ADHD & anger problems: what’s the connection?

ADHD and anger problems can go hand in hand for some individuals. Irritability, aggression, frustration, and other ADHD anger issues can have a significant impact on overall quality of life and relationships.

According to the DSM-V, anger is not a symptom of ADHD. However, it is a common problem; emotional dysregulation occurs in about 70% of adults with ADHD.[i] Anger could also be a symptom of a co-occurring condition, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, PTSD, and more.[ii]

For decades, the Drake Institute has used advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with ADHD and other brain-based conditions. We use brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation to help our ADHD patients reduce their symptoms and lead better lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats ADHD and several other brain-based conditions, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.

Why does ADHD cause anger issues?

ADHD aggression, irritability, and other problems can be caused by several contributing factors. Individuals with ADHD, biologically, may have lower frustration tolerance, leading to emotional over-reactivity. The constant struggle with ADHD symptoms like inability to focus, lack of organization, and impulsivity can lead to emotional frustration, which can cause ADHD anger issues. Three hypothetical reasons why ADHD can cause anger issues are: 

Emotional flooding

Recent studies show that emotional dysregulation may be a key characteristic of ADHD.[iii] Emotional flooding is an overwhelming emotional response that is often disproportionate to the experience or event. Emotional dysregulation, or the inability to properly inhibit emotions, can often lead to emotional flooding in those with ADHD.[iv] This also can occur in younger children with ADHD, such as more frequent ADHD meltdowns and tantrums.

Poor working memory

Working memory is the type of memory that allows a person to process and act on the information they just stored. People with ADHD frequently have impaired working memory, requiring more effort compared to neurotypical individuals.[v]

This can lead to impaired performance with frustration and emotional over-reactivity. In ADHD children, this can increase their susceptibility to meltdowns and tantrums, while in adults it may be expressed as frustration and irritability.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD)

Rejection-sensitive dysphoria, or RSD, is a condition where even minor rejections or criticism can trigger strong emotional responses. This could stimulate feelings of low self-esteem, resulting in negative self-talk and self-judgment. [vi] This may lead to emotional dysregulation, including ADHD irritability, anger outbursts, and more.

What does ADHD-driven anger look like?

Frustration from untreated ADHD symptoms and the added challenges individuals face in everyday life can result in various manifestations of ADHD-driven anger. Some people may appear to be consistently in a bad mood or overreact to minor issues.[vii] Signs that a person may be dealing with ADHD-driven anger include:

  • Irritability
  • Impatience with stress
  • Surges of anger in response to small obstacles
  • Explosive bursts of anger
  • Lack of awareness about other people’s feelings[viii]

Does ADHD cause aggression?

As with anger, aggression is not part of the DSM-V diagnostic criteria for ADHD. However, it can be a concern for those with the disorder. A 2015 review of research literature found that more than 50% of preadolescent children with a diagnosis of combined-type ADHD experienced significant aggression. Further research indicates that children with ADHD displayed more severe aggression than neurotypical children.[ix]

ADHD aggression can appear through all stages of life. In children, aggression may include hitting, grabbing, pinching, pulling hair, throwing objects, and other intentionally harmful actions. Teenagers may use more vocal aggression through insults, shouting, threats, teasing, bullying, gossiping, and other acts. Adult ADHD aggression, not including abuse, is a “brief loss of control in response to a trigger.”[x]

How to manage ADHD anger outbursts

The primary and most effective way to manage ADHD anger outbursts is to address the underlying cause of ADHD itself. Proper treatment of ADHD can significantly improve brain regulation, which can improve focus, emotional regulation, and impulse control, making individuals less prone to ADHD rage triggers.

The Drake Institute feels that the most effective way to reduce ADHD anger outbursts is by improving self-regulation through brain map-guided neurofeedback. In some cases, patients may also require adjunctive medication in addition to neurofeedback.

In addition to seeking clinical treatment, we recommend the following supportive strategies:

1. Use the STAR technique

Impulsivity is a common symptom associated with ADHD. The STAR technique can help you respond to triggers more thoughtfully instead of reacting impulsively.[xi]


Take a pause when confronted by ADHD rage triggers before moving on. Take a few breaths or count to ten.


Think about the ways you might proceed. Pay particular attention to your emotions and acknowledge what you are feeling.


Once you have taken a pause and assessed the situation, you can proceed more thoughtfully and with more appropriate emotions.


Relax for a few moments, or longer if needed, so that you can reflect objectively on what just happened. This will help you gain an enhanced perspective on how to better deal with similar situations in the future.

2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Adequate sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet contribute significantly to emotional well-being and can raise your threshold for anger triggers. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day and maintain a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

3. Counseling

Counseling is not a substitute for improving brain regulation which can increase frustration tolerance, but in some instances, it can be a helpful way of addressing ADHD anger issues that arise from low frustration tolerance.[xii] Children, teens, and adults can learn coping skills to help them deal with ADHD frustrations and prevent them from turning into outbursts.

4. Commit to change

Reducing ADHD anger is an ongoing process. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your progress, and remain committed to learning and practicing new skills. There will be setbacks, but with consistent effort and clinical intervention, you can develop healthier ways to reduce inappropriate anger reactions.

How the Drake Institute Treats ADHD

Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated linked to symptoms.

To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding, and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.


During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback sessions, the patient sees the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.














Contact Us Today

To get the help you or a loved one needs, call now to schedule your no-cost screening consultation.

dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

More About What Makes Drake Institute Unique