A woman sitting on a couch with her hands in her hair.
ADHD can cause anger due to sensory overload.

The Link Between ADHD and Anger

Do you get angry more often than the average person? Is your anger sometimes intense yet short-lived? Do you have angry outbursts more than once per week?

If you are here reading this, you might already suspect your ADHD is making you angry. Or maybe you know someone with ADHD who has anger problems. Either way this article can provide the answers you are looking for between ADHD and anger. The truth is ADHD can cause anger due to several different factors.

What Causes Anger in ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a mental disorder usually diagnosed in children once they enter school. It is hereditary and permanent. ADHD is known for causing attention problems, excessive activity and impulsive behavior. A lesser known aspect of ADHD is the anger it can cause.

There are ADHD-related factors that can cause anger:

  • Sensory overload
  • Executive dysfunction
  • Oppositional defiant disorder

Sensory Overload

Sometimes people with ADHD feel extremely irritated. They start covering their ears, lose their focus, or become uncomfortable while everyone around them feels fine. They do this because their senses are being overloaded with information. The information could be emotions, sounds, movements, lights, physical contact, or smells.

Sensory overload occurs in environments with lots of sensory information. Feeling stressed or fatigued in that type of environment increases the risk for sensory overload. For some people, certain senses will cause sensory overload while others will not.

Environments such as a plane, a sports arena, a restaurant, car traffic, or a school cafeteria can easily cause sensory overload.

Executive Dysfunction

Every human has a set of skills known as executive functions. Executive dysfunction is the term used for under-developed executive functions.

Executive functions determine our ability to:

  • Manage emotions
  • Pay attention
  • Switch tasks
  • Complete tasks
  • Remember things
  • Retain knowledge

Just like an executive working in a company or a government, your executive functions play a big role in almost everything.

If too many executive functions remain under-developed, a person will not be able to live up to the standards and expectations of society, especially when it comes to managing their anger.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Youths are expected to be rebellious to some degree. After all, they do not know any better.

Children with oppositional defiant disorder act rebellious non-stop. They are usually aggressive, defiant and annoying to the people around them.

Symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder:

  • Having frequent temper tantrums
  • Arguing a lot
  • Refusing to do what they are told
  • Always questioning rules and refusing to follow rules
  • Doing things to annoy or upset others
  • Blaming others for their own faults
  • Being easily annoyed
  • Seeking revenge

People are usually diagnosed with this disorder as children or adolescents. It can continue into adulthood and be permanent if it goes untreated.

People with ADHD, especially children, are more likely to have oppositional defiant disorder. Executive dysfunction makes it likely for oppositional defiant disorder to occur. Oppositional defiant disorder can lead to unemployment, depression and incarceration.

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Treatments for ADHD-Related anger

Try Therapy, but not Just any Kind

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychological therapy. It is already one of the most popular treatments for ADHD. Even in people without ADHD, CBT is commonly used to treat anger problems.

Identify What Triggers Your Anger

Everyone has a trigger that sets off their anger. It could be a person, place, situation or object. If you can identify your trigger, you can prevent or lessen the anger it causes next time you encounter it.

Isolate Yourself

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we cannot prevent ourselves from feeling angry. If you realize you are on the edge of exploding with rage, walk away from everyone and find an isolated, private place.

Nearby locations that are perfect for isolation include: your car, the bathroom, or an empty room.

Drink a Glass of Water

As basic as this may sound, drinking a glass of water can calm you down when you are about to explode with anger. Try drinking the water slowly, one sip at a time while you focus on breathing in and out.


Exercise is good for your health and helps you regulate your anger. All pent-up negativity, frustration, disappointment and rage can be released through exercise. So, walk, run, lift, dance, and before you know it you will have forgotten about your anger.

Surround Yourself With Positive People

The people around you can make a huge difference in your mood. Even a pet or ducks at the park can make you feel better.

If you cannot find someone or something positive to be around, at least try to stay from negative people. This will help ADHD and anger. In particular, it is best to avoid people who criticize others.

Try to Be Happy

Being happy is not something people feel by accident. Although it may not seem like it, happiness comes from taking deliberate action - action you can take starting now.

Are you unsure of where to get started when it comes to treating your anger? Try taking a walk with a bottle of water. While you walk, think about what triggers your anger.