Intense Emotions and ADHD


woman with intense emotions and ADHD
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So… I’m guessing you are dealing with intense emotions and ADHD.

How do I know? Well, I have ADHD, and I talk to a lot of other women about how ADHD impacts their emotional life.

You don’t come into my private membership because you want strategies.

You’re coming to me because you want someone to listen. Clients want to talk to someone who has been there, and I’ve been there. So have the other women on the inside.

My members want answers to questions like this:

“Any ideas for how to control my anxiety?”

“Every time I think I’ve got it under control, I realize I screwed up again.”


Welcome to life with intense emotions and ADHD. 


The ADHD Brain

I don’t want to get too sciency, but it’s important for you to understand that there are brain based reasons for some of your emotional struggles.

Deep inside our brain is a tiny almond shaped structure called the amygdala. The amygdala is one of the oldest parts of your brain. It helped your ancestors to escape being eaten by a wildabeast.

For those of us with ADHD, it is reaaaalllly easy to set off this amygdala. And once it’s triggered we can go down the rabbit hole.

You and I also struggle with negative rumination and emotional flooding because our executive functions are impaired.

In other words, we don’t have access to logical thinking at the times we most need it!

We operate from a place of emotion 99% of the time. A person without ADHD has more access to their logical thinking (pre-frontal cortex).

Think about this for a minute. Let it sink in. Your brain is structurally different.

What can you do about it?

  • Practice pausing before you speak/act

  • Notice and document your triggers

  • Learn about how to hack your EF’s

  • If you have been prescribed medications, use them

The Shame Cycle

William Dodson wrote, “Shame arises from the repeated failure to meet the expectations of parents, teachers, friends, bosses and the world.” Source 

Every single woman I talk to is ashamed of having ADHD, or ashamed of the behaviors that result from having ADHD. People assess us based on our behavior.

Shame is part of the human experience.

You’ve probably disappointed someone in the past. And you’ve probably received a TON of criticism for your brain-based differences.

You have probably disappointed yourself. And that hurts even more than the criticism of others.

Every time we feel we have not met the expectations of ourselves or someone else the shame deepens. And we push it down again and again.

What can you do about shame?

  • Separate who you are from your ADHD behaviors

  • Remind yourself that you are worthy, over and over

  • Formulate a more whole picture of what makes you, you

The Anxiety Trap

I have had anxiety since I was about three years old. Even then I saw the entire world through the lens of “preventing” the adults in my life from fighting or screaming.

Not everyone deals with anxiety this early in life, but most of us with ADHD will deal with anxiety and/or depression at some point.

Living with ADHD produces anxiety, if for no other reason than we are so accustom to failure and criticism that we begin to live in a state of fight or flight. (See the amygdala info above.)

I recently had the pleasure of reading The Anxiety Toolkit, but Dr. Alice Boyes. This book was informative, and so easy to follow I now recommend it to all of my clients. (affiliate link)

Dr. Boyes’s recommendations for anxiety:

  • Avoid ruminating, it is not productive

  • Let go of perfectionistic tendencies

  • Share your ideas with trusted people to lessen the fear of negative feedback

  • Reframe your negative self-talk


The ADHD affect on relationships

ADHD affects all of your relationships whether you like it or not. Your intimate relationships, our friendships, and even your relationship with your children.

I will be the first to admit that it sucks. Relationships are hard anyway, and when you add intense emotions and ADHD to the mix you are compounding the work.

Making a relationship successful requires us to practice uncomfortable honesty.

This is what I know about ADHDers in relationships:

  • Being vulnerable is not easy

  • We can have some attachment issues after a lifetime of negative experiences

  • After the initial hormone rush we can get bored fast

  • We are intensely self-critical, and sometimes it bleeds into how we treat others

  • Planning for the future is tough because of our “time blindness”

  • We are inconsistent in our behavior

  • We are bad at perspective taking

  • Boundaries are often poorly defined

When I was a kid I loved the thrill of a roller coaster. These days I get motion sickness.

ADHD can make you feel like you have emotional motion sickness. Or whiplash.

The hardest part is the recovery.

Check out The ADHD Enclave – we don’t just post all day, we have real conversations about the things that matter.


If you like this article here is my recommended reading list. (Affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure.)

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