“Why Am I So Angry”

Over the past several years, there has been more evidence that there is a strong emotional component to ADHD. Folks with ADHD often have a difficult time regulating their emotions and when faced with overwhelm, can have ‘angry outbursts’ that hurt their relationships in the process. Men with ADHD are especially prone to frustration and anger for a number of reasons. It is possible that these males feel worthless, guilty and ashamed. A sense of failure may make them angry with themselves. The rage and anger that results may be taken out on loved ones. It may be like a pressure cooker with tension building up; if the stored-up anger is not slowly released, explosive behavior may result. Expressions of anger may stem from not feeling lovable, feeling out of control or rejected.

Take the example of Brett, a 45-year-old male diagnosed with ADHD, who contacted me for coaching because of anger issues. Brett was a highly successful businessman and brought in lots of business for his company. You would never imagine that he had any problems when he was on the job. He rose quickly to the top as a manager because of his leadership skills. Yet when Brett returned home after working late hours, he seemed to ‘lose it’. His wife would immediately ask him to give her a break from a day of taking care of their very active children. Brett typically came home exhausted from work and the last thing he wanted was to deal with more chaos. This would quickly lead to frustration and if left unchecked, uncontrollable anger toward his wife and children. Brett was able to eventually manage his angry outbursts toward his wife and children after months of coaching.

Is anger hurting your relationships with your family and with your friends? Here are some truths about anger when it is not controlled:

  • It impedes our ability to be happy.
  • It can send marriages and other family relationships off-course.
  • It compromises our social skills, thus interfering with healthy relationships.
  • It can even result in non-productivity because of strained relationships.
  • It can lead to health problems because of increased stress.

Anger is not bad. It is a natural reaction to feelings of hurt and betrayal. It needs to be expressed at times and not held inside. Men often struggle with buried feelings because they are ‘taught’ that if a man shows emotion, he is weak and ‘not a man’. Feelings can be so deeply hidden that there is no sense of feeling at all. These feelings often don’t come out unless there is a life-changing episode such as life-threatening trauma, loss of job or other significant change of life. However, aggressive forms of anger that are out of control can hurt a person socially, mentally and physically. The goal of anger management should be to help you find ways to express that anger and resolve the issues that trigger it. Here are some tips for you to follow:

  • Develop an awareness of early warning signs. Give yourself a “time out”. Find a safe spot for yourself and try deep breathing to calm down. Close your eyes and breathe all the stress out.
  • Give yourself a break. Go for a walk, get some exercise. Fresh air will do you good. Later you can come back to the problem from a new perspective and solve it!
  • It is OK to express your anger in a healthy, non-confrontational way. Decide what the real ‘issue’ is and once you are calm, state your concerns while being sensitive to the concerns of others.
  • Learn to recognize those ADHD moments that trigger your anger. Think about what effect your anger had on others around you. How might you handle the same situation differently from now on?
  • Ask yourself this question: “Will the object of my anger even matter ten years from now?”
  • Take care of yourself. Make sure that you get enough sleep, eat a healthy well-balanced diet and exercise regularly.
  • Brainstorm positive solutions to the problem
  • Learn to think before you speak. In the heat of a discussion it is more difficult to listen. It may be easier for you to ‘pause in the moment’, allowing yourself to collect your thoughts and to reflect upon what the other person is saying.
  • Know when to seek help from a counselor or coach.



Terry M. Dickson, M.D., ACG, CPCC

Your ADHD Family


The Bird in the Mirror

We have lots of pets in our home. This morning, I noticed our parakeet looking at ‘himself’ in a mirror in his cage. He must think it is another bird like himself because he sits there for hours singing to his ‘friend’. But the ‘other’ bird never sings back! Do you ever feel like you are ‘singing’ your values and beliefs to your teenage son or daughter and there is no response, like you are talking to yourself? On thing is true, unlike the bird in the mirror, your kids are hearing you whether or not they are living out your words or not. Continue to model for them good behavior and sing out your love to them. One day, it may a difference! In the meantime, here are some tips you can use to improve your relationship with your child:

  1. Give your child unconditional love and acceptance.
  2. Learn to listen better to your teen’s ideas, even if you don’t agree with them.
  3. Model good behavior to your child. Be a good example.
  4. Show your child that he or she has value and is important.
  5. Allow your child to participate in decision-making with your guidance.
  6. Give positive ‘strokes’ as much as possible such as compliments, hugs or pats on the back.
  7. Don’t just focus on bad behavior or poor performance. Look for improvement and emphasize this instead.

Remember that your words, no matter how well meant, will seldom be heard if the relationship is not there. So cultivate an atmosphere of love and trust!

“Paying Attention to Our Kids”

Several weeks ago I was watching a high school basketball game. When we got home from the game, my daughter, who is one of the cheerleaders, told me: “You didn’t seem to be watching us when did our cheers. You weren’t even watching me!” The truth is that I was more interested in watching the game. I wanted our team to score more baskets than the opponent and I knew that this game really mattered. Winning would determine who goes to the play-offs. To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about watching the cheers on the sidelines.

Do we pay attention to our kids when they need it the most? Are we able to drop everything from our minds and concentrate on our kids when they need our attention and support?

As a parent with ADHD, I know what it is like to either be so hyper-focused on one thing or so cluttered with many thoughts that I miss golden opportunities to connect with the very people I love. Sometimes those opportunities are here and gone before we know it.

Here are ways you can ‘pay more attention’ to your child(ren):

  1. Do not multitask when spending time with your children. Put down everything else and focus completely on them.
  1. Always keep your promises. If you tell them that you are going to spend a certain time with them, always follow through.
  1. ‘Catch’ your child doing something good and praise him or her for it.
  1. Always make direct eye contact with your children so that they know they have your full attention.
  1. Show your children that you are interested in learning more about their interests, even if it means listening to things that may not interest you.
  1. Spend one-on one time with each of your children each week.
  1. Integrate time together with your child into your daily schedule such as allowing the child to help you with certain tasks such as shopping or putting stamps on envelopes.
  1. Drop a note of praise for your child in his or her lunchbox.
  1. Communicate the value you feel for your child and provide words of encouragement.
  1. Talk about a topic of interest to both of you and the child’s feelings about it. By providing an atmosphere of love and trust, he or she learns good communication skills.

Being A ‘Hero’ to Your Child

I love sports and each fall when school begins I look forward to watching our kids compete in fall sports. As I look around, I see parents who sacrifice their time week after week teaching these kids new skills and encouraging them along the way. And then I see other parents who stand on the sidelines yelling at their kids for ‘flubbing up’ and even calling names like ‘stupid’. I’ve seen them criticize the coach’s decisions or swearing at the referee. Well, I bet you can guess who I think is the real hero. Do you want to be a ‘hero’ to your child? Well you can be right there in the ‘huddle’ cheering for your child! Your child needs your support and encouragement, no matter what. And it can start today!