The Hijacked Brain
One of the hallmark symptoms of ADD is the struggle with managing emotions, such as anger. If you answer yes to the questions below, your anger may be getting in your way.
Do you tend to wear your emotions on your sleeve, but would rather not?
Do you go from 0-100 mph in a split second and wonder how you got there so fast?
Do you become frustrated with others easily, and then regret it later?
You are not alone.
What Is The Problem?
Dr. Russell Barkley, a foremost authority on ADD and author of the book Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, notes the following:
“It is not that the emotions they experience are inappropriate, but that those with ADHD are more likely to publicly manifest the emotions they experience than would someone else. They seem less able to “internalize” their feelings…”
I think it bears repeating that the emotions themselves are not wrong! It is normal to get frustrated, and perhaps angry, when:
- you are stuck in traffic.
- your child does not follow your instructions.
- your partner does not seem to be listening to you.
- your friend is constantly late for meetings.
- your boss dismisses your ideas.
The key challenge for many with ADD is being able to inhibit your response in the moment. In his book, Attention Deficit Disorder, The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults, Dr. Thomas Brown writes about a man who describes his frustrations as akin to being like “a computer virus in my head and it was taking up all the space.”
For many, when anger and frustration take over, it may feel like your brain has suddenly been hijacked, and that you have lost control.
The first step is being aware that your behavior is inconsistent with your values and your long term goals.
The second step is wanting to change.
Getting Back In The Driver’s Seat
One key to managing your emotions is practicing good self care such as eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, getting enough down time, taking your medication, etc. If you are lacking in any of these areas, it will be that much harder to manage your emotional response in any given situation.
If you know that particular situations are likely to trigger your anger, you can prepare in advance for how you might respond.
Out of Left Field
Even those times when your anger seems to comes out of nowhere, you can usually feel it somewhere in your body.
When you feel the knot in your stomach or your head feels fuzzy, recognize this as sign that your brain is about to be hijacked. Heed the warning and hit the pause button by:
- taking a break
- breathing (really breathing)
- asking to change the conversation
- removing yourself from the situation
- any other means of giving yourself time to think clearly
Plan your Response
If you can remove yourself from the situation, you can better strategize how you want to approach it.
After more thought, you may choose to let it go because you decide that your original reaction was out of proportion to how important it really is for you. Maybe it doesn’t matter enough to you to talk to the person who parked in your spot.
Alternatively, you may come to realize that there could be several interpretations of an event. It turns out Bob at work wasn’t ignoring you, he was simply engrossed in thought regarding family issues.
If it is an issue you feel merits being addressed, then you can take time to seek out help, if needed, and create a plan that will get you what you want.
Remember, just like a computer virus can alter your computer’s memory and ability to process, a hijacked brain doesn’t work as well as one that has the time, space and support it requires to channel your emotions in a way that will serve you and your goals.
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
While your brain’s wiring may lead to being easily flooded with emotions, taking a step back can help you craft the response you really want, so you don’t feel like your foot is taped to the gas pedal.