Unlocking the Mystery of ADHD Anger: Why We Really Lose Our Cool

Marci Wheeler
Have you ever felt like your anger goes from zero to sixty in seconds? Discover the hidden simmering frustration behind those sudden blow-ups and learn how to manage it effectively.
Anger in people with ADHD is not impulsive but a build-up of frustration from daily challenges. By understanding this simmer and adjusting our expectations, we can better manage our reactions and improve our emotional well-being.
Let’s clear up a common misunderstanding about anger in people with ADHD. There’s a myth that our anger is impulsive—that we’re calm one second, and then, out of nowhere, something minor happens, and we explode. It feels like going from zero to sixty in no time. In reality, that’s not how it works at all. Our anger isn’t a matter of impulsivity; it’s about unmet expectations and accumulated frustration. Let me explain.

The Underlying Frustration

If you have ADHD, you’re probably familiar with that constant sense of restlessness and frustration. We bump up against the world more often than others because our executive function challenges make it harder to do things in an organized, planned way. We often move through life in a haphazard, random manner, making frequent mistakes. This persistent tripping over our own feet builds up a simmering frustration, like a pot of water slowly heating up on the stove.
Imagine this: you’ve got this simmering water that’s bubbling but not boiling. That’s what our underlying frustration feels like—always there, just below the surface. As we go through the day, each mistake or mishap turns up the heat a little more. Eventually, we hit a threshold where one more thing happens, and our mind says, “I am so sick of this! All I’ve been doing is making mistakes all day!” Then, boom—the water boils over. It’s not zero to sixty; it’s a gradual build-up until one more thing changes it from a simmer to a boil.
Even after a blow-up, the underlying frustration doesn’t fully dissipate. It might go down to a simmer, but it’s still there, ready to boil over again at the next mishap. This is why we can seem quick to anger—it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

What Can We Do?

1. Acceptance and Humility: This might sound easier said than done, but it’s crucial. Accepting our tendencies and being humble about our limitations can help. For example, when I bump into walls that have been there for ten years, instead of beating myself up, I say, “Of course, I did. I’m clumsy; it’s expected.” This shift in expectation can make a huge difference.
2. Anticipate Different Outcomes: Things can go as planned, or they can go different. For those of us with ADHD, things often go differently. When we anticipate both possibilities, we’re less likely to feel blindsided and frustrated when things don’t go our way.
3. Ask for Help: If you’re struggling, reach out for help. There are strategies to improve executive functioning and manage frustration. Loving ourselves enough to ask for help is vital.
Yes, these three steps take a lot of personal work, yes they’re achievable because I teach people how every day.
Understanding our simmering frustration and adjusting our expectations can help manage our reactions better. If you find this helpful, share it with someone who might benefit from it. And if you need strategies to manage your ADHD more effectively, reach out to me. Love yourself enough to ask for help. Life is good, and together, we can make it even better.
Thanks for being you,
Brian R. King MSW
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