatments can help you deal with interpersonal relationships and find practical solutions for emotional problems. By talking about problems with therapists, you can find a suitable solution that you can work towards. When you have a more practical approach to social interactions and emotions, you can try to regulate yourself.
Treating ADHD through medication can also help regulate emotions. Amphetamines and methylphenidate prove beneficial for emotional regulation by boosting dopamine levels, which helps with motivation, attention, and movement. Usually, ADHD medication regulates ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity. When impulsivity is under control, it becomes easier to control emotions and avoid shifting from one emotion to another suddenly. Being attentive can also help you consider your thoughts and actions. However, the medication isn’t an automatic cure, and alternative forms of treatment may help more with emotional regulation.
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