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Emotional Dysregulation

The amygdala area of the brain is in charge of emotional reactions and decision-making. When the amygdala receives a message due to a rush of anger, worry, or excitement, it sends a message to the the cerebral cortex. In neurotypical brains this would result in the cerebral cortex suppressing emotional responses, allowing you to take a big breath and consider your options. This cerebral cortex is impaired however in ADHD brains and a s a result, a person with ADHD may:

  • Have an emotional response that appears to be out of sync with the cause

  • When an emotion has taken hold, it might be difficult to settle down.

  • Appear insensitive to or unconcerned about other people's feelings.

“Emotion regulation is a big part of ADHD that has been traditionally ignored,” says Joel Nigg, Ph.D. “When comparing ADHD brains to those without, we see that the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the reward system has reduced activation, especially in the dorsal part of the prefrontal cortex. This could explain overexcitement, frustration & anger, and inability to respond to delayed rewards.”

Another cause for Emotional Dysregulation in ADHD brains could be the inability to focus on emotions independently.


  1. How ADHD Amplifies Emotions. ADDitude. Published February 15, 2018. Accessed January 31, 2022.

  2. Shaw P, Stringaris A, Nigg J, Leibenluft E. Emotion Dysregulation in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2014;171(3):276-293. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.13070966

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