Adderall and Emotional Detachment: Why It Happens and How to Cope

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People with ADHD may be seen as insensitive, self-absorbed, or disengaged with the world around them. Emotional detachment, or the act of being disconnected or disengaged from the feelings of others, is a symptom of ADHD. However, it can also be caused by Adderall, a medication used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. 

When you’re faced with a stressful situation, such as finals or a frustrated partner, you may find yourself detaching emotionally. This is often used as a coping mechanism. It can help protect you from potential pain, anxiety, or stress, but it can also affect your ability to connect and relate to others. 

If you’re taking Adderall, it’s important to talk to your doctor about potential side effects, one of which could be emotional detachment, and how to address them. 

Understanding the Side Effects of Adderall 

Adderall is a stimulant combining amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which directly affects the central nervous system. For people with ADHD or narcolepsy, the drug helps adjust brain chemistry by releasing more levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. This can improve focus and concentration and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity. 

“Medications that treat ADHD help with attention and focus, and reduce distractibility, [but can] suppress the qualities that make people with ADHD chatty, spunky, and easy to connect with,” says Alex Dimitriu, MD, double board-certified in Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD

While there are benefits to taking Adderall if properly prescribed, there are also many side effects to consider. Not only can Adderall cause physical symptoms like insomnia and suppressed appetite, but it can lead to mood swings, panic attacks, depression, and psychosis —and worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder,  if you have a comorbid condition.

If you’re taking Adderall, it’s important to track your symptoms and side effects so you can discuss them with your doctor. The medication can help if you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD or narcolepsy, but it can also exacerbate symptoms. No case is the same, so each individual must work with a reliable, trustworthy care team to determine what’s best for their condition and situation. 

What Detachment Feels Like

Detachment can often result from emotional dysregulation, an overlooked symptom of ADHD, which is the impaired ability to control your emotional responses. When detachment occurs, someone may emotionally detach from themselves or their environment.

When experiencing emotional detachment, it can feel like something is happening to you, rather than something you’re choosing to happen. Carly Claney, PhD, founder of Relational Psych, describes it as a “fog or mental blankness.” While detachment can be helpful in setting boundaries around people and spaces, it can also occur involuntarily. You may recognize that your emotions don’t match the situation at hand, but feel you’re unable to control them. Emotional detachment can, at times, feel isolating. Others may not understand what you’re going through and be unable to relate. 

Detachment can also manifest as irritability and frustration.

Signs of Emotional Detachment

Signs and symptoms of emotional detachment include:

  • Feeling empty or numb
  • Losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed
  • Being unreasonably harsh or unkind to others
  • Showing little or no empathy toward others

“When someone feels detached from their surroundings or experiences a sense of being less affected by things, it can be hard to find the motivation to do things that might bring about positive change,” says Akos Antwi, APRN, PMHNP, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Revive Therapeutic Services.

Talking to a mental health professional can help. They may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), or other forms of therapy, which can help with emotional dysregulation and detachment. They may also suggest trying a different medication or dose, which better supports your day-to-day functioning. 

Always speak with your care team before making changes to your medication or dose. Abruptly stopping Adderall can be harmful and lead to suicidal thinking. 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

How to Cope with Emotional Detachment

“Recognizing feelings of detachment is the first step in coping with them. Being mindful and taking time to think about what might be causing the detachment can go a long way towards managing it in a healthy manner,” says Dr. Claney. 

To address emotional detachment, here are some of her recommendations:

  • Take breaks from activities
  • Avoid multitasking
  • Establish an environment that is low-stimulation
  • Give yourself permission to take time away 
  • Talk to a trusted friend or professional who can help you gain insight and develop strategies for dealing with difficult situations while also helping you recognize when detachment may be necessary in order to reset and regain perspective
  • Work on understanding your own unique triggers so you can identify early signs of detachment 

Dr. Dimitriu, MD, also recommends sleep, structure, and well-timed medication to combat negative side effects like emotional detachment. 

Sleep is the foundation of mental health,” he says, suggesting that you get at least seven hours of sleep and stay busy while the medication is active. “If my patient is taking a stimulant, I always ask them to have a ‘runway’ to get work done (with a plan) of at least four hours.” It’s best to use the medication to work and focus, saving socialization time for after the stimulant wears off. 

A Word From Verywell 

Emotional detachment can be frustrating to deal with, especially if you have ADHD, as you may have difficulty self-regulating your emotions. In addition to taking Adderall or another stimulant, which may be necessary for you to properly function in your day-to-day life, you’ll want to consider other strategies for regulating your emotions in a healthy manner.

Mindfulness is a good practice to incorporate into your daily life. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family, and loved ones can also help in building an emotionally safe environment. 

2 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. Adderall side effects, risks & dangers of use. American Addiction Centers.

  2. Girard R, Joober R. Treatment of ADHD in patients with bipolar disorderJ Psychiatry Neurosci. 2017;42(6):E11-E12.

By Sarah Sheppard
Sarah Sheppard is a writer, editor, ghostwriter, writing instructor, and advocate for mental health, women's issues, and more.