- Emotion Worksheet
- Scholarly article on emotional dysregulation and ADHD
- Watch this video of Dr. Barkley talking about deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR)
- Interesting ADDititude Magazine article on “Why Am I So Emotional?”
- WebMD: Study Shows Many With ADHD Cannot Control Emotions
- Watch this video by How To ADHD on Emotional Dysregulation
- Here’s the article I referenced in the episode: Coping with Heightened Emotions When You Have ADHD
- Fascinating paper by Dr. Russell Barkley on ADHD and DESR (disorder of emotional-regulation)
[00:00:00] Welcome to the I Have ADHD Podcast where it’s all about education, encouragement, and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carder and I have ADHD.
Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor, and challenges of adulting, relationships, working, and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain, unlock your potential and move from “point a to point b.”
Hello! Hello, and welcome. You’re listening to the I Have ADHD Podcast, episode number nine. I’m so pumped! You guys, I’m almost to double digits and honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever get there! This has been such a difficult process of learning [00:01:00] how to record and edit and publish and post and all of those things with this podcast and we’re almost at double digits. So, I feel like we made it. You know? I feel like we really made it. I’m really pumped. Thank you for tuning in for listening today. We are going to talk emotions in this episode and it has been really, really difficult for me to prepare. So many of my Instagram friends have reached out to say that emotions are a huge part of their struggle.
If you’re on Instagram, I would love to connect with you. You can find me at, I have ADHD podcast. Anyway, I’m really feeling the weight of how important this episode is talking about emotions. But before we get to the content today, I wanted to re read the review of the week. This review comes from a sweet, sweet girl named Laura heavier.
She [00:02:00] says, I’m not an adult quite yet. I’m a teenager, but I still find this podcast entertaining, interesting and informative. This is actually the first podcast I’ve ever listened to. And she’s so funny and relatable. Everything is so easy to understand, thanks to the way that she explains. And for the first time in my.
I finally understand so many parts of me and they are a result of ADHD. The tips she gives are very useful. And what I enjoy the most is that they are not the typical ones that we already know about. 100% recommend Laura, if you’re listening right now, Thank you so much. That was so kind thank you for taking the time and effort and energy to rate and review and write all of those kind words.
I know it’s such an effort, but you guys, it means so much to me. I have shared this and I am not going to stop saying it. It is hard. To do this podcast, there are [00:03:00] 700 steps involved and it’s very, very taxing, but to get your ratings and your reviews, and to know that it’s making a difference in your life has been so rewarding for me.
I love it. When you DM me on Instagram, I love it. When you. Comment in the Facebook group. And I love it when you rate and review the podcast. All of that makes me just say, I’m going to keep going. Cause this is really, really fun. So let’s chat about emotions in my own. My tendency toward frustration and outbursts and emotional impulsivity has really been a strain on my relationships, especially with my husband and my children.
I can remember when my first born son was just a toddler with a sippy cup. I got so angry at how much he was crying and yelling and throwing up. Toddler temper tantrum that I screamed, [00:04:00] picked up his sippy cup and threw it across the room so hard that it broke. It was the first time that I saw fear on my child’s face.
I was so ashamed of myself that I’ve actually never told anyone about it. How is it that a grown woman, especially a person of faith would lose control like that? No, I’m not someone who’s especially emotional, I’m assertive and aggressive. And I can make very analytical decisions. If you know about the Enneagram, I’m an eight, which means I’m in the body center.
I lead from my gut instinct instead of my emotions. My point is that I don’t actually spend a whole lot of time feeling things that being said, I’m definitely prone to outbursts. I’m married the most emotionally stable man on the planet. He’s patient and methodical. And he takes his time to work through his emotions and feelings [00:05:00] in his mind before he expresses them outwardly he’s basically my complete opposite.
And I’ve spent most of our marriage feeling like I was deficient in this area. And rightfully so when I feel an emotion like anger or frustration or impatience, I express it before I think about it. I don’t stop to consider how this may make him feel or how it may make my kids feel or whether or not it’s productive to the conversation or helping my goal of getting to work on time or getting to bed or finishing a meal.
When we were first married, it seemed like we couldn’t have an argument without it becoming about me and how I was expressing myself. Even if we were originally talking about something that he was doing, that was. Maybe needed to be tweaked, maybe something that he needed to be [00:06:00] doing differently. I always ended up saying something impulsively or rude or expressing an inappropriate amount of frustration.
And the argument would inevitably take a turn toward fighting about my behavior and my expression of emotions. I wish I had known then what I know now, if I had known how to understand my brain and educate my husband so that he could understand my brain, we would have been able to come up with some workable steps to fight productively and from a place of understanding.
You guys, this is why I’m spending so much time and effort on this podcast and website and all the things I want to scream to the world. That ADHD is so much more than just impulsivity and lack of attention. I want you to really understand that your inability [00:07:00] to react appropriately is actually a deficit in your brain’s ability to regulate your response to emotion.
Understanding, this will change so much for you as you interact with the people you love. Now, we’re going to spend some time talking about the brain and science, but I want to tell you that I’m going to keep it pretty surfacing during this podcast. I know that with your ADHD, there’s no way that you’re going to be able to listen to me, drone on and on about the different areas of the brain and their roles and all the nitty-gritty stuff.
That’s why for the first time I’m actually going to be adding additional resources in the show notes of this podcast. Now some podcasters write show notes, every single episode, but we both know that because of my ADHD, I’d rather drive daggers into my eyes. Then write detailed show notes every week.
That being said, this is a [00:08:00] really important episode and I’m citing a lot of different sources and I’m hoping that you will find it so valuable that you’ll share it with your partner or your spouse or your child, or your parent, or your best friend, you know, all those people in your life that you hurt over and over because of your emotional outbursts.
I know that typical brains will want. Some scholarly evidence for what I’m saying. So if you go to, I have adhd.com/emotions, you’ll find about 10 links to different articles and videos and medical journals detailing the role of explosive emotions in ADHD. And I’ve used all of them in my research for this podcast episode today, let me start off by giving you a brief summary.
It’s scientifically proven and now widely accepted by the medical community that explosive uninhibited, [00:09:00] unregulated emotions are a key defining factor of adult ADHD. So let’s get start. All humans feel emotions. Our limbic system is the part of the brain where emotion comes from. Yes, that’s right. Please understand your emotions.
Come from your brain. This is so important for all of us to understand, because we don’t feel emotions in our brains. Dewey. We feel emotions as vibration in our bodies. And so we often forget that emotions come from the brain. But it does emotion comes from your brain, the limbic system to be exact. Now the anterior single it is basically the gatekeeper of our emotions.
It’s the dam that keeps the floodgate of emotions at bay. If you’re looking at the brain from the top down, the anterior cingulate is [00:10:00] located directly on the top center. As you feel an emotion from the limbic system, the anterior cingulate allows you to think about that emotion and consider what’s going to happen and how it will affect you.
If you act in a certain way, it allows you to consider if you want to express that emotion on the outside of your body, or if you’d rather keep it on the inside. The anterior cingulate buys you time and allows you to execute behavior that is in your. Interest in the term, not just in the heat of the moment, unfortunately for us.
And I think you probably know where I’m going with this. The anterior cingulate is actually smaller and people with ADHD and even more, unfortunately, brain imaging has shown that the anterior cingulate does not activate in adults with ADHD. Think [00:11:00] about it like this, the limbic system is a river or lake or pool of emotions that all humans feel.
And as a human with ADHD, you feel normal emotions. Now the anterior cingulate is the dam that holds those emotions back so that the human can consider whether or not it’s in their best interest to express the emotions, swimming around in the limbic system. A typical human has a fully functioning anterior cingulate, which means that they can experience a feeling from the limbic system, but hold it back to a socially appropriate level for whatever context they’re in.
You however, as a human with an ADHD brain, feel all those same normal emotions from the limbic system, but your dam is non-existent. You have no mechanism to hold your emotion back, to give you [00:12:00] time to consider whether or not it’s appropriate to express that emotion in the context in which you find your.
This means that we will experience emotional impulsivity, low frustration tolerance, impatience, and we will show emotion more easily and more raw and very unmoderated. Just an aside here, this does not mean that people with ADHD have a mood disorder. A mood disorder is when the limbic system is over expressing emotions.
ADHD is not a mood disorder. It’s a disorder in the ability to regulate normal mood. Everyone feels emotion. People with ADHD, feel emotion. People with ADHD do not have a functioning anterior cingulate, which controls the emotions. [00:13:00] This means that as a person with ADHD, it’s perfectly normal. Maybe we should even say that it is expected that you would be emotionally impulsive.
It’s been scientifically proven that you do not have the ability to stop. Think about self sooth, calm down, and regulate your own emotion. So what does emotional impulsivity look like? Let’s put it in the context of me throwing my sweet, innocent, adorable toddler, sippy cup across the room while screaming a primal scream of rage.
A typical human gets upset, frustrated, flustered, and angry. When a toddler throws an hour long temper tantrum feeling feelings of frustration and anger are very normal in this situation. As someone with ADHD, I was not feeling an [00:14:00] abnormal emotion. I was feeling normal emotion. However, a typical human has a fully functioning anterior cingulate, which allows them to hold that emotion back while they think about the situation.
A typical human would be able to feel that feeling and yet keep it inside his own box. A typical human would feel those normal emotions of anger, frustration, and exasperates exasperations and know that if she were to react harshly, she could scare her child. And that’s not a good idea. As a woman with ADHD, I felt a normal feeling, but had no impulse control when it came to expressing how I was feeling, I felt the.
And then it exploded out of me like a volcano, as soon as I did it, I knew it was a mistake, but I didn’t have the luxury of realizing it was going to [00:15:00] be a mistake before doing it in 17 years of being with my husband. I’m finally learning some restraint, but only because I’ve damaged our relationship so many times.
I forced myself to hold my emotions at bay and think before. I speak, willing myself to be my own anterior cingulate, but just the other night, literally two days ago, I totally exploded on him for some pretty small annoyances. It was like we had reverted back to the early days of our marriage. I totally flipped out the situation escalated from zero to 60 in about two seconds.
And he was left, basically dumbfounded. I was feeling normal emotion. I was feeling hurt and annoyed, but I expressed it so extremely inappropriately that once again, the conversation turned to my behavior rather [00:16:00] than what I originally wanted to talk about. This is so frustrating, it’s not productive. And it seems like an endless cycle, a trap that we can never get out of.
Some psychologists call it emotional dysregulation, others call it deficient emotional self-regulation or D E S R whatever you want to call it. It totally sucks. If you find that you struggle to sensor your emotions, you’re not alone. This is very common in all of us with ADHD. It can be exacerbated by a lot of normal things in our lives, like stress and interruptions and PMs.
So what do we do? I mean, we’re basically screwed, right? The first thing we need to do is take responsibility for ourselves and our actions and our explosions. ADHD is not an excuse. It’s an explanation. Our anterior [00:17:00] cingulate does not regulate our limbic system. So we don’t have the dam that holds normal emotions back so that we can consider whether or not it’s productive to express.
That is an explanation, but we are still grown adults who must come to terms with the fact that mental health condition or not. We are responsible for our actions. Many adults with ADHD end up in prison because of their impulsive actions and emotions. Many adults with ADHD end up divorced because of their impulsive actions and emotions, and many adults with ADHD end up unemployed because of their impulsive actions and emotions.
There’s no getting out of it. There are consequences for our actions and our impulsive emotions. Now we’re going to discuss some tips from an article that I found on psych central.com. But first, I’m going to give you my [00:18:00] top three tips for dealing with our impulsive emotions and our interior singlets, inability to regulate our limbic system.
But first I want you to know that I am no expert in this area. I am a work in progress. I do not have it all together. I actually had ironically, a really emotionally explosive day and evening. I’m actually recording this at nine 15 at night because I just could not finish it today. And so part of the fact that I was explosive today was just dealing with the stress of knowing this is hanging over my head and I really want to publish a podcast every single Thursday.
Even if it’s right under the wire of 12:00 AM Friday morning, today was a tough day and I probably did not treat the people in my life the way that they [00:19:00] deserve to be treated. So know that this episode is for me just as much as it is for you. So here are three things that I have found to be really helpful.
Number one. You need to be treated for your ADHD. I need to be treated for my ADHD. There’s no way around it. We must be treated. Now. I’m not going to tell you what treatment to seek that’s between you and your doctor or psychiatrist or natural path, but you must be treating it somehow. Not treating your ADHD is not an option.
If you want to learn to manage your emotional impulses. Number two, you must begin to educate your loved ones about your deficiencies. If the people that you love don’t know that emotional impulsivity and emotional dysregulation and explosive outbursts are caused by [00:20:00] your ADHD brain, they will simply think that you’re rude and selfish and there’ll be a lot of tension and very little understanding.
Remember, you’re an adult. There is no one who’s going to advocate for you. You must begin to educate yourself and gain a deeper and deeper understanding of your ADHD so that you can help your loved ones to understand what’s going on inside of you. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of skepticism about adult ADHD.
That means that you’re going to have to give your typical brain loved ones, scientific and scholarly evidence. Share this podcast with them, send them to, I have adhd.com/emotion so that they can read the sources that I used for this episode. There will be very little understanding and very little peace until you and your loved ones begin to understand the true implications of [00:21:00] all that ADHD entails.
Number three is right along with number two. You must begin to say things out loud as you’re experiencing them. Name your emotions. When you get super angry, say I’m getting really angry. And I feel like I want to explode. I’ve started doing this with my children. And usually it’s really helpful. You guys know that I have three kids.
They’re boys, they’re loud. They’re rambunctious. They never stop moving. They never stopped talking. They never stopped touching each other and everything around them. They fight all the time. I love them so much. I would die for them in a heartbeat. But all of the interruptions and noise and chaos makes my brain want to erupt the fact that I don’t have a functioning anterior cingulate to hold my anger, frustration and exasperation, which are all normal [00:22:00] emotions at bay is really difficult when it comes to parenting.
So I’ve been saying what I’m feeling out loud. I say things like you guys, I’m getting really. I feel like I’m about to explode. I need a timeout or you guys I’m getting really aggravated and I need you to go away from me before I explode. Now this is not foolproof. My kids are little. They don’t really get it.
They don’t really understand. And more times than not, I do explode. I yell. I tell them to go to their rooms or just try to diffuse the situation. I have a low tolerance for chaos, for the fighting and for the constant interruptions. That just is what it is. I’m doing my best. I’m trying to be the mother that they need.
And I’m also trying to be the human that I am. I don’t want to fake it. I wish I could fake it actually, but I can’t, I can’t fake being this peaceful [00:23:00] demure, always gentle mother. I’m just not that person. So how do I deal with the aggression and the frustration and the anger that comes from trying to kind of manage the chaos in the home?
Well, it comes with educating those around. And making sure that I’m naming the emotions that I’m feeling. Okay. So let’s get some expert advice. I found this great article on psych central.com and it is written by Tara Tartikoff ski. I hope I’m saying that right. And it’s a great article. All about coping with heightened emotions.
When you have ADHD, of course, I will link to it in the show notes. I feel so fancy saying show notes, please don’t ever expect that from me again, but I will link to this in the show notes because I am super fancy this time around. Um, I am not going to give you [00:24:00] all of her suggestions, but I will give you a couple of them.
I know that we can only handle a few at a time. So here are the ones that I think are the. If we want to manage our explosiveness, our tendency toward frustration, aggression, and anger, we need to make sure that we know ourselves. We need to make sure that we understand the situations that stress us out the most.
We need to make sure that we’re not putting ourselves in situations to get all worked up. A good example of this. I should definitely stay off of all social media platforms during election season. I can not. Help, but get really fired up over politics. I wish I didn’t care. I wish I could just read scholarly, not scholarly, but just like news articles.
Um, and not get upset and mad and frustrated, but listen, it is who I [00:25:00] am. I should definitely stay off Facebook and Instagram during election cycle. I know this about myself when I do not listen to this part of me that says, Hey, you shouldn’t be on social media right now. I fall into the trap of getting really upset, emotionally, explosive, angry, and then I inevitably take it out on the people that I love.
Cause those are the people that I feel comfortable expressing. So know yourself, know the situations that you really should avoid. And if you don’t have the willpower to set up a boundary in that area, ask your spouse, your partner, your friend, your mom, someone to help you set up a boundary so that you’re not constantly putting yourself in a situation to get upset, frustrated, angry, aggressive.
The next one is be clear about interruptions. This is a big one for me. [00:26:00] She says many adults with ADHD can hyper-focus on a project, but disruptions can spark anger. That’s because transitioning from one activity to another is tough. This causes so much stress and frustration. And unfortunately the outcome is often a lashing out.
The next one is something you guys all know that I suck at. Exercise. Exercise is key for adults with ADHD. It’s a boring piece of advice, but it’s true. Exercise will help regulate mood and take the edge off. Find physical activities that you enjoy doing. Since it’s winter in Pennsylvania, I am hard pressed to find physical activities that I enjoy doing because I hate being cold, but let’s move on.
Practice self-soothing techniques. You can practice deep breathing, being mindful of the moments that you’re stressed or revved up. [00:27:00] And some research has even found that meditation is helpful for managing ADHD symptoms, including regulating mood. Now, Dr. Barkley, this is an aside. Dr Barkley. Um, I was reading one of his papers and he had a really interesting technique that I thought was pretty cool.
He said, if you’re in a situation like a meeting, that’s really getting you fired up that, you know, you can’t escape from you. Can’t get out of try focusing your attention on something else in the room. Like count the lights or count the ceiling tiles, or, you know, count the floor patterns on the rug or something like that that will help you to kind of disengage a little bit, because we don’t really have that ability to set up a barrier.
Remember our anterior cingulate, which is the dam that holds back the emotions that we should be regulating. It does not work properly. So if we can find a way [00:28:00] where when we’re in a situation where it’s really inappropriate to express extreme emotion, find a way to think about something else, get your focus off of that thing that is making you stressed out or exasperated or mad or angry so that you don’t explode and in an inappropriate way.
And the last thing from this article that I want to discuss is you may want to see your doctor about a medication change. If you find yourself exploding regularly, this may not be a typical scenario. You may want to check in with your doctor or your psychiatrist or your natural path and say, Hey, I think I know that.
Explosive emotions are a part of ADHD, but I feel like I’m doing it more often than, as even typical for an ADHD brain. So can we talk about maybe some anxiety or some [00:29:00] depression or some mood disorder? Again, ADHD is not a mood disorder, but it’s often co-morbid with depression, anxiety. Mood disorder, personality disorders, all of those other things.
So it would be a really productive conversation to have with your doctor, a psychiatrist or naturopath to say, Hey, I think there might be something more at play. That would be a wonderful, wonderful conversation for you to have the last thing I want you to think about is this. No one is perfect. No one has it all together.
I know it’s really easy to look around and say, Everyone else has their stuff together, but I don’t, I am flawed. I have this issue with emotional regulation and there’s something wrong with me and you know what? We’re all flawed in our own ways. This just happens to be our cross to bear. Don’t you [00:30:00] dare feel like a victim.
You’re not a victim. You’re a Victor. You can figure out a way to deal with your ADHD. You can figure out a way to manage your emotional dysregulation. You can figure out a way to educate your loved ones so that there’s a level of understanding and love and peace and acceptance with the way that you’re acting and reacting.
But that is your responsibility. Remember your, the adult, no one is going to advocate for you. It’s your job to make sure that you’re educated, that you understand all the different facets of ADHD and that you’re educating the people around you, because there is so much misunderstanding and ignorance around this subject.
Listen, I believe in you, you can do this. Okay. Take a deep breath. And know that your mental health is worth fighting for make sure that you share this episode with other people that have [00:31:00] ADHD, make sure that you share this episode with your partner, your spouse, your best friend, your mom, your kids, the people who need to really understand how difficult it is to survive and thrive with this difficult disorder.
You can do it. I love it. Can’t wait to talk to you again next week. If you enjoyed this episode, let me know. Seriously. I’m totally serious. I need a major dopamine hit after the 12 hours that it took me to record this darn episode. So please take a screenshot of this episode and post it to your social.
Let everyone know about the. Connection between emotions and ADHD tag me. I have ADHD podcasts. I would absolutely love to repost and give you a shout out and listen, if you rate and review this podcast, I would be so, so, so grateful. Thank you for listening. I appreciate you so much. I [00:32:00] feel like the community that we’re creating is a really.
And I can’t wait to talk to you next week. Hey, I wanted to pop in here just for a second to let you know that this episode is brought to you by my brand new website. I have adhd.com. I designed this site for adults, with ADHD who feel a little lost and are looking for some direction. On it, you’ll find free resources, a link to my Facebook community and a roadmap to help you move from point a to point B.
Remember I’m not a doctor psychologist or a psychiatrist. I’m just a person with ADHD who has figured out how to achieve my goals and live successfully with this disorder. And I’m convinced that you can too, so make sure to check out I have adhd.com.