ADHD + Emotions | Part 1

Anxiety. Shame. Fear. Sadness. Anger. Joy. These are some of the emotions that make us human.

So why do we hide from them? Why do we deny ourselves the basic human right to feel? Why do we sweep our emotions under the rug or stuff them so far deep inside of us that our humanity becomes hidden?

Emotions aren’t easy to talk about. And by “talk” I mean speak out loud in the presence of another person. It’s hard to share our vulnerabilities, especially if we have worked hard to keep them hidden or have avoided our emotions because they just feel too big to unveil. But as I often tell my clients (and myself) --- if you truly want to grow and learn more about yourself so that you can function better in your life or relationships or at work or in school, IT GETS HARDER BEFORE IT GETS BETTER. The good news is you don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. You just have to begin.

For adults with ADHD, years of personal and academic struggle often lead to a way of coping with emotions that can contribute to even greater struggles with mental health and even physical health. What is more, ADHD affects the brain in a way that makes it difficult to regulate emotion. When it comes to ADHD, emotion plays a big role and if mismanaged or dealt with in an unhealthy way it can lead to difficulties with depression, anxiety, anger management, and more. 

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear someone say “I have ADHD”? Chances are you probably aren’t thinking, “That person must be depressed” or “Wow, I bet they are super anxious.” Our cultural understanding of ADHD has to do with having trouble in school or not being able to pay attention. There are some who don’t even believe ADHD is real, that it is a result of poor parenting or over stimulation from constant exposure technology. Sure, those things can play a role in the life of someone who has ADHD but there is so much more to it than that, not the least of which is the emotional impact that ADHD can have on mood, relationships, sense of identity, self-worth...the list goes on. When it comes to ADHD, emotion can have a huge impact.

I think it’s important and necessary to have a conversation about the emotional impact of ADHD. There are TONS of articles and blogs and books out there that help adults with ADHD organize their life, manage their time, or maintain focus. I want to talk about how individuals with ADHD can reach a place of emotional health and wellness, where shame and sadness have a space to be expressed and anger is allowed to be processed in order to get at the pain that may lie beneath it. I want to create a place where we address the importance of understanding how problems with emotional regulation affect individuals with ADHD and how the ADHD brain works when it comes to emotions. Shame, sadness, anger, anxiety, and joy are just a few of the emotions that are commonly experienced in the life of someone who has ADHD. I want to illuminate these and other related emotions so that people don’t have to hide from them anymore; so we understand that feeling shame about having ADHD is common and you are not alone. The impact that sadness and anxiety can have on one’s life is real. There are ways to address this and cope with the effect. Support for people with ADHD is more than coaching or apps on your phone that help you remember stuff. I believe that exploring and processing the emotional impact of ADHD is critical to growth, personal healing, and thriving.

This is the first in a series of four blog posts that will concentrate on the emotional impact of ADHD in adults. As a clinician, I have a strong passion for allowing others space to speak about shame and uncover painful emotions that we often hide from or ignore for the sake of coping or just surviving day-to-day life, especially when it comes to living with ADHD. I hope to use my passion and knowledge to thoughtfully explore the relationship between ADHD and emotions and the impact it has on the lives of so many adults who struggle every day, who live in fear or suffocate under the weight of shame because ADHD makes life hard. It’s not easy to face ourselves and sit with our emotional pain. It’s difficult AND it’s also essential to growth and healing. It involves great risk and courage because it can be scary. But sometimes, in order to get to a place where we want to be personally and emotionally, it means facing our fears or confronting a difficult barrier in our path. I truly believe that if we can reach a place where the fear we feel about facing painful and difficult emotions is diminished because we have learned to understand them in a new way, our potential is endless and life takes on new meaning.

“Everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Adair

So let’s dive into the fear – and all the other emotions – together.


Be Well | Mackenzie