How to Recognize and Address the Emotional Symptoms of ADHD

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Emotional symptoms of ADHD can weigh us down or easily overwhelm us. We know the ADHD brain works differently. It has a different wiring that drives certain behaviors and processes. This means that ADHD doesn’t only affect how we learn and act, it also has a profound impact on our emotions and how we feel.

It’s not that individuals with ADHD have a different range of emotions from other people. Rather, people with ADHD respond to and process through these emotions differently from others. The emotional symptoms of ADHD typically show up in the inability to respond appropriately to some emotions.

In this post, we want to look at some of the most frequent emotional issues for ADHD individuals and how to best address them. We want to provide some tools so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by the emotional symptoms of ADHD.

Frustration or Anger

If you are a parent, you might see outbursts of emotional symptoms of ADHD in your children through frustration and anger. Individuals with ADHD, children especially, really struggle with communicating their feelings. One result of this communication difficulty might show itself as frustration or anger and might appear as frequent mood swings.

What frustration or anger might look like

As we just mentioned, anger or frustration might often look like violent mood swings. For instance, your child, to you, might suddenly have an angry outburst. While the outburst might appear sudden, to your child, though, it might simply have resulted from being frustrated for some time over difficulty communicating.

Frustration and anger have similarities in common but appear slightly different. Frustration might be expressed in sullenness or quiet resignation, while anger often results in explosive behavior or yelling. As a parent, you want to try to guard and preempt too much of either in your child.

How to address frustration or anger appropriately

Identifying frustration and anger completes the first step, the next step involves addressing it appropriately. You need to address the problem as soon as you recognize an issue forming. You don’t want your child becoming so frustrated that they stop trying to communicate. At the same time, you don’t want them exploding in angry outbursts on a daily basis.

To help curb these emotional symptoms of ADHD, pay close attention to any triggers or warning signs. If you know something in particular tends to lead to an angry outburst, try to steer your child away from the activity or preempt the explosion with positive redirection.

To fight back against anger and frustration arising on a regular basis, try to speak positivity into your child. Here at FastBraiin, we call this becoming your child’s hero as we believe parents are essential to helping ADHD.

You can turn negatives into positives in a number of ways. For instance, you can provide support for your child, and encourage them that they can do the things that frustrate them. Additionally, help your child to problem solve around difficulties. Eventually small issues won’t have to lead to frustration.

Remember also, as a parent, that you need to guard against reacting in anger or frustration yourself. Help fight against these emotional symptoms of ADHD by showing your child a more positive way to respond to tricky situations. Through setting the example, your child eventually will learn to respond appropriately.


Fear sometimes appears as one of the emotional symptoms of ADHD. Oftentimes, this arises as a fear of failure or rejection. In reality, though, we all have some level of fear in our lives.

In fact, in some instances, especially when our life is in danger, fear provides benefits. We should have fear over approaching a dangerous animal that we don’t know. In such moments, fear can save our lives or emotions.

Oftentimes, though, especially in connection with ADHD, fear of failure can become crippling. As parents, you need to train yourself to be able to recognize what fear might look like and how to intervene to resolve it in your child.

What fear might look like

Irrational fear can consume us if not controlled. Many individuals with ADHD might face this kind of fear especially when trying to tackle a difficult project or in dealing with a social relationship.

People with ADHD tend to have difficulty connecting with others or expressing their emotions. Learning social skills can be challenging for people with ADHD. As a result, oftentimes people with ADHD may behave awkwardly or disconnected.

When others respond negatively to this, the individual with ADHD feels the sting of that rejection. Overtime, multiple failures or rejections can accumulate creating a crippling fear of how a person is perceived by others.

This fear of failure also might come into play with school or in the workplace. If a person with ADHD struggles to grasp some concepts, they might see their work as continual failures. In their own eyes, they perceive that they just can’t cut it. As a result they build up a devastating fear of always failing.

As a parent, you might see this fear as an unwillingness to try new things or meet new people. It might also look like avoidance of tasks at which your child has failed before. Your child might also appear irritated or especially uncomfortable in social settings. If you notice several of these things, you might look to find ways to address the underlying feelings of fear.

How to address fear appropriately

Since fear acts as such a powerful emotion, you need to try to address this one of the emotional symptoms of ADHD as soon as possible. Many times resolving fears starts with identifying and resolving the underlying triggers. Many people with crippling fear might not recognize these causes themselves. If this is the case, you might consider going to a licensed psychiatrist or counselor to talk through the issues.

To help someone who has a fear of rejection, try to speak affirmation into their life and relationships. Show them through actions and words that you value their presence in your life. Try to remind them on a daily basis that you love and care for them just as they are.

If your child has a fear of failure, also seek to empower them and lift them up. You need to remind the person with ADHD that failure is an option. They can fail. Everyone does at one point or another. If your ADHD child struggles with a fear of failure, teach them that failure happens and they can recover from it.

Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem

You most likely have already noticed that many emotional symptoms of ADHD share roots in similar underlying causes. Insecurity and low self-esteem also arise from some of the fears that we have discussed. Feeling isolated and left out also adds to feelings of insecurity.

Many children feel insecure or have low self-esteem at different points in their life. These feelings occur to us all especially as we go through puberty. As a parent, though, you want to pay close attention to when insecurity and low self-esteem become overwhelming. Pay close attention to what these issues look like and how to resolve them.

What insecurity and low self-esteem might look like

To begin with, insecurity often results from being uncertain of one’s own identity. Your ADHD child might feel insecure if they don’t know their role or position. We can all identify with insecurity at some point. For instance, we usually all feel insecure when we meet new people or start a new job. It takes time to learn our new role in these situations and to start to feel comfortable.

Insecurity becomes a problem, though, when we never reach the point that we feel comfortable. You might notice insecurity in your child if they appear confused or hesitant often. This might come out more in social situations. For instance, if someone speaks to your child or asks a question and they don’t respond. They might hide in shyness as a response to insecurity felt inside.

Additionally, low self-esteem arises as one of the emotional symptoms of ADHD. Low self-esteem can appear similar to insecurity and oftentimes they occur together. While insecurity often occurs with someone not know their role, low self-esteem might come across as someone not knowing themselves at all. People with low-esteem see themselves in a negative light and as having little or no value.

You can see low-esteem many times in a persons’ self-talk. These are the words they use to and about themselves. If you notice your ADHD child often talking down about themselves, they may have issues with low self-esteem.

How to address insecurity and low self-esteem appropriately

In order to best help your with child with the emotional symptoms of ADHD of insecurity and low self-esteem you want to replace their negative feelings with positive ones. Ultimately you want to find ways to boost your child’s self-esteem. To help this process, be sure that you tell them when they do something well. Oftentimes, insecurity results when a child feels like they fail at everything. Make sure, though, that you tell them the things they do well.

Also, find ways to empower your child. Give your child choices to make and let them follow through on them. Make the decisions small but relevant. Soon, with enough choices and decisions, your child will feel more empowered and self-confident.

Finally, make sure that your child knows they have just as many strengths as weaknesses. In fact, you should work with your child to help identify the strengths of your child with ADHD. Help them understand that they do bring value and have intrinsic worth. Replace the idea that they only have weaknesses by showing them all the things they can be good at.


Another one of the common emotional symptoms of ADHD involves anxiety. As we have talked about before, ADHD and stress tend to follow along with each other. ADHD childhood anxiety can be particularly prominent.

Many times anxiety results from a fear of not knowing what to do or how to act. Additionally, anxiety occurs when someone doesn’t understand or comprehend what’s goes on. As a parent, you need to educate yourself on the signs of anxiety and how to address it well if it arises in your child.

What anxiety might look like

To identify signs of anxiety as one of the emotional symptoms of ADHD, you need to look for signs of excess worry or stress. ADHD children with anxiety might show signs of isolation and restlessness. Additionally, they might have trouble sleeping or resting.

Other signs of anxiety might appear as irritability. If your child seems to react in anger or frustration quickly, they may have anxious thoughts making them irritable. Furthermore, anxiety might result in constant fatigue in a child. This might appear as a child not wanting to do anything or not wanting to do the activities they used to enjoy.

If you see many of these things in your child, you might consider anxiety as an underlying issue. If anxiety fits the bill, find ways to address it sooner rather than later to avoid larger issues.

How to address anxiety appropriately

One of the best ways to address anxiety in your child is by getting your child to talk about their feelings. Help them to identify the moments when they feel anxious and explain the reasons for it. As the parent, you can facilitate this process through asking pointed questions.

For instance, if your child seems distracted, don’t ignore it. Rather, ask them specifically if they feel worried about something. Keep asking them questions until they can express what is bothering them.

Once the issue has been drawn out, then help your child identify practical ways to address the issue. Help them understand that worrying doesn’t resolve the problem. Also, remind them that they can depend on you to help resolve any issues they may face.

To help them ultimately overcome anxiety, let them know they don’t have to face their concerns alone. Give them support in whatever issues feel overwhelming for them. With your support and encouragement, your child will be able to find ways to help overcome their anxious feelings.

Help to Manage the Emotional Symptoms of ADHD Through Identifying and Replacing

In this post, so far we have covered many problem areas of emotions and how to address them in individuals with ADHD. To conclude, we want to leave you with the understanding that all of us can learn to manage our emotions. Sometimes, you might feel like your ADHD child might never react appropriately or keep his emotions in check. It doesn’t have to always be this way, though.

Just like teaching any other skill, you can teach and learn emotional management. For instance, ADHD and empathy can be difficult for some people at first, but overtime empathy can be taught and encouraged.

To help teach emotional management, you want to practice identifying and replacing as often as possible. This means that when your ADHD child reacts disproportionately to a situation, you first identify how they feel. You tell them that you understand that they are sad or mad or angry and why they feel that way.

After you identify how they feel, next you need to replace the feeling with a different perspective on the situation or a positive take away. You could say that you understand your child feels upset that they have to go to bed, but going to bed gives them a chance to rest and have energy to play again tomorrow.

You could say that you understand your child feels mad that they didn’t get picked to play the sport, but they now have the opportunity to try out a different sport.

Whatever the situation, identifying and replacing can provide positive benefits. In some instances, you might still need to continually address the underlying issues of the emotional symptoms of ADHD. This all takes time, though. Use the tools we have discussed here to keep the emotional symptoms of ADHD in check.