When someone has ADHD, there are some symptoms that people assume that sufferers have.

These include hyperactivity, an inability to focus, and the potential to be forgetful in various situations. However, relatively few people know that the condition seriously affects people’s moods. Learn more about ADHD mood swings, how to recognize ADHD mood swings, and some of the major causes of these shifts in mood in ADHD sufferers.

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What are ADHD mood swings?

ADHD mood swings refer to instances in which someone with ADHD drastically changes their mood or emotional state with little to no notice. A major part is that ADHD sufferers feel their emotions far more intensely than the average person, meaning that standard emotional shifts become drastic swings. Some of the symptoms of mood swings thanks to ADHD include:

  • Switching from excited in one moment to sad, angry, or upset the next
  • Varying wildly from paying attention to something to hyper-focusing on another
  • Having intense bursts of energy throughout the day, with significant fatigue in other moments
  • Being extremely restless and feeling the need to do something
  • Rushing through certain tasks or making mistakes
  • Being unaware of their specific tone or wording and the upset this can cause

While all of these symptoms co-occurring is a clear sign of ADHD, there are still indications when one or two of these symptoms exist at any time. If you have concerns about someone having ADHD, consider seeking a diagnosis.

Why ADHD mood swings happen

ADHD mood swings happen for various reasons, each of which can cause a drastic change in an emotional state. Some of the causes of ADHD mood swings include:

Rejection sensitive dysphoria

Rejection-sensitive dysphoria is a symptom that people with ADHD tend to suffer from more often than others in society. This issue specifically relates to the feeling of failure and occurs when someone with ADHD is told that something they did wasn’t up to standard. RSD means that someone with ADHD feels intense irritation whenever they do something wrong, leading to anger at themselves due to a perceived disappointment in the other person.

Task adjustment

When someone with ADHD enters a state of hyperfocus, they have a single-minded emphasis on completing the task in front of them as soon as possible to as high a standard as possible. Task adjustment occurs when someone changes the nature of this task. This can lead to anger or irritation from the person with ADHD, as they had an intense focus on completing the task in an initial way. Breaking the flow means finding that focus again is difficult, with the person annoyed at their inability to be productive.

Symptom-related frustration

A lot of the frustration that people with ADHD suffer from comes specifically from the existing symptoms they are dealing with. For example, the inability to focus on an important task means that they are unable to be productive and are likely to be either disappointed or annoyed at themselves, thanks to this perceived waste of time. Where symptoms are an issue, most ADHD symptoms contribute to these mood swings.

Unrelated disorders

There are plenty of disorders that aren’t ADHD that worsen thanks to the presence of ADHD. A big example of this is depression. As people with ADHD feel their emotions far more intensely than others when someone is suffering from depression ADHD, the issues that depression presents appear far more significant. While not a specific issue with ADHD, this is a case of the condition causing more damage to an existing situation.

Coping with ADHD mood swings

There are a few things that you can do to cope with ADHD mood swings and help people struggling. These include:

Identify triggers

Several triggers can cause ADHD mood swings, with different people responding uniquely to their triggers. Whether someone with ADHD or you’re looking to help someone with the condition, identifying these triggers is essential. By understanding these triggers, you can reduce the risk of interacting with them, ultimately improving the mood of the person with ADHD.

Try mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to understanding your mind and using this to improve your state of mind wherever possible. There are a few options for increasing mindfulness, such as meditation and yoga. These are not the best options for someone with ADHD, as people with ADHD can easily become restless. Consider unique mindfulness techniques such as tai chi, as these have a basis in movement rather than clearing the mind (something that people with ADHD struggle with).

Offer flexibility

If you are not a person with ADHD and are simply looking to offer support wherever possible, look to offer as much flexibility as possible. For example, if you are a teacher, provide your students with ADHD with alternatives to standard homework. The point of homework is to build a student’s understanding of the topic and increase their chances of success throughout the course. You are not likely to achieve this if the student struggles with existing homework and doesn’t have the right support to adjust the workload to their needs.

Create routines

Whether you have ADHD or are looking to support someone with ADHD, consider implementing more routines into your day-to-day life. This includes routines around how you work when you eat your meals and even having specific times for showering and other menial tasks. Setting a routine means that these tasks become standard habits, and completing each job becomes easier without thinking about them too much.