Does Adderall Cause Irritability and Anger?

Adderall is the brand name for a stimulant medication made with the chemicals dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Adderall is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (a disorder marked by excessive sleepiness).

For people with ADHD, Adderall can help with symptoms like difficulty regulating focus, low impulse control, and restlessness. When prescribed incorrectly or taken at too high of a dose, Adderall and other amphetamine-derived medications can cause irritability and anger.

This article covers how Adderall could cause irritability and anger, how to manage Adderall-related irritability and anger, other side effects of Adderall, and when to get help.


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How Does Adderall Cause Irritability and Anger?

Adderall is a stimulant medication. In other words, it helps people feel alert and energetic. This occurs because of changes with the brain chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, as follows:

  • Dopamine helps with motivation and feelings of reward when engaging in or completing tasks. Having too much dopamine can increase aggression and lower impulse control. Low levels can impact your motivation and excitement levels.
  • Norepinephrine is a fight-or-flight chemical that helps with alertness and focus. A surge of norepinephrine can sometimes increase anxiety.
  • Serotonin creates feelings of pleasure in the brain, and it also affects stress, fear, body temperature, sleep, and addiction, among other things. High amounts of serotonin can make a person feel agitated.

People with ADHD often struggle with elevated levels of irritability and anger. For most people, Adderall helps with ADHD-related emotional responses. However, if irritability is worsened with Adderall, a change in medication or dosage (with the help of a healthcare provider) might be required.

Types of Adderall

The two types of Adderall are:

  • Immediate-release: Tablets that last four to six hours
  • Extended release (XR): Capsules that last eight to 10 hours

Adderall can be addictive for some people, and it is highly advised to take the drug as prescribed. The body can become dependent on Adderall in higher doses, and people with ADHD who take the drug can also develop a tolerance to it. Tolerance is when a higher dose of a drug is needed to achieve the same effect.

Adderall and Withdrawal

Adderall withdrawal (symptoms that occur after stopping or reducing the drug) can also cause irritation. Adults and children who take Adderall or other amphetamine-derived medications can experience withdrawal symptoms when:

  • Lowering a dose
  • Quitting medication abruptly
  • Changing their medication

Speak to a healthcare provider before discontinuing or changing an Adderall prescription to create a safe withdrawal plan.

Signs of Increased Irritability and Anger

Signs of irritability and anger that could stem from taking Adderall include:

  • High levels of frustration
  • Disproportionate responses to frustrating situations
  • Angry outbursts
  • Picking at skin
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling agitated, restless, or impatient
  • Nervousness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Self-harm

Managing Irritability and Anger

If a child or adult's increased irritability occurs because of Adderall, consult your healthcare provider, who might recommend the following:

  • Changing the type of Adderall, such as switching from immediate release to extended release
  • Changing the times the medication is taken
  • Reducing dosage
  • Switching to another medication, like the stimulant Ritalin, which is derived from a chemical called methylphenidate

Studies indicate that increased irritability and anger can also be a part of living with ADHD for some people with the disorder. About 70% of people with ADHD are likely to feel more impatient and emotionally excitable, and 85% of people with ADHD might feel more frustration than people without ADHD. People with ADHD are also more likely to have anger directed at them.

To manage ADHD-related irritability and anger, the following techniques could help:

  • Mindfulness: Being present with emotions and letting them pass without immediate judgment. Studies have found that mindfulness exercises, like breathing and counting down, can help children and adults with ADHD.
  • Setting a regular schedule: Consistent sleep, regular exercise, and healthy eating can help with managing anger and lowering the chances of an outburst.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the thoughts that drive behaviors. CBT could help people with ADHD label emotions and manage them in a helpful way.
  • Social skills therapy: Learning social skills, which can include labeling emotions and working on relationships, can also help with ADHD-related irritation.
  • Managing stress: Limiting stressful situations, taking breaks from, or changing stressful environments.
  • Labeling emotions: Children with ADHD might find emotions frustrating because they don't know how to label them, while adults with ADHD might be slower to accurately label emotions.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Contact a healthcare provider if you feel irritable because of Adderall. Your healthcare provider might recommend:

  • Lowering dosage
  • Changing medications
  • Switching types of Adderall
  • Changing medication times

Do not change or stop your medication unless under the direction of your healthcare provider.

Other Side Effects of Adderall

Other side effects of Adderall include:

  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite

The following Adderall side effects require emergency medical care:

  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling in arms and/or legs
  • Tics, teeth grinding
  • Slow speech
  • Paranoia, suspicion, or hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Skin rashes, blistering, or bruising
  • Itching, hives, or swelling
  • Changes in vision
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Hoarseness in voice


Adderall is the brand name for a stimulant medication made with the chemicals dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. The medication is usually prescribed to people with ADHD to help with regulating focus, controlling impulse, and restlessness.

Adderall can cause irritability in some people, which usually means their dosage could be too high, or they might need to switch medications. This irritability is caused by fluctuations in the brain chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Adderall withdrawal can also cause irritability.

To manage irritability that could be caused by Adderall, contact your doctor to get help with dosage, timing, or medication changes. Sleeping regularly, mindfulness, CBT, and social skills therapy are also practices that can help with ADHD-related irritability.

A Word From Verywell

Many people who take Adderall to manage ADHD symptoms find it helpful. However, for some, Adderall can increase irritability or anger. Speaking to a healthcare provider to possibly modify a dose could help with Adderall's side effects. Changing medications, which could include other types of stimulants, such as Ritalin, could also help with managing side effects.

Adderall isn't likely to cause irritability if taken as prescribed. However, if you're questioning how your medication makes you feel, there are other options for people living with ADHD that could help you get on the path to successfully managing your symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is aggression a side effect of Adderall?

    Aggression can be a side effect of taking Adderall if the drug is being taken incorrectly. This can mean taking too high a dose or the wrong formula of Adderall, or abusing the drug. It could also mean that Adderall is not the right medication for the person taking it. Adderall withdrawal can also cause aggression and irritability. If Adderall causes symptoms of aggression, speak to a healthcare provider about withdrawing from or switching medications safely.

  • Can Adderall change your personality?

    If Adderall is taken with a prescription, it is not likely to change a person's personality. However, for people with ADHD, Adderall helps with symptoms like restlessness, impulse control problems, and focus regulation issues. This might include speaking and acting more carefully and being able to complete tasks. If Adderall creates symptoms of anger, emotion, or agitation, speak to a healthcare provider about dosage or switching medications.

  • Can you take Adderall for life?

    While there is a need for more studies on Adderall that cover the drug's effects over a lifetime, studies indicate Adderall can be taken safely long-term by most adults. However, for some people, Adderall could cause long term psychological problems or problems with the central nervous system, which includes the parts of the brain that regulate chemicals like dopamine. This is more likely to occur with higher doses or abuse.

    With children, studies indicate that long-term use of the drug could affect height in a small number of cases (by about 1–2 centimeters), but the difference is likely to be made up by the time the child is a teenager.

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By Neha Kashyap
Neha is a New York-based health journalist who has written for WebMD, ADDitude, HuffPost Life, and dailyRx News. Neha enjoys writing about mental health, elder care, innovative health care technologies, paying for health care, and simple measures that we all can take to work toward better health.