This Is Why Your Emotions Are On A Roller Coaster

emotional roller coaster of ADHD

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I started working with women individually just a few months ago.

When I started, I created a very generic landing page listing a few topics I was willing to discuss.

As with almost everything I have ever tried, I learned the hard way that I wasn’t all that prepared. Most of my clients weren’t coming to me to brainstorm. They didn’t want strategies.

They were coming to me because they wanted someone to listen. Clients want to talk to someone who has been there.

I loved listening, I still do. Listening helped me to understand that what they are trying to understand is why their emotions are on a roller coaster.

My clients want answers to questions like this:

“Why can’t I control my anxiety?”

“One minute I think I’ve got it under control, the next minute I realize I screwed up again.”

My answer?

Welcome to the emotional roller coaster of ADHD. I promise it does get better, but it takes work.

This is why your emotions are on a roller coaster

And what you can do about it


The ADHD Brain

I don’t want to get too sciency, but it is important for you to understand that there are brain based reasons for some of your emotional struggles.

Deep inside our brain is a tiny almond shaped structure called the amygdala. The amygdala is one of the oldest parts of your brain. It helped your ancestors to escape being eaten by a wildabeast.

For those of us with ADHD, it is reaaaalllly easy to set off this amygdala. And once it’s triggered we can go down the rabbit hole.

Because our executive functions are impaired, we do not have access to logical thinking at the times we most need it!

We operate from a place of emotion 99% of the time. Whereas a person without ADHD has more access to their logical thinking (pre-frontal cortex).

Think about this for a minute. Let it sink in. Your brain is structurally different.

What can you do about it?

  • Practice pausing before you speak/act

  • Notice and document your triggers

  • Learn about how to hack your EF’s

  • If you have been prescribed medications, use them

The Shame Cycle

William Dodson wrote, “Shame arises from the repeated failure to meet the expectations of parents, teachers, friends, bosses and the world.” Source 

Every single woman I talk to is ashamed of having ADHD, or ashamed of the behaviors that result from having ADHD.

Shame is part of the human experience. But that doesn’t mean it is easy to talk about.

Raise your hand if you have ever been told you disappointed someone. <raises hand.>

Raise your hand if you have disappointed yourself in the last 24 hours. <raises hand again.>

Every time we feel we have not met the expectations of ourselves or someone else the shame deepens. And we push it down again and again.

What can you do about shame?

  • Separate who you are from your ADHD behaviors

  • Remind yourself that you are worthy, over and over

  • Lead with action, behave as if you are NOT ashamed

The Anxiety Trap

I have had anxiety since I was about three years old. Even then I saw the entire world through the lens of “preventing” the adults in my life from fighting or screaming.

Not everyone deals with anxiety this early in life, but most of us with ADHD will deal with anxiety and/or depression at some point.

Living with ADHD produces anxiety, if for no other reason than we are so accustom to failure and criticism that we begin to live in a state of fight or flight. (See the amygdala info above.)

I recently had the pleasure of reading The Anxiety Toolkit, but Dr. Alice Boyes. This books was informative, and so easy to follow I now recommend it to all of my clients. (affiliate link)

Dr. Boyes recommendations for anxiety: (which I go into in my new Feel Better Fast program.)

  • Avoid ruminating, it is not productive

  • Let go of perfectionistic tendencies

  • Share your ideas with trusted people to lessen the fear of negative feedback

  • Reframe your negative self-talk

The ADHD affect on relationships

ADHD affects all of our relationships whether we like it or not. Our intimate relationships, our friendships, and even our ability to be the parents we want to be.

I will be the first to admit that it sucks. Relationships are hard anyway, and when you add the emotional ups and downs to it you are compounding the work.

Making a relationship successful requires us to practice uncomfortable honesty.

This is what I know about ADHDers in relationships:

  • Being vulnerable is not easy

  • We can have some attachment issues after a lifetime of negative experiences

  • After the initial hormone rush we can get bored fast

  • We are intensely self-critical, and sometimes it bleeds into how we treat others

  • Planning for the future is tough because of our “time blindness”

  • We are inconsistent in our behavior

  • We are bad at perspective taking

  • Boundaries are often poorly defined

When I was a kid I liked the thrill of a roller coaster. These days I get motion sickness.

ADHD can make you feel like you have emotional motion sickness. Or whiplash.

The hardest part is the recovery.

Check out Feel Better Fast.

(It’s my personalized system for working through all this stuff. )

Or get my list of all the best Experts on ADHD!


Next time I want to talk about improving our self-awareness. Because it is soooo important to dealing with the emotions around ADHD.

If you like this article here is my recommended reading list. (Affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure.)

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