Coping With Mood Swings in ADHD (2023)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that affects approximately 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults. This condition affects the brain’s development and functioning.

ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can make it hard for the person to sit still or focus. Additionally, people with ADHD may also experience mood swings.

“It’s quite common for people with ADHD to experience mood swings. The person’s energy levels, concentration, moods, and emotions may fluctuate often—sometimes multiple times in the same day,” says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Understanding Bipolar Disorder.”

According to a 2015 study, the mood swings associated with ADHD can be a significant contributor to impairment, making it difficult for the person to function. The mood swings, in addition to other symptoms of ADHD, can cause the person to experience difficulties with work, school, daily activities, and relationships.

This article explores the symptoms and causes of mood swings in ADHD, as well as some coping strategies that may be helpful.

Symptoms of Mood Swings in ADHD

These are some of the symptoms of ADHD-related mood swings:

  • Switching from excited one moment to sad, angry, or anxious the next
  • Fluctuating between having trouble paying attention and hyperfocusing on an activity
  • Having bursts of energy and fatigue through the day
  • Feeling emotions intensely and having difficulty regulating them
  • Getting distracted easily and leaving tasks incomplete
  • Feeling upset or angry often
  • Experiencing extreme restlessness and boredom
  • Being unable to sit still or wait their turn patiently without fidgeting or moving around
  • Interrupting others frequently but getting angry if interrupted
  • Being unaware of the impact of their words or actions in the moment, but regretting them later
  • Rushing through tasks and making careless mistakes, which can be frustrating and demotivating

Improving Relationships While Managing Anger and ADHD

Causes of Mood Swings in ADHD

Mood swings are a symptom of ADHD; however, they can also be an indicator that the person has another mental health condition. People with ADHD may also be prone to mood swings if they are frequently frustrated with their symptoms.

Below, Dr. Daramus explains some of the causes of ADHD-related mood swings.


People with ADHD often find that their energy levels and ability to concentrate changes throughout the day. Even if they’re on medication, it can be difficult to match their high-energy and high-focus times to the times they need to be most productive.

This can be upsetting and frustrating in the moment and cause mood swings. Over time, it can lead to a persistent sense of failure and a self-image as someone who messes things up or can’t meet their own expectations or anyone else’s.

(Video) ADHD and Mood Swings

Aimee Daramus, PsyD

ADHD can be a deeply frustrating disorder to live with.

— Aimee Daramus, PsyD

Mood Disorders

Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are very common in people struggling with ADHD; people with ADHD are more likely to have these conditions than people who don’t have ADHD. These conditions can account for the person’s changes in mood.

Since these mental health conditions have some common symptoms with ADHD, it’s important to get a careful evaluation to determine whether or not the person has any of these conditions.

ADHD Symptoms

Even if the person doesn’t have a mood disorder, mood swings are a common symptom of ADHD. It’s possible for the person to alternate between feeling full of energy and depressed, as well as periods of limited attention span and intense hyperfocus.

Coping With Mood Swings in ADHD

Dr. Daramus suggests some coping strategies that may be helpful if you have ADHD and experience mood swings:

  • Seek treatment from a specialist: Therapy can be very helpful for mood swings. However, it’s important to note that mood swings don’t look the same in people with ADHD and should be treated by professionals with specific ADHD expertise. If you go to therapy, make sure your therapist is an expert in ADHD. Treatment may also involve medication, if needed.
  • Try mindfulness exercises: Mindfulness exercises can be very helpful, but you may need to tailor them to suit you. Some exercises that work for non-ADHD people, such as exercises that focus on stillness or concentrating on one thing, like breath, may not work for you. Try a movement-based meditation instead, or focus on something more mentally active like music instead of breath. If you're in high-energy mode, try easing yourself slowly into a meditation session with some kind of relaxing activity first.
  • Identify your triggers: Pay attention to your triggers so you have a better idea of what causes your mood swings. Maintaining a journal where you write them down can help you identify and track patterns in your moods.
  • Find your own ways of doing things: Get used to making up your own procedures or doing things on your own timeline. Decide thoughtfully if trying to do something just like everybody else does is important in any specific situation. Otherwise, find your own way of doing things with the aim of getting the results you need. This can help reduce some of your stress and frustration.
  • Reinterpret how you see your symptoms: Instead of thinking of your symptoms as failures, look at them as just symptoms or mere differences. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that having ADHD means you may experience mood swings from time to time.
  • Keep informative resources handy: Work on your boundaries so that when you want to, you can teach others to perceive your differences with less negativity. Find your favorite books, videos, and articles for educating people when you need to, because trying to educate others all the time can be exhausting and frustrating.
  • Curate your social media: Find a safe corner of social media to be with other people who understand you and what you need emotionally. Get comfortable with muting, blocking, and reporting the inevitable trolls.

ADHD and Anger: How Are They Connected?

A Word From Verywell

Mood swings are a symptom of ADHD, but they can also be an indication of another mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. Additionally, ADHD can be a difficult and frustrating condition to live with, resulting in mood swings.

If you or a loved one have ADHD and experience mood swings, it’s important to visit a qualified mental healthcare provider who has experience with ADHD. They can help identify the causes of the mood swings and provide treatment in the form of therapy, medication, and coping skills.

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7 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. American Psychiatric Association. What is ADHD?

  2. Nemours Foundation. ADHD (for parents).

  3. Nemours Foundation. ADHD (for teens).

    (Video) The ADHD and Depression Connection

  4. Lundervold AJ, Halmøy A, Nordby ES, Haavik J, Meza JI. Current and retrospective childhood ratings of emotional fluctuations in adults with ADHD. Front Psychol. 2020;11:571101. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.571101

  5. Shaw P, Stringaris A, Nigg J, Leibenluft E. Emotional dysregulation and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2014;171(3):276-293. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.13070966

  6. National Institute of Mental Health. ADHD in children and teens.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other Concerns and Conditions With ADHD.

Coping With Mood Swings in ADHD (1)

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What triggers mood swings in ADHD? ›

Sometimes, the trigger is identifiable. It may be a stressful encounter at work, disrespect from a child, or something not going your way. Other times, you may be unable to explain why you feel a certain way. It's common for people to lose control of their emotions from time to time.

Does ADHD cause extreme mood swings? ›

People with ADHD often have trouble managing their emotions. And they tend to feel emotions more intensely than other people. The result? For some, it can mean mood swings that leave the people around them wondering what caused such a quick change in attitude and behavior.

What are the best coping skills for ADHD? ›

But a few simple approaches can at least make it easier to do the work.
  • Declutter your home and office. Give yourself an appealing work environment and keep important items easily accessible.
  • Reduce distractions. ...
  • Jot down ideas as they come to you.
Feb 5, 2021

What does an ADHD episode look like? ›

With ADHD, a child or teen may have rapid or impulsive speech, physical restlessness, trouble focusing, irritability, and, sometimes, defiant or oppositional behavior.

What does an ADHD episode feel like? ›

Inattentiveness and difficulty concentrating may cause fatigue, especially among students and full-time employees working long days. Distractibility and poor focus can cause people with ADHD to quickly lose interest in activities or objects that once gave them pleasure as well.

Does Adderall help with ADHD mood swings? ›

People with ADHD often struggle with elevated levels of irritability and anger. For most people, Adderall helps with ADHD-related emotional responses.

Does ADHD get worse with age? ›

Can Your ADHD Get Worse as You Age? ADHD is a developmental disorder that's typically diagnosed during childhood. While the symptoms of ADHD may change with age, this condition often persists into adulthood. Rather than intensifying with age, ADHD tends to improve, especially with ongoing treatment and management.

Does Adderall help with mood swings? ›

Some people may also use Adderall off-label to treat depressive episodes of bipolar disorder. While some studies have indicated that stimulants may help with depressive symptoms, using them can have some potential downsides. These include an increased risk of manic episodes, tolerance, or addiction.

Can ADHD meds stabilize mood? ›

Medication Treatments for ADHD - Mood Stabilizers (for ADHD with Mood and Behavior Problems) Lithium, Carbamazepine (Tegretol), and Valproic Acid (Depakote) have been used when mood disorders co-exist with ADHD.

How does ADHD mimic bipolar? ›

There are some similarities and overlap in the symptoms of ADHD and bipolar disorder. 1 Both may include hyperactive or restless behaviors, distractibility, poor concentration, impulsivity, and racing thoughts. Both are also thought to have a strong genetic link.

What does extreme ADHD feel like? ›

Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans. The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger.

What calms ADHD people down? ›

Adults with ADHD

find ways to help you relax, such as listening to music or learning breathing exercises for stress. if you have a job, speak to your employer about your condition, and discuss anything they can do to help you work better.

What does untreated ADHD look like? ›

Untreated ADHD in adults can lead to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. This is because ADHD symptoms can lead to focus, concentration, and impulsivity problems. When these problems are not managed effectively, they can lead to feelings of frustration, irritability, and low self-esteem.

Does ADHD count as a disability? ›

Is ADHD considered a disability? Yes, ADHD is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). There are several types of disabilities, including but not limited to: learning disability.

What is commonly misdiagnosed as ADHD? ›

Sleep apnea is a common culprit that's often misdiagnosed as ADHD — and vice versa. Fortunately, researchers are devising simple tests to definitively diagnose and get kids the treatment they need.

When do ADHD symptoms peak? ›

The symptoms may peak in severity when the child is seven to eight years of age, after which they often begin to decline. By the adolescent years, the hyperactive symptoms may be less noticeable, although ADHD can continue to be present.

What are 2 signs of someone with ADHD? ›

Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked). Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.

What is Ring of Fire ADHD? ›

By Dr. David Velkoff. Ring of Fire ADD is a type of ADD characterized by abnormally increased activity in multiple areas of the brain, which in individuals on qEEG brain mapping scans can appear as over activity or overstimulation.

How do people with ADHD usually act? ›

Others with ADHD show mostly hyperactive-impulsive symptoms like fidgeting and talking a lot, finding it hard to sit still for long, interrupting others, or speaking at inappropriate times. Many people with ADHD have a combination of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.

What are the three most top symptoms of ADHD? ›

The 3 categories of symptoms of ADHD include the following:
  • Inattention: Short attention span for age (difficulty sustaining attention) Difficulty listening to others. ...
  • Impulsivity: Often interrupts others. ...
  • Hyperactivity: Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion.

Why does Adderall make me feel calm ADHD? ›

If you take Adderall to help manage your ADHD, you may have noticed a surprising side effect. You might feel really calm or sleepy. Or you may have low energy, also known as fatigue. It's rare, but it happens.

Why do stimulants calm ADHD? ›

Stimulants are believed to work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement. For many people with ADHD, stimulant medications boost concentration and focus while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.

What is the best antidepressant for ADHD? ›

These are often the first choice for ADHD, and they tend to work the best. Usually, you start at a low dose.
Your doctor may suggest one of four types:
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like desipramine (Norpramin) and imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
Apr 6, 2023

What is the average lifespan of a person with ADHD? ›

ADHD can reduce life expectancy by as much as 13 years, but its risk is reversible.

How much sleep do ADHD people need? ›

“The typical person will be wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m. and have to get up at 7 to go to work.”Like everyone else, ADHD adults need seven or eight hours of sleep a night to promote health and prevent fatigue during the day, says psychiatrist Clete Kushida, M.D., Ph.

Can ADHD be caused by trauma? ›

Many people think that ADHD is a result of trauma, but is it true? The answer is yes, but more for some people than others. The truth is that 90% of the time ADHD is not caused by trauma, but if the trauma is extreme enough, it can cause severe ADHD-like symptoms.

Can ADHD cause anger issues? ›

Anger is not on the official list of ADHD symptoms . However, many adults with ADHD struggle with anger, especially impulsive, angry outbursts . Triggers can include frustration, impatience, and even low self-esteem. A number of prevention tips may help adults with ADHD manage anger as a symptom.

Does ADHD cause highs and lows? ›

Part of living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as an adult is managing the mood swings that may come with it. Emotionally, there may be times when you feel very high or very low.

Is it ADHD or BPD? ›

BPD individuals have more problems using context cues for inhibiting responses and their impulsivity is stress-dependent, whereas ADHD patients have more motor impulsivity and therefore difficulties interrupting ongoing responses.

What is the best mood stabilizer for ADHD? ›

ADHD and Bipolar Medication Options

The first course of action for treating bipolar disorder with ADHD is to stabilize mood, which can be addressed with medications like Lamictal, Abilify, Risperidone, Zyprexa, or Lithium.

What is the best medication for ADHD emotional dysregulation? ›

Psychostimulant treatment of the core symptoms of ADHD is often linked to a beneficial effect on emotion dysregulation and should be considered the first line of treatment. Atomoxetine also appears effective for symptoms of ADHD and emotion dysregulation.

Does ADHD have manic episodes? ›

Manic episodes are not a symptom of ADHD, but a person with ADHD may experience some of the symptoms of a hypomanic episode. Although there may be some symptom similarities, the underlying causes of bipolar disorder and ADHD are different.

Can untreated ADHD turn into bipolar? ›

Having ADHD can put a person at risk of developing mental health-related disorders like anxiety disorder, major depression, and bipolar disorder.

Can undiagnosed ADHD lead to bipolar? ›

It's possible to have both ADHD and bipolar disorder. While the cause of ADHD and bipolar disorder remains unknown, risk factors include both genetic and environmental factors. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, while ADHD affects behavior and focus, but these two conditions share many of the same symptoms.

What age is ADHD hardest? ›

At what age are symptoms of ADHD the worst? The symptoms of hyperactivity are typically most severe at age 7 to 8, gradually declining thereafter. Peak severity of impulsive behaviour is usually at age 7 or 8. There is no specific age of peak severity for inattentive behaviour.

What is the hardest thing about ADHD? ›

“The hardest thing about ADHD is that it's 'invisible' to outsiders. It's not like other conditions that people can clearly see. People just assume that we are not being good parents and that our child is a brat, when they don't have an idea how exhausted we truly are.” —⁠⁠Sara C.

What is ADHD brain fog? ›

What is ADHD Brain Fog? As with all types of brain fog, ADHD brain fog is a period of cloudy thinking. The individual is often frustrated by their ability to think clearly, leading to disorganization and restlessness - it feels as though doing anything is better than doing nothing.

What is a mood stabilizer for ADHD? ›

Medication Treatments for ADHD - Mood Stabilizers (for ADHD with Mood and Behavior Problems) Lithium, Carbamazepine (Tegretol), and Valproic Acid (Depakote) have been used when mood disorders co-exist with ADHD. One frequently sees bipolar patients with supposed comorbid ADHD or diagnosed solely with ADHD.

How can I calm my ADHD fast? ›

Working out is perhaps the most positive and efficient way to reduce hyperactivity and inattention from ADHD. Exercise can relieve stress, boost your mood, and calm your mind, helping work off the excess energy and aggression that can get in the way of relationships and feeling stable. Exercise on a daily basis.

Does Adderall help with mood swings in ADHD? ›

People with ADHD often struggle with elevated levels of irritability and anger. For most people, Adderall helps with ADHD-related emotional responses.

Is ADHD a precursor to bipolar disorder? ›

The combination of ADHD and anxiety is associated with a very high risk of bipolar disorder.

Does Adderall help stabilize mood swings? ›

There is no evidence that Adderall helps with anxiety and in many people with pre-existing mood disorders, Adderall can make depression and/or anxiety worse.


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