ADHD and Anger


Anger management is a problem for adults with ADHDBefore writing this article, I looked up the definition of anger in the Oxford English Dictionary and what I found  was:
” the strong feeling caused by extreme displeasure”

However that seems a very delicate way to describe the intense emotions of fury and rage that engulfs an angry person and results in aggression and violence.

My personal experience of very angry people was in a hospital setting during my days as a nurse. Angry people are a little scary because of their unpredictability. You don’t know what they are going to do next, hurt you, themselves (e.g by hitting a wall) or both. In fact even the angry person rarely knows what they are going to do during this time.

Every day life, can evoke extreme anger in people, that is why there is road rage, fights, and damage to personal property.

Anger management is a problem for adults with ADHD for four reasons:

1) The impulsive aspect of ADHD means if you feel angry, you immediately express it. You don’t get the ‘lead time’ that a non ADHD person has even if it’s only a few seconds.

2) Low levels of frustration, mean that you experience frustration rapidly which can then trigger anger.

3) Mood swings,  ADHD adults can experience the whole range of emotions, from happiness, sadness,and anger all in the space of a morning. People with ADHD experience these mood changes more than a non ADHD person.

4) Stress, having ADHD is stressful. If your ADHD is unmanaged, you feel constantly overwhelmed and stressed.

Anger is a normal human emotion, and it can be useful. However, if you are feeling that your expression of anger is holding you back in life, or is becoming problematic for your relationships, here is what to do:

1.Walk away
No matter how hard, walk away from the provoking situation. The more you do this, the easier it will become. You can resolve the issue later. Because you have ADHD, your anger comes and goes quickly. So it won’t be long before you feel calm again.

2.Develop assertiveness skills
People that express anger, worry they will be taken advantage of. However expressing anger is just one way to deal with situations. Since the repercussions of anger are so devastating to personal relationships, assertiveness is a great tool to develop.

The intense anger you feel, is unlikely to be a result of what is happening in the current situation. It is more likely to be due to an unresolved issue from the past, and the current situation reminds you of the upsetting past experience. You might need help from a professional to assist you to make these connections, but getting to the root cause can be very freeing.

4.Learn to express yourself
Getting angry is how you express ‘extreme displeasure’. However, you can learn to do that in other ways too. You will be pleasantly surprised how much you achieve when you are developing good communications.

Exercise helps to dispel negative emotions. Exercise every day.
You might consider taking up a Martial art. Not only is it a great exercise, it is a great way to discipline your emotions and channel them in a controlled way.

Remember, experiencing anger doesn’t make you a bad person. After having an angry explosion, you might feel exposed, ashamed and mortified. Don’t dwell on these feelings to make yourself feel bad. Do however use them them as a catalyst for change.

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  1. Renee D says:

    I’m 62 years old and I’m tired. I was just diagnosed about 4 years ago and I’m not on any medication and I don’t have any friends at this point, I’m angry a lot, depressed, and it seems like if people aren’t perfect then I have a hard time accepting them. Yes I know I’m probably more imperfect than they are 🙂 I honestly don’t know which direction to go in. I’m a Christian and I really believe that God heals and that He’s in control of my life but only when I allow Him to be. I don’t know if counseling will help because I’ve been to counseling off and on my whole life. It seems no one in the church really cares. Truth is people in the church don’t know how to handle these situations.I don’t even trust God these dayst. Too many disappointments, and just tired of dealing with it. Tired tired tired

    • Diane Denney says:

      RENEE D – I just found this site and read your comments and it was like you were telling my story! I am the same exact way. I was diagnosed about 6 months ago, I was angry a lot and depressed too and the same exact thing about other people, if they are not perfect and do one stupid thing (that I think I could have obviously done differently and known better then I also have a hard time accepting them. And, about Church it seems like they don’t care or I just don’t relate to them at all. I don’t know how I feel about Church anymore but I do believe in a God. I started taking Aderall about 3 months ago and it started working in about a couple weeks. I do still notice the things that used to make me very angry but it just doesn’t make me angry anymore. I am so grateful the Psychiatrists had the know how to address my ADHD and give me the help I needed. I was feeling so overwhelmed and thinking that my life was over if this is the way it made me feel.

  2. John Gray says:

    Hi Jacqueline, Wow the penny drops. Having suffered a full on mental breakdown last year as a result of several long term health issues I was diagnosed with type one Bipolar disorder. My team felt that there was something else in the mix also and in December I had a full ADHD assessment. This highlighted a moderate mixed disorder. I’ve not thought about it too much but having read up on some articles today I was astonished to read case studies and say that’s me! I then stumbled across your article and it’s like it was written about me. My anger is off the scale.ive never been violent but my anger is so aggressive. It’s destroying me and my family. My psychiatrist wants to wait before starting any treatment in case it affects my mental state. I hadn’t realised how much ADHD has affected my life. I can live with any of it except the anger. Hopefully I’m now on the right track. I’m 46 married with a 6 and 5 year old. Great article, I look forward to reading more. Thanks John

    • Hi John! So glad the article was helpful! Knowing is half the battle 🙂

    • Garrett Bennett says:

      John do you have bipolar and adhd… they said because of my anger I’m bipolar 2 but now that we discovered the adhd docs are thinking no bipolar…

      • John Gray says:

        Hi Garrett,
        Unfortunately yes I have both. Both interwoven together with one feeding the other. I’m seeing the consultant next month so I may get a plan of action then. I’m not too bad at the moment, I’ve just gone back to work having been out for 3 years and I feel like I’ve joined the human race again!😀👍

  3. Adam says:

    Reading these post make me think I have ADHD as well. I am constantly frustrating and upset with things that are small and ultimately do not matter, but I can’t control the negative impulses that come from it. It is deteriorating the relationship I have with me girlfriend and is causing her to be depressed. She has told me that she is scared to talk to me at times because she doesn’t know how I will react. I am not violent when I get these impulses, but am very verbally aggressive. Often times it will be out of no where, and I bring up things from the past that aren’t relevant and quite frankly mean. I’ve had these problems for most of my life, and have seen the same problems in my father and I don’t want to repeat these same mistakes. I plan on talking to my doctor this week but am nervous I will become a zombie if I am put on pills. Any advice?

    • Jason says:

      You and I seem very similar. I relate to your words with my own story. I think that based on what you wrote it would be helpful for you to know that after I was put on Vyvanse last year, my ability to slow down, and stick with the issue at hand has greatly improved. This allows me to think about why I’m angry, rather than verbally explode at my girlfriend. I don’t take it sometimes for a couple days, (because it does make sleeping kind of difficult sometimes) then I notice a negative shift in my mood. It’s on the days I don’t take it where I have difficulty stopping and thinking about my anger before getting angry and throwing things.

  4. Gareth says:

    Hi, I am a 39 year old male with a wife and two daughters, after months of research and after reading people with stories similar to mine I am 100%. Certain I have ADHD. Job to job, anger frustration, concentration issues. I recently decided to try and tame the adhd symptoms but that seems to have made things worse as I feel part of me has actually died, the wacky part of me that the kids loved and I loved but I have kept that away and tried to be more “grown up” but I fear it could be turning into a depression…. any thoughts, anyone?!

  5. David Minnich says:

    Hi there. My name is Dave. I am 32 and am taking medication for my ADHD. The meds help, but I have a problem being grumpy or irritable with my wife and children. My wife calls me on it when I am being a crab, which usually escalates into me and her getting into arguments. I know the problem is me, I just don’t know how to change it. I want nothing more than to be a good and pleasant father and husband.

    • Sandra Bell says:

      David, it sounds like the problem isn’t you, but it is your medicine. Have you tried non-stimulant ADHD? Have you tried managing your symptoms without medicine?

  6. Mike says:

    I’m 31. I have adhd and the anger aide is something very hard for me to understand and control. My wife tells me to cool off and go for a walk. It isn’t easy. I think that I have my wife and 2 step kids laughing at me she I’m not around cause I’m sure they think it’s not normal for a 31 yr old to act such a way. I’m told they don’t do that but they find it hard to understand what I am going through in my head in sure. It’s not okay and they do not have my brain issue. They are lucky cause I don’t like being angry and mad and upset. I’m a very good person and I have people that love me. But I’m make it hard for them to love me as I have a different way of me. That’s something they don’t have. I have it. I suffer everyday with it. I take meds for it. I’m so hard on myself daily cause of what I am and act and live. My marriage isn’t strong and I know it probably won’t last of this stays the way things are, even tho it’s such a hard thing to struggle with on the daily.

    • Paul Cook says:

      At 47 I’ve been in and out of marriage guidance. Meds has helped but I’m still short fused. O to 10 in seconds. I’m not the one to give you the answers but stick with it. Use the love and goodness you have to help you with your marriage.
      Go for a walk with your partner, TALK and LISTEN!! As my wife says it’s not all about you! Daily!
      You will get there look at it from a non ADHD point of view as they don’t understand your emotions!
      Good luck.
      Chin up
      There is always light at the end of the tunnels we run head first into!!

    • Helen says:

      You sound just like my fiance, I believe he has ADHD but I am not sure how to get him to realize it. I love him a lot even though he yells at me and express his anger at me all the time. I get depressed sometimes because I don’t know how to help him. I believe your wife and step kids love you very much or else they would not be around. They are going through this as much as you are, try to get some professional help so you can have a happier relationship as a whole family. The first step has been done and it is that you realize that you have a problem, now there are many resources to fix it and it is going to be a hard process but it is worth every bit when you guys can finally be happy together. Good Luck!

  7. Paul Cook says:

    I was diagnosed with ADHD 6 months ago I am 47 and have been on concerta 90mg daily. It’s helped a lot. I walked out of work on Wednesday and this was a result of something a manager said about a decision I made. The words informal investigation triggered me to flight. The days before things had not been great. Thing going wrong and staff not doing as I requested. So I was tipped over the edge.
    Since my tablets it’s become less that I anger outburst and run.
    But like I’ve read my anger is short lived and is getting in the way of my job that I love. Living with ADHD since I was a child has been HELL! I just need support to change and would like to get rid of the Anger and run behaviour.
    Thanks for reading

  8. Sandra Bell says:

    Is a psychologist or a social worker or a counselor better equipped to handle ADHD through CBT? I have already been properly analyzed and diagnosed through a psychiatrist, whom I under the care of, so I don’t need further testing.

    • Hi Sandra, It is less about there professional designation, (social worker, psychologist etc) and more about the individual therapists area of expertise, knowledge base, additional courses post training etc. Look for someone you has CBT and ADHD experience. Get referrals from people you know. Look on, and don’t be shy to phone and ask the therapist a few questions to find out if they have experience with CBT with people with ADHD.

      • Sandra Bell says:

        Wow! I so appreciate your quick and thoughtful reply! I am glad to have gotten confirmation of my approach (using psychology today and selecting CBT and ADHD). I am grateful to have found your resource. Thank you for your support. I am gaining and increasing my hope that I can save my life with the help of healers like yourself. Thank you.

      • Hi Sandra! my pleasure and you are totally on the right track! Research shows that CBT is an excellent form of therapy for people with ADHD. Keep on listening to your inner wisdom..its very wise:) Look out for Friday’s newsletter there is going to be a helpful CBT tip in it.

  9. Matthew says:

    I have had ADHD now (diagnosed atleast) since 2010. I am 31 male. I have both sets of extreme. Or what atleast i think is both extremes. I get angery and frustated at the littles of things. With my kids the littles of things and get over the top at telling them off. Then with ,my partner i have the sense of both pure frustration and anger. But whats makes it more concerning and this is what i cant work out why either happens I shut down and just dont say anything. Dont want to deal with anything.
    I cant have a reasonable conversation and discuss simple things of little to major importance without again this all happening. Can anyone offer any advise of things for me to try?

  10. Mary says:

    I was diagnosed with ADHD in 1997. I was 16. I am now 35 and these unresolved issues that you refer to from my past have caused many disruptive, impulsive, extremely aggressive behaviors. My family took me when I was 16 to be analyzed with the result being ADHD. At 35 situations arrise in my life especially with my family. I walk away from some, but I am fallowed by the party I am upset with. I ask to be left alone while I cool down and no one sees that as something to be respected. I am having a hard time understanding labeling my problem but not acknowleging what ADHD is.
    I feel misunderstood on a regular bases. At this point my behavior has deteriated. I have tried to ask for family therapy to resolve old issues that linger. That was seen as something very different than I meant it. I am on the brink of not being able to be with my family. My sister in law decided that she wanted to talked about problems she and my brother were having with intamacy. I tried to make her feel better by telling her that everyone has moments of problems. She said it had been 4 years since…..! I impulsively shared my husband and my experimental notion of swinging. I said we were needing something new and we were talking to other couples. She decided that was dangerous behavior at my age of 30 something ( I had been married 8 years, and had two kids). She decided to tell my super controlling, socialite mother. My mom then confronted my husband. So on and so on…It’s been pretty ducked up since. I have taken my mother to therapy to try to help us. I am still angry at my sister in law who said, when I asked her why did she tell my mother, that her brain wasn’t working. That woman has a masters and That was the best excuse she had. That is not resolved for me. This is all upsetting my family. My kids, my parent, my husband, my brother, and the in law. Holidays are coming again. I am Tired. I am mad. I am aggressive just thinking about all the family time coming. Just venting, I guess.

    • Randall says:

      Wow! I am not in your situation or ever have been, but for some reason I can totally relate/feel your pain. 🙁 Yoga has done wonders for my sister, and I am trying it out now…maybe it could help you? As a side note, the band Dope’s song “No Way Out” comes to mind.

  11. Nicky Ihle says:

    My daughter was diagnosed with ADD and I have struggled to help/deal with her-she is 15 now. I honestly feel like I am failing as a mother because I cant keep my lid on the anger, frustration and annoyance I feel towards her when she doesn’t do what she is meant to be doing. I have read a lot about ADD and understand it isnt her fault but I know she is at fault on many occasions and it winds me up. Now I am certain I am ADD too though I haven’t been to see anyone yet. My anger and short temper is making things worse in our house…its not helping my daughter and thats what upsets me the most. In addition..this gets even worse..I had a massive arguement with my fiancee 2 weeks ago (I was beyond drunk), he said something hurtful and I actually slapped him in the face about 5 times. I am so ashamed and embarrassed. I am short tempered but I have never ever hit anyone. How could I have done this? He is away at work and I dont know yet if he will forgive me and try and make us work. Does anyone have any advice because right now I feel like a total failure in every aspect of my life:(

  12. Rosemary Janicki says:

    I have just started reading bits and pieces of these different posts and will go back and read more. But having just been diagnosed I am checking out some of my greatest issues.
    Anger is a huge one for me, but, as have noticed for the most part that I am the exact opposite of what is being said. Like with anger, and expressing it immediately. I tend to suppress it, let it process and consider and brew, then when I really realize what has been said and it is brought up or something else they may be related comes up, I can explode.
    I am also, not the one that is constantly late, I am the one that is always early, sometimes significantly, and can become extremely impatient with those that are making me wait.

  13. Janae Atwood says:

    Adderall a medicine commonly prescribed will list withdrawal side effects and symptoms of, one of the withdrawal effects seen are labeled as anger.

  14. Bradley says:

    This was a very helpful post. Thank you! I have been dealing with severe ADHD for years and my anger and mood swings have caused me so much pain. These tips have definitely helped me, especially 4. And 5.

  15. Jamie says:

    I have adhd combined type and I have a problem controlling my anger. It could be something someone says to me that irritates me or provokes me to get mad. I start by just feeling like I’m dipping into a bad mood and as time passes it goes into full rage and lasts for hours even long after I have left the person. Eventually, I get over it but it’s hard to snap out of it, and nothing anyone tells me works to get me out of it. It just has to pass on it’s own. I hate it, because it’s not in my nature to be like that and it makes me feel like I’m a bad person.

    • Randall says:

      Yeah, I do that, too! Most minor things I can let go of, but other things that people say like stuff that I feel is unnecessary to say to me, that crap will linger and grow, and put a damper on about half of my day. Some of the people I work with will say absolutely stupid stuff to me for no apparent reason, and I maintain self-control cause I need the job, but I’ll be mumbling (hopefully at a low enough volume), and cursing them out in my head. I get so tickled pink when karma pays them a visit. -=;-)

  16. Kris brown says:

    I am not good at focusing, never have been. I’m 54. My dx is SAD and GAD, but I disagree because what is causing these anger outbursts that are not like me and so hard to control.
    Yes, Xanax helps, but who wants to stay on that ? I just feel it could be adult ADD or ADHD and no one has ever tried a med for that! Come on. It’s been going on for several years and now a lot worse. My shrink says its hidden anger. I dunno. I know better than to be rude to my husband. I’m raging these days over practically anything! I’m anxious and can’t sit still. Mmmm

  17. Crystal Curtis says:

    My 18 year old has ADHD and he has anger issues and the older he get the worser it gets and I have 2 other kids in my home and I think he may hurt them and he’s driving me crazy cause I want to put him out, but this is his last year of school. I don’t know what I should do.

    • Hi Crystal,
      Sorry to hear about the situation at home. Has your son ever been to see a therapist? Anger is often an emotion that is expressed and it masks other feelings and emotions.
      Here are some suggestions to help your son
      1) Start treating the ADHD, both natural ways that I talk about here and meds.
      2) Find a good therapist in your area for your son to see
      3) Consider seeing a therapist yourself. This will help you express your frustrations of the situation.
      4) See a family therapist either just the 2 of you or your whole family
      5) Find out if your son is interesting in Martial arts. This is a great way to exercise AND gain control of emotions.

      This might seem like a lot of things, however the situation sounds important enough to warrant all these measures.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you ! ^^

  19. dustin st pierre says:

    I am a boxer and i want to use my anger and build up to assist me in my fights any tips on how to unleash it but still have control ?

  20. Hi Jacqueline,
    Thanks for your posts, they are very encouraging and relevant. I hope to be able to do something for the cause of Indians with ADHD, the level of awareness here is abyssmal I suspect most ADHDers get into depression as a result of unmanaged ADHD!

  21. Melanie says:

    Thanks Jacqueline, great post! I have an appointment with my psychologist later today (we don’t have any coaches for adults where I’m from) and I will ask him to help me with my assertiveness.
    Thanks again!

    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Wonderful Melanie. I am so happy the article came at such a good time!!! Have a good session with your psychologist. warmly

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