The Emotional Side of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can trigger certain emotions. For example, you might feel guilty or ashamed because of the way you think other people see you. You may get stressed if your loved ones say you don’t listen and you feel you’ve let them down in some way.

You have the same emotions as everyone else. But because of ADHD, you may feel them more strongly or for a longer time.

The right treatment and therapy can help you manage your ADHD symptoms and emotions. Coaching, therapy, and support groups can help you learn new ways to deal with them and feel better about life with ADHD.

Manage Emotions at Work

ADHD can create challenges at work. You may tend to put off tasks or have a hard time organizing them. You may get distracted easily, have trouble finishing projects, or interrupt others during meetings.

These things can lead to work stress and burnout -- you may even want to quit your job at certain times. You may worry that others will think you’re a failure.

A career coach or career counselor can help you understand how your ADHD symptoms affect you on the job and learn to manage your emotions at work.

Here are some tips to deal with common ADHD symptoms at work:

  • Ask for a quiet spot to work in. Use earphones with music or white noise to block out chatter.
  • Write down all your tasks so you don’t forget anything.
  • Do one thing at a time, and finish it before you move on.
  • Take breaks to do quick things like filing. Take a walk on your lunch break. In long meetings, take notes to break up the time. Ask your therapist to teach you relaxation techniques you can do at your desk.
  • Talk with co-workers about better ways to work with people you might not get along well with. Find out if you overlook their cues and set off conflicts. See if you can take on more solo projects if teamwork is too stressful.


Deal With Emotions at Home

People who have ADHD often hear negative things about themselves from others. That can lead to issues with your self-image, and shame and guilt can affect your relationships. You may seem bored or interrupt your partner in conversations, show up late to things, or misread body language. Sometimes you may react impulsively with a big show of emotion. If your partner complains, you may start to resent them.

Here are some ways to deal with your emotions in relationships:

  • Plan ahead: If family gatherings or other social events make you stressed, let your partner know. Agree to leave early or take a break halfway through to walk outside.
  • Strike a balance: If you don’t finish tasks, your partner may try to step in, and that can lead to resentment on both sides. Talk about what needs to be done and divide things up. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
  • Give yourself burnout breaks: It’s OK to let your partner or friends know you need some quiet time.
  • Admit when you’ve messed up: Don’t blame all your mistakes on your ADHD or get defensive with your partner.

Give Counseling a Try

Individual, couples, or group therapy can help you learn ways to manage ADHD symptoms and your emotions. You can work on certain skills and get tips to manage stressful situations.

A therapist can also help you be more aware of your actions and feelings and have a more positive outlook.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on November 13, 2019


SOURCES: “ADHD and Emotions: What You Need to Know.”

Attention Deficit Disorder Association.

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder FAQs.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”

Child Mind Institute: “School Success Kit for Kids with ADHD.”

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): “About ADHD.”

CHADD of Northern California: “How Adult ADHD Affects Relationships.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.