One of the traits used by psychologists to distinguish among individuals with ADHD is the level of emotional dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation is defined as an inability to manage, moderate, or put into context one’s emotions. Recent research shows that a significant subgroup of people with ADHD has serious difficulties in regulating their emotions.
According to a recent study from researchers in Germany, almost all individuals with ADHD have some level of impaired emotion regulation abilities. What is more significant is that between one-third and two-thirds of those with ADHD has more severe deficits in this regard. For them, emotional regulation impairments result in higher rates of depression, expression of more negative emotions, and greater psychological distress.
Much of the discussion about ADHD has centered around what are called the cognitive symptoms of ADHD. These include things like:
- Inattention or inability to focus
- Executive functioning
These cognitive deficits are thought to arise from a combination of genetic and neurochemical factors. The high rate of emotional dysregulation among individuals diagnosed with ADHD suggests the inability to self-regulate in the cognitive sphere applies to the self-regulation of emotions as well.
Emotional dysregulation can cause difficulties in everyday life:
- Acting impulsively or rashly
- Burning bridges with friends or colleagues at work
- Having a greater difficulty dealing with grief, loss and negative events
- Problems forming and sustaining relationships
- Experiencing other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression
This research is signalling that issues with managing emotions deserves greater consideration by health professionals in the treatment of ADHD. It confirms that, in many cases, psychotherapy – to address emotional regulation issues – has a more important role to play as pat of an overall treatment plan for ADHD.