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How Do People with ADHD Handle Grief?
Emotional Regulation can be complicated for someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This neurodivergent disorder can trigger difficulties in handling our own feelings, not only when we are excited or enthusiastic but also in moments of anger or sadness 😢. We tend to have trouble handling our emotions which can cause further complications, especially with the people around us.
Though not everyone may experience frequent and intense emotional dysregulation, there's a huge population of adults with ADHD who have difficulties expressing and/or managing their feelings well. They may have trouble with how to properly project their emotions and receive support from the people around them 🧑🤝🧑. Especially during grief, these adults can feel overwhelmed with intense emotions that can be difficult to understand and process for some people with ADHD.
Life and death can be something we must all come to terms with, but for a lot of people with ADHD, mourning can be an even more daunting experience 😭. They may struggle to express their feelings and find the appropriate outlets to cope with their pain.
Some of you may find it hard to discuss these matters, but finding the right support groups or people to help you in your grief is more important.
More About Emotional Regulation
One of the most important things to look after in times of deep sadness or sorrow is how we handle these situations. When people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder experience overwhelming negative emotions, they might have difficulty controlling their behavior or how they act. Some may even have difficulty channeling their true feelings, which can lead to further complications 😥.
There are moments when we experience losing the people we love, and there can be drastic changes in our behaviors. We start to show signs of irritability, isolation, or even depression. For many adults with ADHD, this can be particularly difficult to manage because they may not have the right coping skills or access to proper help and support. It may be hard for us to stop thinking about different scenarios and go into our thoughts and feelings 💔.
These challenges, on top of having to manage ADHD symptoms, can make it more difficult to accept that we lost someone or can give different grieving reactions.
An ADHD's Way of Grieving Process
Losing someone dear to us is a normal part of our lives and can happen at a certain point. Since those with ADHD diagnosis can have an overwhelming reaction to these kinds of events, the healing process may take more time ❤️🩹. How we approach these inevitable scenarios can affect our mental health, and we may find ourselves in a more difficult situation.
Up until now, I still remember the feeling of losing someone (my pet) very close to my heart. She's been a part of me when I was going through difficult times in my ADHD diagnosis journey. When life was hard, and I couldn't focus on the tasks I needed to do, I just looked at her and petted her, and it immediately made my day better. My cat 🐱 has been my refuge when things get tough. The relationship we had was more than special.
When she passed away because of an illness, I couldn't find the right words to express how I felt then. Sadness and emptiness inside me were just too much to bear. It took me several months to realize that I had been drifting away because I couldn't cope with her passing. I cannot talk to other people, and I often skip meals and stay in my room the whole time 😭. When my mother noticed that my behaviors had changed, she comforted me and encouraged me to seek help from professionals.
Coping Up with Grief
We all have different ways on how we handle losing our loved one. Most people may be able to accept the death of someone close to them and move on with their lives. But for those struggling to manage the grieving process and ADHD, it may take more than a lot of comforting words and talk from friends and family members to accept that losing someone is a normal part of our life 👍.
Since we may not know how to accept these losses in a way that is not detrimental for us, our impulsivity can make us lean to self-medication 💊 or extreme measures to cope. Overwhelming emotions may push us to try new things because the natural way of healing may not be enough for us. When we stress out and feel pain almost every day, we tend to look for other ways to make us feel better.
That's when we might use certain substances, like alcohol, in the hope that they can save us from trouble 🍷 🍺. New material impulsivity, trouble eating, or even consuming drugs can result from this. However, this can be very dangerous, affecting our daily functioning and productivity. This can spiral into an even bigger problem that takes more time to recover.
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The Hyperactive Brain and Anxiety
Someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may have a different mental approach to dealing with grief. Stress might always be surrounding our ADHD brains since, most of the time, we tend to replay events repeatedly 💭. Our hyperactive mental state can focus on the relationships that we had, the fun times that we shared with the loved one who passed, or other memories that happened that we can never get back.
These events that continuously flash through our minds may make it hard for us to function well as we grieve the loss.
Another thing that can prevent us from getting back and focusing on our everyday life are intrusive thoughts. Since we may not be able to handle symptoms of brain hyperactivity, unwelcome thoughts and ideas may come into our minds 🗯️. We may even get anxious and feel paranoid over what we think of. At some point, anxiety may manifest and make us feel even more disconnected from the people that may potentially give us support.
Drifting Away to Avoid Conflicting Experiences
Do you know what's hard about grief? It's when you meet someone, and they ask:
"Hey, I heard that your pet died. I always see your Facebook stories of having good times with her. How are you feeling now? Hope you are doing better."
Two scenarios can happen to me when someone suddenly opens up the wound from the past. First, I'll either burst out with tears 😭 and grieve the same way as if that event happened lately, or, it's either I'll entirely ignore their questions and start talking about something else. The latter is my typical response when someone talks about the death of a loved one, and I'm not ready to have another person know how much pain I have gone through.
Dealing with the loss of someone close to me can result in body distancing. It is when we, consciously or unconsciously, try to avoid being close to people in fear that they might see and experience the suffering we have gone through. We tend to keep our emotions of sadness, anger, and guilt bottled up even when it is healthier for us to express them.
Is There a Right Way for an Adult with ADHD to Handle Grief?
It's unfortunate to tell you this, but there's no right or wrong way in handling grief 😥. Everyone has a way of coping, depending on the individual's situation.
Some people may experience more symptoms of ADHD while in the grieving process, which may cause enough complications in their daily lives. All we can do is find the proper support depending on our needs.
It cannot be easy to express our emotions, but if we can do it in a safe and supportive environment 🧑🤝🧑, it can help us manage our feelings better. We may find comfort in sharing our thoughts with someone who understands the situation, such as friends or family members.
Remember that it is okay to ask for help when times of struggle are hard to bear. After all, we are only human.
ADHD and Grief: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is handling grief different when you have ADHD?
Grief is a universal experience. People who loved and lost someone will experience it. However, having ADHD may complicate the way we handle our emotions because, to begin with, we may already be experiencing emotional dysregulation.
What is emotional dysregulation?
Emotional dysregulation occurs when a person cannot control or regulate their feelings or their response to a particular stimuli. Anyone can experience it at some point of their lives, but it may be more common in people with neurodivergent conditions, such as ADHD.
Is there a right way of handling grief?
There’s no right or wrong way in handling grief. Still, some ways may be more dangerous or detrimental, such as substance abuse and engaging in risk behaviors. If grief becomes overwhelming that it affects your health, it’s crucial to seek professional help