Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often thought of as a disorder of inattention and overactivity. It is also thought of as a disorder that creates difficulties in concentration and organization. New research and reports based on long-term studies of ADHD are showing that emotional instability should be treated as a core symptom of ADHD.
Emotional dysregulation is the inability to properly modulate and regulate emotions. Possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation include angry outbursts such as destroying or throwing objects, aggression towards self or others, and threats to harm others or oneself. Emotional dysregulation can lead to behavioral problems that interfere with a person’s social interactions, home life, marriage, school, or work.
What Is Emotional Regulation?
Emotional regulation Is a term typically used to describe a person’s ability to effectively manage and respond to emotional experiences, control bodily functions, and maintain focus and attention. Most of us use a variety of emotion regulation strategies and apply them to adapt to different demands, situations, and environments. Some of these strategies are healthy including talking with friends, exercising, meditation. Other strategies are not healthy including avoiding difficult situations, physical or verbal aggression, abusing alcohol or other substances.
Self-regulation happens early in life, such as sucking your thumb in infancy, needing your favorite blanket(s) as a toddler, or wanting your parent to kiss your “boo boo”. As a child we learned to regulate our emotions by the environments we were raised in and the modeling from parents, teachers, and other caregivers.
Treatment for Emotional Dysregulation:
Current available treatments focus on reducing symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning at home, school, and in the community. Medications are common in treating ADHD along with psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Treatments that have been developed to help individuals regulate their emotions and decrease symptoms of ADHD include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness, and others. To successfully self-regulate there are three critical neurological components that need to be part of the coping strategies learned to regulate emotions: sensory processing skills, executive functioning skills, and emotional regulation skills.
Many parents and individuals seek a therapist or counselor for ADHD who understands the mental and emotional aspects of the disorder. Others may find a behavior specialist who understands the behavioral components of ADHD, but struggles to address the emotional complexities of ADHD. Arizona Behavioral Consulting provides both mental health and behavior consulting to children, adolescents, adults, parents, and teachers so they can learn how to manage and decrease the challenges associated with ADHD.
Kyle Bringhurst, MSW