mad woman

  • You are stuck in traffic or someone cuts you off. It’s annoying to just about anyone, but you fly into a rage and literally want to kill the driver with your bare hands.
  • You’re talking and someone repeatedly interrupts you. Or you’re working intently, hyperfocued on a project (or are on the phone) and your child keeps pestering you for attention. You physically have to control yourself from lashing out physically or verbally.
  • You’ve lost your keys– again- and you take it out on your partner or your kids. After you let loose a barrage of F words and more, you finally find the keys and feel so embarrassed by your behavior, you wonder why anyone would ever have wanted to marry you.

Does this sound like you?

Adults with ADHD often struggle with temper outbursts, just like children with ADHD. Or children in general, for that matter.

But why?

Having ADHD means having difficulty with impulsivity, distractions and keeping your mood stable. It’s part of your neurobiology- and it definitely is not a character flaw. But that doesn’t mean you can go fly off the handle at any time just because that’s part of your ADHD.

 Nope. Sorry, Charlie.

It means you need to better understand what your triggers are and find ways to avoid the stressors that lead to outbursts… and also learn how to manage the anger you feel when you are triggered.

Looking at the first example, above: anger on the road- if you know this is an issue for you, teach yourself new strategies for calming yourself down VS reacting with anger and hostility. When road rage hits, it’s the perfect time to immediately begin deep breathing or find that station on the radio that calms you down, whether it be a talk radio program or classical music.

I’ve often used the term: “See it coming and have a plan” and the tip above is one great example of utilizing this tactic.

The second example is a good illustration of the various ways your symptoms manifest themselves. If you are interrupted, you lose your train of thought and get de-railed. ADD brains get easily de-railed because we’re prone to getting easily distracted, and find it hard to get back on track. When these external distractions occur, we get all stirred up. It can be incredibly hard to keep our emotions stable.

We also have a tough time transitioning, ie if we’re talking about one topic and someone wants to talk about something else, it’s often hard to make that transition (unless it’s YOU who gets bored with a topic and jumps to another one!). To help manage your anger over these kinds of interruptions, try telling the other person (use a hand gesture if necessary), that you need to finish your thought.

Another ADD symptom is poor memory. If you can’t get your thoughts out, there is a fear that you’ll totally forget what you wanted to say, which can lead to embarrassment, irritability and worse.

Being interrupted is often more problematic if you have children and are constantly being interrupted in general. In that case- and especially if your child is very young- hold up or point to a little sign with a reminder not to interrupt you, so you don’t lose your train of thought. This will help you from getting unglued while working on a project or when talking on the phone. Always discuss with your child beforehand of your strategy.

The third example shows how easily frustrated we can get. Tiny triggers that others seem to deal with in stride, can- to us- feel like the end of the world.


Or come up with another mental signal that works for you. By getting all worked up, you are less likely to accomplish your mission, whether it’s finding your keys or whatever it is that is making you furious with yourself- and thus, taking it out on others.

Try this:

Picture yourself through the eyes of your loved ones during these episodes. That alone could stop you dead in your tracks. Or try putting your face on the other person, as if you were yelling at YOU. How would YOU feel?

Of course, make sure you apologize if you do lash out and explain that it was your fault, not theirs, for behaving this way.

What are your triggers? Hot buttons? And how do you manage? Share your experiences and/or tips in the Comment section below.