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ADHD and Exaggerated Emotions

Children with ADHD often exhibit exaggerated emotions.  How can we help them develop emotional control?

Smiley 2979107 1280Recently an article in Additude magazine; Exaggerated Emotions: How and Why ADHD Triggers Intense Feelings, focused on reasons why this happens.

When looking at ADHD, it is often a lack of executive functioning that makes it difficult for individuals to complete mental functions and self-regulate their behavior. Emotional control is part of executive function and for one to be able to control their emotions they must be able to; pay attention to the situation, process the situation, control their impulsivity and respond appropriately. For individuals with ADHD this is almost impossible; thus, we often see the emotional outburst or exaggerated emotions as a result.

Thomas Brown, Ph.D., explains why ADHD sparks such intense anger, frustration, and hurt, “Challenges with processing emotions start in the brain itself. Sometimes the working memory impairments of ADHD allow a momentary emotion to become too strong, flooding the brain with one intense emotion.”

Some of the reasons for exaggerated emotions from Additude Magazine’s article below can also be correlated to executive function. 

  • Emotions Rule: meaning that even though most doctors are not using emotional outburst as criteria for diagnosing ADHD, research shows that individuals with ADHD have more difficulty with frustration, impatience, hot temper, and excitability than compared to the control in studies.
  • Ability to Process Emotions: their working memory, which is also a key to executive function, impairs ADHD individuals from processing the emotion thus flooding their brain with one intense emotion.
  • Fasting on a Feeling: since they are not able to regulate this emotion as well as process it; the emotion pushes all other important information out of their brain that might help with regulation of that emotion.
  • Extreme Sensitivity to Disapproval: this also relates back to the working memory being unable to process more than on emotion at a time as well as individuals becoming hyper-focused on a certain event which also leads back to executive function and the inability to task switch.
  • Bottled Up Fear: meaning they often have social anxiety that makes it difficult to interact so when they do it can become emotionally charged quickly.

Some ways you can work through emotions with your child include:

  • Exercise
  • Putting feelings into words
  • Teaching anger is a signal and not an outcome
  • Practice compromise and negotiation
  • Keeping notes
  • Working on executive function

Play Attention, inspired by NASA, uses powerful, advanced technology call BodyWave that allows individuals to control all cognitive exercises by mind/attention alone. Play Attention's brain enabled exercises improve cognitive skills that lay the foundation for strong executive function. This includes emotional control.  For example, in order for a child to have strong emotional control and to be able to communicate, they must be able to pay attention, process the situation, control impulsivity, and respond appropriately. All the games within Play Attention address attention, processing speed and impulse control. Therefore, every time you start an activity within Play Attention, you are developing skills that will help with emotional control, as well as executive function and self-regulation.