ADD AND ANGER – HELPFUL TIPS
Add is a neurological condition. This is not to make excuses for you, but because once you understand your brain, you can take responsibility for your behavior. Further, anyone who is under stress and angry, with or without a neurological condition, may over-act.
People with ADD tend to be impulsive and have a low frustration tolerance. They blow up, and then blow over, meaning once they express their anger, it’s out and they can carry on as before. What they don’t usually understand is that the person on the other end of their fury can’t just carry on; the intensity of their explosion leaves a painful wake that doesn’t subside.
Frank explains, “I can’t stand it when Julie starts in on me. She never lets up, always complaining about something or other. I just can’t take it.”
I ask, “Can you explain what it feels like inside?”
“I don’t know. She’s yakking away, and it’s like a big rush — maybe like a tornado that rises out of nowhere and erupts. I know I hurt her when I yell like that, but I can’t help it.”
He can’t define what “it” is that he can’t take. But I assume it’s the flooding of emotions that builds up pressure and must be released.
Frank says, “Julie tells me to count to 10 before I speak. I have heard that all my life. ‘Just count to 10.’ ‘Give yourself time to cool off.’ ‘Think before you speak.’ If I could of course I would. But obviously, I can’t.
For someone with ADD, the impulsivity makes counting to any number impossible. Even thinking about counting before speaking is out of the question, because there is no before. As Frank says, there is a tornado that erupts without warning.
There are some tricks, though, you can teach yourself to catch your anger in advance or at least to repair the damage if you can’t. You need to study yourself like you would study anything you want to learn. People with ADD are smart, creative, often with an unusual perspective to problem solving. They have high energy. These skills are exactly what it takes to devote to this type of study — catching the anger before it erupts. So, who but someone with ADD could manage such a touch task!
- Learn to recognize the pattern of your pre-eruption. What are the typical warning signs? They could be physiological, such as an increased pulse rate, sweat, facial twitch. It could be psychological, such as your feeling challenged, denigrated, put on the defensive, backed into a corner.
- Pay attention to when a conversation is getting to you. Once you know the pre-eruption signs, you can better notice when you are getting angered by the exchange. It may take a number of blow ups for you to see the pattern.
- Practice, when by yourself, a number of ways to change the topic or de-escalate the tension. If you are changing the topic, make sure you explain why you are doing that and offer to continue discussing the subject at a specified later time. Otherwise, your partner will think you are just forgetting or avoiding.
- Practice, when by yourself, lots of humorous ways you can switch the subject. Use your sense of humor, while at the same time being respectful of how your outbursts can be hurtful.
- Alert the other person you need a cooling off period. You might say, “My tornado warning siren is revving up,” or “I need to retire to the bomb shelter; I’d love for you to join me so we can sit quietly for a few minutes.”
- Learn to apologize quickly. If you explode, apologize not only for your eruption, but for the effect it has on the other person. You need to remember it really hurts being on the other end of your outbursts.
- Remind yourself you are not bad. You are a loving, good person who has a neurological condition that makes it difficult to modulate your anger. This is an explanation, not an excuse; you understand what is happening to you, but you still have to catch yourself before you explode.
- Keep repeating, “It’s hard being me.” But be sure to add, “Even so, there are many wonderful things about being me.” You have no control over feeling flooded; you do have control over how you handle it.
One final thought. There are some people with ADD whose anger is so explosive they could benefit from some medication to help them better manage their control. This is not a sign of being crazy or sick. Remember, you have a neurological condition that may require extra assistance. Think about this like with eye glasses. There’s nothing wrong with you if you have to wear glasses; it just makes seeing things easier. Medication for ADD does the same thing — it makes it easier to live with the neurological symptoms.
If you have questions or comments or want more information, contact me at:
Dr. Karen Gail Lewis
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