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ADHD and Emotional Flooding



ADHD can impact emotional self-control and there is a noticeable link between ADHD and emotional dysregulation, particularly when it relates to difficult emotions like frustration, anger, sadness, or feelings of rejection.


We are often so fixated on managing the cognitive symptoms that impact on our daily life such as organisational challenges, time blindness, impulsivity, and memory issues that we overlook the possibility that the inability to self-regulate creates complexity in our emotions too.


Emotional flooding or overwhelm is something everyone can relate to as it is likely we will all experience it at some point in our lives. It can be caused by a single event like surviving a traumatic accident or caused by the compounding of small events such as sleeping poorly, waking late, skipping breakfast, missing a bus, and fighting with family. If some of these smaller events align on the same day, we could be completely overwhelmed by them too. Anyone can have a bad day, but how we regulate these emotions and recover from them is important.


Unfortunately, it is often these powerful negative emotions that flood the ADHD brain. These emotions are experienced so forcefully that they become overwhelming and can disrupt our daily functioning. The intensity of these emotions may affect our ability to think and act rationally and may cause us to act in a way that we regret later. A self-perpetuating negative cycle may form where self-care becomes challenging. We may forget meals, skip rest breaks, and further upset our sleep patterns. These behaviours can, in turn, lower our ability to think rationally and lessen our ability to cope with the overwhelm.


Emotional flooding presents differently in every person and can impact on our health, social life, and performance. Sometimes we need help breaking this cycle so it can be identified and unpacked. Interrupting the cycle at the correct point, rethinking some priorities, and putting strategies in place to try to avoid or manage overwhelm goes a long way towards dealing with emotional flooding in the future.



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