ADHD and Anger: What’s the Link?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes difficulty focusing, planning and organizing tasks, and controlling impulses. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Hyperfocus on a topic of interest
  • Being unable to sense and manage time
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Inability to complete tasks

While anger isn't "officially" listed as a symptom, ADHD symptoms can trigger anger in many people. About 70% of adults with ADHD report feeling more impatient and quick to anger than those without ADHD.

This article covers the link between ADHD and anger, ADHD anger triggers, how to manage anger as a person with ADHD, and how to prevent angry outbursts.

Frustrated man

Claudia Burlotti / Getty Images

The Relationship Between ADHD and Anger

Emotional dysregulation (difficulty managing emotions) is a major part of living with ADHD for both adults and children. Studies have shown that about 70% of those with ADHD are likely to feel more impatient than those without ADHD. They also may feel more frustration than those without ADHD.

Adults and children with ADHD are more likely to:

  • Have angry outbursts
  • Feel impatient
  • Defy authority
  • Be irritable
  • Experience conflict
  • Be more excitable
  • Feel emotions more intensely
  • Deal with stress and anxiety

Impulse Control

Because ADHD affects impulse control, it can impact emotional responses like anger. This may include people with ADHD having difficulty with:

  • Regulating responses to frustration and impatience
  • Controlling emotions
  • Regulating anger and angry responses
  • Speaking before thinking

Emotional Dysregulation

Emotion dysregulation ⁠— or difficulty managing emotions ⁠— is a key part of living with ADHD for adults and children. Brain scans of people with ADHD have found that:

  • While non-ADHD brains can recognize positive and negative emotions equally, an ADHD brain can be more likely to notice the negative.
  • The ADHD brain might not label emotions as quickly or accurately as a non-ADHD brain.
  • An ADHD brain might not be as affected by whether or not a past experience was positive or negative when reacting to a current situation.
  • The brain of a person with ADHD might be less able to label emotions in voices and on faces.


People with ADHD can feel overwhelmed by things like daily responsibilities, time management, relationship difficulties, and stimulating environments. This can create frustration, which is linked to outbursts and irritability.


A 2017 Yale review found the majority of ADHD medications do not increase irritability. However, amphetamine-derived medications (namely Adderall) can increase the chances of irritability.

What Can Trigger Anger in People With ADHD?

For people with ADHD, triggers for anger can include the following:

  • Being in an overstimulating environment
  • Being interrupted
  • Having to switch tasks
  • Rejection
  • Frustration with organization and time management
  • Relationship issues
  • Authority figures
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Emotionally charged situations
  • Stress

Managing Anger Caused by ADHD

Many techniques could help people with ADHD manage anger, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy focusing on the thoughts that drive behaviors. CBT could help people with ADHD label and better manage emotions.
  • Mindfulness: A practice that includes being present and aware of emotions and letting them pass without immediate judgment. Studies have found that mindfulness can help people with ADHD control their emotions, including children as young as 7.
  • Sleeping regularly: Getting enough sleep and keeping a set sleep schedule can help manage anger and lower the chances of an outburst.
  • Exercise: Research indicates that exercise can help with regulating negative reactions.
  • Meditation: Meditation is a set of mental techniques used to train attention and awareness as well as improve relaxation. Even brief meditation can help with emotional regulation, concentration, and mood.
  • Breathing deeply: The simple act of counting and breathing can help people of all ages living with ADHD keep feelings from getting overwhelming.
  • Social skills therapy: Social skills therapy involves working with a therapist who understands the social impact of ADHD and can help manage emotions and conflict. Being open to learning social skills while seeing social setbacks as learning opportunities can also help with ADHD-related irritation.

Preventing Angry Outbursts

Strategies for preventing angry outbursts include:

  • Choosing a word or phrase, such as "relax," and repeating it until the anger subsides
  • Learning your triggers
  • Avoiding situations where you might be overstimulated
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Leaving the room or stressful situation for breaks
  • Calming, repetitive activities like knitting, gardening, or playing with a fidget toy


Certain ADHD symptoms may cause anger. Rejection, overstimulation, fatigue, time management, and switching tasks may all trigger anger in a person living with ADHD. However, there are ways to manage it. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, getting enough sleep, exercising, and social skills therapy are all methods that can help with anger management when living with ADHD. Counting, breathing, pinpointing triggers, and leaving the situation can prevent outbursts can all help.

A Word From Verywell

Living with ADHD is not easy, and angry outbursts can be especially distressing. Whether you're an adult with ADHD or a parent of a child with ADHD, being honest about emotions without judging them is key. Practicing mindfulness, taking breaks from stressful situations, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are all ways to help with anger management without much cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can ADHD cause emotional outbursts?

    Studies have shown a link between ADHD and anger, and emotional outbursts can be more likely in some adults and children living with ADHD. Plus, people with ADHD often report more intense emotions overall.

  • What might trigger anger in children with ADHD?

    Frustration, social rejection, defying authority, harsh criticism from others, and not knowing how to label or deal with emotions can all lead to anger in children with ADHD. Trying to meet adults' expectations and manage school can also be triggers. Overstimulation, boredom, stress, or feeling overwhelmed are further triggers that could lead to an outburst or conflict with others.

  • How common is anger in people with ADHD?

    Research indicates that about 70% of people with ADHD report feeling more impatient and emotionally excitable than those without ADHD. Also, 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, which can also be a trigger for conflict and outbursts.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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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.