ADHD Conflict

ADHD Conflict

Handling conflicts and confrontations can be challenging for adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But why is this? Well, ADHD can contribute to impulsivity, difficulty with emotional regulation, and challenges with communication and listening skills. For people with ADHD, these factors can pose some additional challenges when navigating conflicts compared to the general population. Dealing with conflict can be particularly challenging for a person with ADHD, be it with a partner, co-worker, or child. They might find it difficult to control their emotions, leading to situations where they get angry or feel ashamed. In such moments, they might unknowingly reach a point of no return, reacting impulsively and saying hurtful things that upset the person they care about. However, conflict resolution isn’t impossible and there are ways to cope with these challenges and improve conflict resolution skills. Let's explore how.

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Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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How To Handle Conflict When You Have ADHD

Living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder can significantly impact most areas of a person's life. Difficulties in staying focused, impulsive behavior, and a tendency to make careless mistakes are just a few of the many ADHD symptoms that individuals may experience. 🥺

Conflict resolution can be particularly challenging for those with ADHD. As they encounter misunderstandings and misconceptions from others who may not fully comprehend their struggles, conflict arises

There are a few reasons as to why this can happen. For example, misunderstandings can occur when people downplay the challenges faced by individuals with ADHD. Additionally, those of us with ADHD may at times struggle to admit when we are in the wrong for fear of being judged or having their ADHD symptoms misinterpreted as selfish or bad behavior. 😭

ADHD medications may cause a delay in response times for individuals, meaning they need more time to process information and events. Additionally, the constant stream of thoughts in the ADHD brain 🧠can complicate matters further, leading to less-than-optimal responses during conflicts or confrontations.

When a person with adult ADHD finds themselves in confrontations or conflicts, their ADHD symptoms can exacerbate the situation. In addition to potential mistakes that may lead to the conflict, the intense emotions stirred by such situations can feel overwhelming and lead to a meltdown or withdrawal. 

Responding effectively during confrontations can also become problematic, as the ADHD brain may struggle to stay focused on the discussion or keep track of the arguments. 😵 

In this article, we will delve into how ADHD symptoms can affect conflict resolution for individuals with ADHD. We will explore the unique challenges they face in handling confrontations and discuss practical strategies to manage conflicts effectively. By understanding these complexities and adopting effective coping mechanisms, individuals with ADHD can build healthier connections and repair ruptures in a way that meets the needs of everybody involved. 💜

How Do People With ADHD Deal with Conflict?

The ADHD roller coaster is made up of a variety of intense thoughts and emotions. When conflicts arise, it can be tough for us to stay composed and think clearly. We might feel overwhelming guilt, anger, sadness, or anxiety, making it challenging to manage everything we're feeling. 

Sometimes, we want to explain ourselves and make things better, but our responses might end up making things worse for the other person. On the other hand, we may reach a point where we just want to avoid conflict altogether because we struggle to handle it. 🏃

Sometimes, we might not be prepared for the consequences of an argument, especially since our ability to control ourselves during conflict resolution can be challenging. For example, we might burst into tears 😭during a difficult conversation because of our intense emotions or say things we don't mean due to the feelings of defensiveness and shame we have faced for most of our lives. 

Many people with ADHD go through these experiences, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just that our ADHD can sometimes get the best of us when trying to regain enough control to be able to problem solve and handle conflict.

These difficulties in managing conflicts and our unpredictable responses can impact various relationships, not just romantic ones with a partner or spouse. It can affect how we interact with friends, family, and colleagues. Many couples where at least one partner has ADHD may face particular challenges in resolving their conflicts, which can strain their relationship. 

But how does ADHD contribute to how we handle conflicts and confrontations? Let's explore this further. 👇

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Why Do People With ADHD Struggle To Navigate Conflict?

After receiving an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder diagnosis, you probably began to research your condition, reading numerous web site articles and trawling blog search results that offer support on dealing with ADHD. You might have sought treatment from mental health professionals, started medication or connected with others who understand the overall ADHD struggle. 

However, there is a lot of missing information when it comes to dealing with conflict when you have ADHD. 🤔

Before we get into some coping strategies, I want to have a conversation about specific difficulties you might face when conflicts arise. Understanding how the nature of an ADHD diagnosis can affect conflict allows us the insight to find tailored solutions, ultimately helping you regain control over how you cope during a difficult conversation or argument. ✅

Inattention And Staying Focused

ADHD can significantly affect our response to arguments and confrontations. The unique brain activity 🧠 associated with ADHD can create an overload of thoughts and emotions during these situations. Our minds may become overwhelmed and constantly preoccupied with various thoughts, making it challenging to focus on the present moment.

As the confrontation unfolds, we may find ourselves feeling huge amounts of stress, trying to anticipate the next move or figure out how the other person will react. This mental noise can be distracting, preventing us from fully engaging in the conversation. In some instances, we may even become lost in our thoughts, struggling to keep up with the discussion. 🥵

One of the most frustrating aspects is when our processing speed lags behind the conversation. While the other person may have finished speaking, we are still trying to absorb and process what they said. This delay in response can lead to anger, feeling like we’re not in control of the conversation and ultimately, misunderstandings. 😬


Resolving conflict can be particularly challenging, especially when memory issues come into play. Forgetting important details or past events can make it difficult to address and find solutions to ongoing issues.

Imagine a scenario where your partner is upset about something you did last week. They want to discuss it and find a resolution, but you struggle to remember the specifics of what happened. 

This can be frustrating for both you and your partner, as it hinders open communication and problem-solving. Your partner may feel unheard or dismissed, and you may feel overwhelmed and frustrated with your memory lapses. 🥴

I've been in this situation before, and I know how frustrating it is when you want to apologize or make up for something in your relationship, but you can't seem to remember what you have done wrong. It feels like reopening old wounds that are better off left untouched. 

The thing is, we need to deal with the conflict for us to move on from it. If we can't remember the problem, then it becomes more difficult for us to offer a solution that meets the needs of everybody involved. 🤗

Another way this can affect us is when other people hurt us, and we decide to confront them about what they did. However, due to our poor memory, the fine details may already be lost. 😧This is because Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can affect our short-term memory and all the information we store inside of it.

Talking Fast and Non-Verbal Communication

Many of us with adult ADHD can forget that we talk fast at times or have difficulty relaying our messages effectively. The adrenaline rush triggered by conflict can drive us to share ideas rapidly, and we might not notice that we're not making sense unless someone else manages to point it out. This fast-paced talking can lead to misunderstandings and make it challenging for others to follow our train of thought.

Another aspect of communication affected by ADHD is our abstract, vague language and non-verbal cues. Our facial expressions, gestures, and overall body language might not always align with what we're trying to say. 

This can make it difficult for others to interpret our intentions and emotions accurately. We might have a blank stare that makes us appear disinterested and like we cannot hear what they are saying. We might interrupt conversations and blurt out responses when trying to talk things through.

When attempting conflict resolution with a neurotypical person, these communication challenges can lead to misunderstandings and even conflict. Most people perceive this as bad behavior that is rude or disrespectful, leading to hurt feelings and strain on relationships.

Emotional Dysregulation and Handling Difficult Situations

When we feel like we're not in control of the situation, we may react in ways that seem extreme. This might look like bursting into tears due to overwhelming emotions, storming off in anger 😠, confronting others without gathering our thoughts, or avoiding conflicts altogether.

Emotions often play a significant role in conflicts. We may say hurtful things we later regret. The inability to control our actions in these moments can further strain relationships with neurotypical people. 

Shame and self-blame can also consume us, attributing the conflict to our ADHD. Anxiety may take hold, leaving us unsure of how to approach the situation, fearing we might make things worse. ☹️

Running Every Scenario On Our ADHD Brain

As people with ADHD, we can excel in conflict resolution due to our innate creativity, self-awareness and understanding of critical problem solving. However, as we tend to over-plan, we can obsess over how much effort is required to fix the conflict with the person, and forget the point of the task at hand. 😵

However, there is hope in managing conflict effectively for individuals with ADHD. ⬇️

How To Master Conflict Resolution When You Have ADHD

Managing conflict resolution can be challenging for individuals with ADHD. Still, it's possible to navigate these situations effectively with the right strategies and approaches. 

Helpful Tips To Resolve Conflict With ADHD

Take a Step Back

In a recent article, ADHD writer and advocate Jaclyn Paul shared some insights to help readers trust that they can improve conflict resolution in their lives. In the article she talks about the importance of stepping back and recognizing when anger builds up. This awareness can lead to better communication and ultimately resolve conflicts more healthily.

So, when conflict arises, take a moment to step back and breathe. Allow yourself some time to process your emotions before responding. This can prevent impulsive reactions that may escalate the situation.

Practice Active Listening

Focus on actively listening to the other person's perspective without interrupting. Avoid jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Listening without judgment or defensiveness helps you understand their viewpoint and fosters better communication.

Use Visual Reminders

Consider using visual cues or reminders to help you stay focused during discussions. This can be as simple as jotting down key points on paper or the notes app on your phone. This will help you keep track of what you want to say while being able to digest what the other person has said to you.

Break It Down

If the conflict seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller, manageable parts. Address each issue one at a time to avoid feeling overloaded and to maintain better focus.

Seek Clarification

Feel free to ask for clarification if you feel unsure about something. It's okay to seek more information to ensure you understand the situation entirely.

Practice Empathy

Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes and understand their feelings and perspectives. This can help create a more empathetic and constructive approach to conflict resolution.

Use "I" Statements

Use "I" statements to avoid sounding accusatory when expressing your feelings or concerns. For example, say, "I feel hurt when…" instead of "You always…"

Seek Support

Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist who can support and help you process your emotions during conflict. If you are having recurring conflict with a partner or spouse, consider couples therapy with a therapist experienced in ADHD.

Set Boundaries

Establish boundaries for conflict resolution discussions, such as taking breaks if emotions become overwhelming. Communicate these boundaries to the other person to ensure a respectful and productive conversation. 

The same rule goes for managing conflict with children with ADHD. For a child with ADHD, managing conflict can be even more difficult. ADHD meds may help, but the key lies in helping them understand and process their feelings. Aspects like increased heart rate and impulsive reactions tend to lead to feelings of anger and rage, as they cannot always name their feelings. Putting boundaries in place around how they can express their feelings of anger is essential for teaching them conflict resolution.

Reflect and Learn

After the conflict has been resolved, take some time to reflect on what happened and what you learned from the experience. This can aid in personal growth and improve future conflict resolution skills. If you need a bit of extra support with this, there are more articles on understanding the unique characteristics of managing relationships with ADHD in our archives.

Remember that conflict is normal in life, and nobody is perfect at resolving every issue. Be patient with yourself and focus on continuous improvement. With practice, you can develop practical skills that work well for you and your ADHD brain and nurture your connections with others.


When you have ADHD and need to navigate conflict, it's natural to experience a range of emotions, but it's essential not to act on them impulsively. Taking some time to understand our feelings and their root cause allows us to approach the situation with greater clarity and composure. ✅

Addressing hurt feelings when they arise is crucial to prevent issues from escalating. Openly expressing our emotions and maintaining healthy relationships are vital. Bottling up feelings when you have ADHD can lead to a buildup of unresolved emotions, exacerbating problems in the long run. 🧨

When we feel attacked when receiving negative feedback from others, it's important not to react with immediate anger. Instead, try to understand their perspective and reflect on their words to learn from the experience. Building and maintaining relationships requires empathy, effort, and understanding from both sides. 🤗

A fulfilling life includes having positive and healthy connections with others. Nurturing peaceful relationships with our social environment enhances our overall happiness. Conflicts are inevitable in social interactions, but actively listening to others and self-reflecting on our actions can lead to stronger relationships and personal growth.

In the end, life is too short to be consumed by arguments and fights. Embracing empathy, patience, and open communication helps us navigate conflicts gracefully and fosters harmonious connections with the people around us. By doing so, those of us with ADHD can create a more enjoyable and fulfilling life enriched by meaningful relationships. 👨‍❤️‍👨

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ADHD and Conflict: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is conflict resolution difficult for a person with ADHD?

Conflict resolution can be particularly challenging for individuals with ADHD. The symptoms associated with ADHD can interfere with effective communication and problem-solving, which can put a strain on a relationship.

What ADHD traits affect a person's ability to resolve conflict and confrontations?

Several ADHD traits can impact conflict resolution. For instance, impulsivity can cause a person to have a quick,angry response when they hear something that triggers feelings of shame, defensiveness and rejection within them. that may escalate the conflict, make it more challenging to speak to them effectively and make the nature of the conflict worse. Hyperactivity can make it challenging to stay focused during discussions, leading to misunderstandings and hurt feelings when the other person feels the person with ADHD cannot (or will not) hear them talk. Additionally, forgetfulness and failing to regulate or recognize emotions can hinder finding appropriate resolutions.

What's the best way to improve your ability to handle arguments or misunderstandings when one or both people have ADHD?

Like people without ADHD, improving conflict resolution skills with ADHD involves self-awareness and proactive strategies. Taking a step back and giving yourself time to process emotions before responding can help avoid impulsive reactions. No matter what caused the upset within the relationship or the point of the argument, there is always a way to resolve it. Listening to the other person's perspective and seeking clarification can foster better understanding. Seeking professional support from a mental health expert or ADHD coach can provide valuable guidance in managing conflicts effectively.

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