ADHD and Emotional Regulation: 3 Reasons Why You Shut Down

A couple sit next to each other facing away while on their phones. This could represent a struggle with ADHD and emotional regulation and it’s effects on relationships. Learn how a therapist in Columbus Ohio can offer emotional regulation therapy in Columbus, OH, and other services. Contact an ADHD therapist for adults near me today.

Joe was looking forward to a fun family weekend away. He would leave work early on Friday at 12 pm and close the door to his stress. At 11:30 am, he received an email from his boss sharing edits that had to be completed by the end of the day. Feeling flooded with annoyance, Joe got it all done and was only about 20 minutes late home.

However, the feeling of frustration overwhelmed him. He thought, “Why didn’t I do it right the first time?” He spiraled for hours afterward. Internally, he felt guilt, fear, and anger at his job. On the outside, his family had no idea what was going on with Joe, who seemed irritable, closed off, and aloof. Not for one second did Joe think his difficulty shaking the emotional spiral was due to his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

When we think of emotional dysregulation, many people think about externalizing emotions. Yelling, panic attacks, or crying spells often come to mind. However, ADHD adults often find large emotions difficult to process, regulate, and express. For some ADHD adults, those emotions cause them to shut down to the outside world.

What is Emotional Regulation?A woman holds her head while closing her eyes. Learn how an ADHD therapist near me can help you address ADHD and emotional regulation. Contact a therapist in Columbus Ohio to learn more about emotional regulation therapy in Columbus, OH today.

Emotional regulation is the brain’s ability to identify feelings and self-soothe. When a person has to shift focus onto a task, someone with sufficient emotional regulation can refocus their attention away from the emotionally provocative stressors. They can organize how they feel in such a way that allows them to be present in the current moment.

The ADHD brain by nature often struggles to organize itself. Many ADHD adults struggle with low frustration tolerance and difficulty modulating their reactions to stressful events. Neurologically, there is a lag between the circuits that link the frontal lobe of the brain (where self-control and focus live) to the emotional side of the brain (where impulses, emotions, and motivation live).

Even if ADHD adults struggle with emotional regulation, why would they shut down their emotions entirely? It may not be for the reasons you think…

Reasons Some ADHD People Shut Down When Feeling Intense Emotions


Trigger avoidance is a logical means of self-protection. The ADHD brain is deciding it can’t risk feeling any more triggered and it’s deciding to simply not engage…with anything or anyone.

A family drives in the winter on a sunny morning. Contact a therapist in Columbus Ohio to learn more about ADHD and emotional regulation today. We offer emotional regulation therapy in Columbus, OH, and more. Alexithymia

Due to the lag between self-regulation and emotions in an ADHD brain, Alexithymia (which means difficulty identifying emotions) is tied to ADHD. For example, saying anxious but meaning guilty. Or saying overwhelmed but meaning angry. Another feature of alexithymia is a disconnection between feeling an emotion and expressing emotion. For example, saying “I don’t know” if asked how one feels.

Emotional Isolation and Low Self-Esteem

While ADHD people are often known as “talkative,” most also struggle with feeling heard and understood. This can result in the assumption that those around them simply won’t understand when they are in emotional pain. They know they struggle to regulate and shake their strong emotions, but they have grown tired of hearing that they are “overreacting.” They figure out “what’s the point” when it comes to sharing strong emotions, and they begin to feel shame and inadequacy for how they feel. As a result, ADHD adults begin to feel like an island, as they practice avoiding more invalidation by entirely avoiding emotional expression.

Managing Strong EmotionsA family smiles while embracing each other in the kitchen. Learn how an ADHD therapist near me can help you address ADHD and emotional regulation. Contact a therapist in Columbus Ohio to learn more about emotional regulation therapy in Columbus, OH, or search “adhd therapist for adults near me” today.

Joe finally shook his overwhelm and anger…after 24 hours of being in an entirely different setting. Joe then felt frustrated that he lost an entire day feeling sullen with his family. In order to speed up the process, Joe will need to start learning more about his ADHD brain and how it impacts his response to stress. He’ll need to get familiar with basic feelings and learn to process them more effectively, finding new ways of compartmentalizing his feelings in order to be present with those around him.

Ultimately, learning to regulate emotions will help Joe choose who he wants to be in any situation.

Begin Adult ADHD Treatment in Columbus, Ohio

You don’t have to live your life feeling like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. ADHD-focused counseling can help you feel more present. Our Columbus, OH counseling practice in Columbus, Ohio has caring therapists who specialize in ADHD Treatment. To start your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:

  • Fill out the contact form to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.
  • Meet with one of our caring therapists.
  • Stop feeling overwhelmed. Start finding your calm.

Other ADHD Services Offered at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling

Adult ADHD treatment is not the only service we offer at our Columbus, OH counseling practice. At Focused Mind ADHD Counseling, we offer a variety of mental health services including ADHD testing. As an adult with ADHD, we know you may also benefit from anxiety treatment for ADHD, counseling for men with ADHD, or depression counseling for ADHD. You can also view our blog for more resources and helpful info!