ADHD emotional meltdowns are awful. Embarrassing. Exhausting. You feel like a child having a tantrum in the supermarket because they didn’t get their way. Full on panic, crying, anger, yelling – everything feels so intense.
Others view that you’re waaaaay overreacting to something that happened, but for you, it all seems appropriate because with ADHD your emotions can be so extreme. Later on, you might be able to be rational about it and wonder what the heck happened, but in the middle of it, there’s no logic, just feeling.
What exactly is an ADHD emotional meltdown?
ADHD emotional meltdowns are when someone reaches the end of their rope and easily ‘lose it’. It’s like a pressure cooker exploding and is generally messy and ugly. They look different for everyone and can range from angry outbursts of flash anger with screaming and profanities, uncontrollable sobbing, overreacting to the slightest thing, internally berating yourself, or catastrophizing and thinking your whole world is going to end.
ADHD emotional meltdowns can be shocking for both the person with ADHD and those around them. Plus, they are so embarrassing!!
Why do ADHD emotional meltdowns happen?
It’s not because the person is immature or thinks they should get their way. It’s their ADHD. It’s the result of dealing constantly with distractions, stress, exhaustion, and overwhelm.
People with ADHD classically have difficulty regulating emotions and feel things very deeply. What seems small to others can feel huge and overwhelming to people with ADHD. Pent-up frustration or sadness mounts until something, usually minor, causes a meltdown.
They can be the result of misreading social cues and conversations, constantly feeling like you’re letting your loved ones down, rushing to meet deadlines, or being on alert. Boggling or flooding – when a momentary emotion takes up all the space in your head. Your brain shuts down and you can’t process, just feel.
What to do in the middle of a meltdown?
So what do you do when you’re ADHD emotions explode and you’re in the middle of a meltdown? They are an uncontrollable force that usually can’t be stopped short, but you can try to manage them.
Most of us can’t run into our room and hide unfortunately – although if you can, that’s the best plan. Step away to give yourself a moment to reset and calm down. Find a way to get physical to burn off the adrenaline and stress.
A trick you can use even when surrounded by others is to engage in deep breaths or box breathing – four counts in; hold for four; four counts out, hold for four.
What to do after the ADHD meltdown?
When you have settled down, get to the bottom of what happened. What set you off? What was going on in your mind, body and around you that set you off and how did you start to feel as it happened?
Learning your triggers can help you identify them in the future. That way you can stop an ADHD emotional meltdown before it happens. Talk to your loved ones so they can recognize the warning signals and determine a way they can communicate what they see.
Then apologize and explain to those who witnessed and were impacted by the meltdown. Though you might rather hide, damage control is essential to avoiding shame and guilt and repairing your relationships.
Often you end up feeling pretty raw after the emotional release and it’s important to forgive yourself and learn from it.
How to prevent ADHD emotional meltdowns
Let’s face it, not all can be prevented. It’s impossible to say you can eliminate them completely. You have ADHD and no matter how well you manage it, there will still be moments when you are startled, afraid, stressed out, exhausted and around annoying, frustrating people.
But you can manage them by managing your ADHD. Self-care for your mind and body, not overcommitting, handling your own stuff in therapy or coaching, strengthening boundaries where you deal with issues ahead of time and being wise with whom you interact. Realizing the small stuff really is small. It all helps.
And most importantly, learning personal systems that help manage your ADHD is key. Systems that reduce clutter and disorganization, tackle time management, push off procrastination, and get things done – are all taught in the ADHD Success Club!
If you find your ADHD emotional reactions are impacting your life, I invite you to join me for ADHD Success Club. Click here to sign up!
And tune into Episode #99 of the Kick Some ADHD podcast for more about Surviving ADHD Meltdowns.