Emotional Control and Attention Deficit Disorder

Emotional Control and Attention Deficit Disorder
Have you ever known somebody who seems to get angry at the smallest provocation? If everything isn’t going their way, they get mad. Suddenly, they are screaming, throwing things, cursing at their loved ones, and kicking walls. Why? They couldn’t get a jar to open. Or maybe, they can’t find a shoe. It doesn’t take much in their everyday life to send them into a rage. When people talk about this person’s children, tantrums are one of the first things mentioned. Is it nature or nurture? Why are so many people in that particular family angry? What does Attention Deficit Disorder have to do with this problem?

Attention Deficit Disorder comes with a multitude of joys and pains. When you need a lot of energy or creativity, ADD can be your best friend. Persistence to completing a task is also helpful. Problem solving in ways that other people without ADD can’t completely understand is a blessing when you have a difficult dilemma in front of you. In addition, people with Attention Deficit Disorder are often friendly and outgoing. There is also a down-side to having ADD. Episodes of rage sometimes occur with ADD/ADHD.

These occurrences of rage can happen at any time. Minor frustrations become towering tantrums. These people are chronically impatient. They need their desires satisfied immediately, or they fly into a rage state. Anxiety is a life-partner for them. We have all known people like this. A lot of the time most of the people in their family exhibit the same rage reaction to the everyday frustrations of life. Why does this happen?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that this labile emotional state, coupled with ADHD, tends to run in families. This overreaction to life’s crises is known as DESR. Deficient emotional self-regulation was found to be more prevalent in siblings of people who had already received a diagnosis for ADHD and DESR. Not every person with ADD/ADHD will have DESR. However, if a sibling has it, a person is at greater risk for having this type of trouble coping with day-to-day frustrations. This research, conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, suggests that the emotional disregulation might be inherited and has a biological component. More studies need to be done to identify the most effective treatments to help people with ADD/ADHD and DESR avoid the problems associated with out of control behavior.

People with ADD/ADHD and DESR don’t want to be raging and out of control. In many cases where people are volatile, it’s not just bad behavior, it’s biology at work. DESR, deficient emotional self-regulation, can be one component of Attention Deficit Disorder. However, biology is not destiny. With interventions, which may include medication, strategies that relieve stress, and learning effective coping skills, there is hope for people who suffer from this type of mood disregulation.


Massachusetts General Hospital (2011, May 6). Combination of ADHD and poor emotional control runs in families, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 7, 2011, from https://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/05/110505103341.htm

I have had many people ask me about biofeedback for ADD/ADHD. If you are interested in this treatment, here is a place to start your journey.

ADD: The 20-Hour Solution

This book is highly recommended for working with children who need help regulating emotions. However, the strategies could just as easily apply to adults.

Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Impacts ADD
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