ADHD Living With ADD/ADHD Understanding Anger in Children With ADHD By Keath Low Keath Low Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 12, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP Medically reviewed by Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP Facebook LinkedIn Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / DigitalVision / Getty Images ADHD and anger can be connected, and some kids with ADHD experience frequent outbursts of anger. Although common, these intense emotions can make it hard for a child to maintain friendships and behave in school, and they can put a strain on family life. Understanding the causes of anger and frustration among kids with ADHD, along with some strategies for managing these intense emotions, can help prevent these short bursts of anger from causing long-term damage. The Link Between ADHD and Anger Children with ADHD often experience emotions with a greater intensity than their peers without ADHD. What's more, comorbid conditions such as impulsive aggression and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), as well as medication side effects, may make it more likely that your child will feel bad-tempered, aggressive, impatient, and angry. Here are some of the most common reasons why kids with ADHD may exhibit angry outbursts: Impulsivity Impulsivity is a symptom of ADHD that is often caused by an inability to focus and control behaviors. The impulsive nature of ADHD means that if your child feels angry, they communicate it right away. They don't have a few seconds of lead time that a child without ADHD has, and they haven’t yet developed strategies that adults with ADHD develop. More than 50% of preadolescents with ADHD experience impulsive aggression, which is also known as affective aggression, and is characterized by strong, unplanned emotions, usually anger, that often take place in the heat of moment. Emotional Sensitivity Kids with ADHD tend to be emotional, sensitive, and feel things very deeply. They also have a hard time regulating those feelings. This can cause them to cry easily (which can be very embarrassing for them) or feel intensely angry. In fact, up to 50% of children with ADHD experience emotional dysregulation, or a poor ability to manage emotional responses or to keep them within an acceptable range of typical emotional reactions. This can refer to a wide range of emotions including sadness, anger, irritability, and frustration. 11 Anger Management Strategies to Help You Calm Down Moodiness and Mood Disorders Moods change very quickly throughout the day when you have ADHD. There can be many episodes of happiness, sadness, and frustration—all in one afternoon. In addition, kids with ADHD experience high rates of comorbid mood disorders that can cause irritability and fuel mood changes and flashes of anger, including: Anxiety disorders Bipolar disorder Depression Frustration Frustration is an emotion that stems from challenges that stand in the way of goals. The ability to deal with frustration is known as frustration tolerance. Low tolerance to frustration can mean that your child feels frustrated quickly, and this can quickly result in anger outbursts. How to Deal With Low Frustration Tolerance Poor Self-Esteem It's common for children with ADHD to experience low self-esteem. ADHD symptoms can make it difficult for kids to experience academic achievement and make it difficult to make and keep friends, which can lead to a sense of isolation and lowered self-esteem. Low self-esteem and feeling anxious about a situation they can’t control can also lead to your child feeling anger. Medication Side Effects Sometimes children experience a difficult period when their stimulant medications are wearing off, resulting in increased meltdowns and tantrums. This is known as medication rebound, and is a result of the speed at which your particular child metabolizes the medication. Let your doctor know if your child is experiencing medication rebound. Since it tends to occur more frequently with shorter-acting stimulants that can move out of your child's system quickly, your doctor may add a very small dose of immediate-release medicine about an hour before this rebound effect occurs so that the transition off the medicine is smoother. A recent double-blind study found that children on stimulants had a reduction in irritability and tantrums after being given the antidepressant Celexa (citalopram). Excess Energy Excess energy, or hyperactivity, can present as physical and/or verbal overactivity. The energy and restlessness that comes along with ADHD may be too much to handle at times until it finally bubbles over into angry words or physical reactions. How to Deal With Your Anger Oppositional Defiant Disorder Approximately one-third of all children with ADHD also have oppositional defiant disorder. Children with ODD display defiant, hostile behaviors towards authority figures. They often lose their temper, frequently argue with adults, actively defy rules, blame others, deliberately annoy others, are touchy, easily annoyed and behave in angry, resentful ways overall. Obviously, some oppositional behaviors are expected in children, and ODD is only diagnosed if the pattern of behavior is significantly more intense and frequent when compared to other children of the same age. If you think your child might have ODD, book an appointment with your pediatrician. Oppositional Defiant Behaviors in Children How to Help Your Child As a parent, it can be hard to see your child losing control. While you can’t make the anger disappear, you can help your child better manage these intense emotions. Here are a few tips to help. Work With Your Child's Doctor Working closely with your child's doctor is a crucial part of managing your child's anger. They can prescribe appropriate medication and recommend therapy, special accommodations, social skills, and lifestyle changes—and then it's up to you to keep them informed about medication side effects and what is and isn't working to help manage your child's anger. Encourage Exercise If anger is an issue for your child, be sure to provide appropriate outlets. Strenuous outdoor play and exercise can be very powerful releases for children with ADHD. Running, jumping, skipping, climbing—these basic physical activities will help release some of the tension, restlessness, and extra energy that often accompanies ADHD. Make sure your child is engaging in this type of play daily. Try Martial Arts Consider enrolling your child in a martial arts class. Martial arts are an excellent exercise choice for an ADHD child. It helps develop self-discipline and self-control, which in turn helps with impulsivity. It also improves self-esteem and is an excellent way to release energy. Help Your Child Express Emotions Encourage your child to "use their words" rather than act aggressively. To begin with, it might be hard for them because it is a new skill. However, with practice and a little help from you, it will become easier. Being able to articulate how they are feeling lessens their need to express themselves through anger. For example, "Jimmy took my red car and I feel mad." Notice Patterns There may be particular times of day that your child's anger appears to peak. Taking note of any patterns can ensure you're better prepared to handle these outbursts. For example, you may notice their anger is more intense: After school, when your child is able to let down their guard and release pent-up feelingsWhen they are feeling hungry or tiredWhen they are experiencing frustration with a taskWhen their ADHD medication is wearing off Limit Screen Time Supervise the programs your child watches on television or on the computer. Much of the media on TV, movies, video games, etc. is violent, aggressive, and inappropriate. Children with impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by the aggressive reactions they see. Set rules around these programs, and explain to your child why it is not appropriate to watch these shows (or play these video games). Set Clear, Consistent Rules Make sure you have clear house rules around behavior. When your child is settled and able to talk, sit down and come up with the rules together. Discuss expectations and consequences for behaviors, including a reward system. Then once they are in place, stick to them. Don’t change the rules or make up consequences in the middle of an outburst. Be matter-of-fact: "If that happens, then this is the consequence." Strong boundaries are helpful for you both. If your child is working with a therapist or counselor, you may want to ask for recommendations of discipline strategies that work well for kids with ADHD. A Word From Verywell It's tough for both parents and kids when a child with ADHD loses control and struggles with anger. If your child has angry outbursts, and especially if these intense emotions interfere with their relationships, education, and quality of life, it's important to teach them the skills they need to deal with their feelings in a healthy way. Together, with guidance from your child's doctor, you can ensure that anger does not interfere with your child's well-being and success. 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. Singh I. A disorder of anger and aggression: Children's perspectives on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the UK. Soc Sci Med. 2011;73(6):889-96. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.03.049 Saylor KE, Amann BH. 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A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial of citalopram adjunctive to stimulant medication in youth with chronic severe irritability. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2020;59(3):350-361. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2019.05.015 Johnston C, Jassy JS. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and oppositional/conduct problems: Links to parent-child interactions. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007;16(2):74-9. By Keath Low Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for ADHD Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.