ADHD Irritability

ADHD & Irritability: Why Do We Get Easily Irritated?

Although not as intense as anger, irritability can trigger other negative emotions and actions. The thing is, those with ADHD are not exempted from being irritable. How do you deal with ADHD and irritability? Find out here. 

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This is Why You Might Always Feel Irritated

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has its way of affecting how we manage our emotions. Some adults with ADHD can be grumpy about little issues 😠, become overly excited with small things, or get too emotional because of rejection. Emotion dysregulation, though not official, can sometimes be a symptom of ADHD.

ADHD Irritability: Emotional Dysregulation

How we handle our emotions can make or break our daily life. When we go to school or work, and a slight inconvenience is encountered, we might find ourselves in the middle of negative emotions, such as anger (because unforeseen instances happened), aggressive behavior (shouting or throwing things), or being irritated because we think it already ruined our day. We tend to have difficulties having our emotions in check, making us more prone to experience emotional outbursts 😭.

ADHD Irritability: Trouble regulating our Emotions.

Emotional dysregulation can make it hard for us to concentrate on tasks, pay attention to what other people are saying, or make it difficult to control our impulses. It can also lead to social isolation because we tend to avoid people and situations that might trigger our negative emotions. When this ADHD symptom isn't managed well and continues to bring adverse outcomes, it might cause other more serious mental health problems, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Disruptive Behavior Disorders, or even Social Anxiety.

Severe Mood Dysregulation and ADHD

Have you ever wondered why many adults with ADHD have some sort of impairment in handling emotions? I, for one, tend to be too excited when I see something related to the hobby I am about to try 🙋‍♀️. I would buy things impulsively because it would give me a sense of satisfaction. I act out of emotions instead of logic, which often gets me into trouble.

I know other people who often get into trouble because they have difficulties managing their symptoms well. It resulted in a significant change in their behavior and self-esteem. They may often experience ADHD relationship problems with their partner or friends 🧑‍🤝‍🧑. It might even cause them to withdraw from society and feel isolated.

Trouble regulating our Emotions can make us a bit Irritable.

There are many studies on the connection between ADHD and emotional dysregulation. It has been found that some people with ADHD often have difficulty managing solid emotions well. It often clouds our judgment or can make us irrational in doing things we will regret later on. And sometimes, we tend to be irritated when we have emotion regulation problems🥺.

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ADHD Symptoms and Traits that can Cause Chronic Irritability

If you seem affected by everything around you and have severe irritability over petty things, please don’t think of it as a character flaw👌. It's just that many adults with ADHD tend to be quickly emotional and are prone to angry outbursts because they feel irritated. 

What do Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder symptoms have to do with irritability and the negative emotion that may come with it?

If you already received your adult ADHD diagnosis, chances are you already know the ADHD symptoms from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that may seem to affect you more often. Your mental health professional 👩‍⚕️    may have already discussed your traits or experiences with this neurodivergent disorder. And,  by now,  you might already be familiar that these symptoms can sometimes make your daily living more difficult than it should be. These are some of the signs and symptoms that may cause irritability in a person with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Sensory Overload

Have you ever worn a dress with a label found inside that always touches your skin 👗, making you feel distracted and irritated? Or maybe you experienced trying to sleep at your friend's house, but she doesn't like her lights off 💡 whenever she rests? These are some instances where sensory overload can make us feel emotionally overwhelmed and get pissed off almost every time.

ADHD Irritability: Sensory overload

Sensory overly would be like a lot of things in my head are preventing me from focusing on just one thing. It's as if my mind is all over the place, and everything seems to bother me. Too much noise from a TV show 📺, too much movement from miles away, and even too strong of a scent from a cologne or body spray can sometimes irritate me. I'll feel overwhelmed and annoyed when these external stimuli get inside me.


There was a time in my life when I got too grumpy because of the things I overthink about. One time at school, I couldn't talk the entire day and just shrugged off anyone I knew because I thought my friends were judging me when I couldn't do the required homework. I was too caught up in my thoughts that what I felt became true, and it just made everything worse. The irritability I felt became more intense that I had to excuse myself from my classes and go home early.

ADHD Irritability: Fear to Fail

When we overthink 😵, our thoughts' irrationality can control us. It's like everything that we think is true, even if it doesn't make sense at all. And this often happens to some people with ADHD because we tend to fixate our brains on the negative , treat our surroundings with resonating anger and lash out at who we thought would judge us. Our social skills might always be compromised whenever our irritability prevails.

The High Level of Stress

What would you do if you were pressured with a deadline, ran late in a meeting, and did not feel well simultaneously? I might just break into tears, cry my heart out 😭, and be irritated with everyone who's not helping me get past the situation. Many adults with ADHD will most likely do the same thing because when we get overwhelmed with what's happening and then a little dash of mental hyperactivity enters the picture, the common result will be stress and irritability.

ADHD Irritability: Tend to experience High Level of Stress.

Many children with ADHD suffer the same consequence too. When they are subjected to some things that they cannot handle or those that won't make them feel good about themselves, they'll most likely exhibit irritability. The high-stress level 📈 that childhood ADHD may produce can be too much to handle and can result in an emotional outburst.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) and Disruptive Behavior Disorder

Many children with ADHD are prone to have comorbid diagnoses related to emotional regulation. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, for instance,  may develop when these children have difficulty managing their ADHD symptoms and the emotional outburst and irritability that comes with it. DMDD, as they call it, is a childhood disorder that is characterized by a continuous pattern of outbursts and angry moods 😠. In clinical psychiatry, the DMDD criteria that you may observe in a kid may include irritability and anger manifested through verbal or physical aggression toward others, and throwing tantrums thrice per week for twelve months. It should also be accompanied by chronic irritability almost the whole day.  To be diagnosed, the symptoms must present in more than 1 setting (home, school, with friends, etc.)

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder is mostly considered by the National Institute of Mental Health as a children's disorder 🧒 that can be outgrown. Of course, that’s not to say that other issues may not develop in adulthood. 

For adult ADHD, severe irritability may cause a person to have other disruptive behavior disorders, such as conduct problems and oppositional defiant disorder. Disruptive behavior disorder is a general term used to describe a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior wherein they tend to violate the fundamental rights of others and central age-appropriate societal norms. 

Conduct problems can cause a person to become too aggressive, destructive, and deceitful. They often disregard the safety of others and may display cruelty toward animals 🐶 and people 🧑‍🤝‍🧑.

On the other hand, Oppositional Defiant Disorder is characterized by continuous uncooperative, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures 👮. People with ODD are usually touchy and easily annoyed by others. They always argue with other people, actively defy or refuse to comply with requests or rules, deliberately annoy people, and blame others for their mistakes or misbehavior.

Note that Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder are commonly diagnosed in children. But, according to reports, adults can be diagnosed with them, too. 

ADHD Irritability: It is ok to ask for Help

The link between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other disorders, such as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder and Disruptive Behavior Disorders, is still undergoing further research. However, ADHD and ODD symptoms and other conduct and behavior problems can have a similar presentation. Some studies suggest that ADHD can precede the development of ODD and CD.

What can we Do to Lessen and Control our Irritability?

Now that you know what will likely happen if you cannot keep your behavior in check, let's discuss how you can avoid complications. It's easy to say, "You should practice self-regulation and stop being irritated all the time," but it's not that simple. For a lot of people with ADHD, self-regulation can be challenging, so we must find other ways to cope with our condition. Here are some things you can do:

  • Get enough sleep 🛌🏽 . Fatigue is one of the common triggers of irritability. We tend to be grumpy the next day when tired. We can set up a nice, calm, and cozy evening routine to get a good night's sleep.
  • Do physical exercise and outdoor activities 🤸. Having some physical activity can help release the pent-up energy and frustrations that we may have. These activities can instantly turn our moods and positively diffuse our negative emotions to de-stress ourselves while improving our physical health.
  • Reward yourself 🏆. When we do something good, it feels good, and that's what we want to feel more often. So give yourself a break, do something you enjoy, or get a small treat after completing a task.
  • Talk to someone you trust ❣️. We tend to get overwhelmed when we think of things we cannot handle. Ask for help from someone you trust when you feel like everything is too much. Talking to them can make you feel better and give you a different perspective.
  • Consult your mental health professional 🧑‍⚕️. There are things we think we can handle all by ourselves but in reality, they are best discussed with a professional. If you're feeling down, it's best to consult your doctor or mental health specialist to help you sort things out. They are the best person to go for the proper course of action. They may suggest a different treatment plan, such as taking medication, cognitive behavior therapy, or other evidence-based therapies.
  • Have a secondary analysis of your symptoms. Sometimes, adult ADHD symptoms may cover underlying symptoms from other disorders. Ask for other psychiatric diagnoses to help you understand your struggles more. Anxiety or Depression may be some common disorders that can be comorbid with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
  • Know yourself more. When all else fails, the only person that can help you is you. Learn what makes you feel irritated all the time and what your triggers are, and try to find ways to avoid them. Be more patient, and take things one step at a time.

Remember, it's okay not to be okay 👌. However, when we let these negative feelings and irritability affect our self-esteem and daily lives, that's when we need to seek professional help and stop taking everything on our own. We need to work with our mental health condition, not against it. So take things slow, and be kind to yourself. We hope these tips can help you in some way to lessen your irritability.

ADHD and Irritability: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

 Is irritability a common occurrence when you have ADHD?

Irritability can be a common occurrence for some people with ADHD. It might be caused by a number of factors, including sensory overload, stress, and emotional dysregulation - all of which are also highly associated with ADHD. ‍

Is irritability the same as anger?

No, it isn’t. Anger usually occurs as an emotional reaction to something that has happened in the present—you have negative feelings toward someone or something because they did something hurtful or offensive in the recent past (or even just a few minutes ago).On the other hand, irritability is more of a feeling that can be present all day long. Sometimes, it doesn’t have anything specific triggering it. It pertains to having a short-temper or being easily annoyed or angered.‍

What are some steps to overcome being irritable?‍

You can reduce the possibility of being irritable when you are in a good physical and mental state. As such, having enough sleep, exercising, taking breaks, prioritizing tasks, and talking to your mental health coach will do wonders.

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