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Can ADHD Meds Help With Emotion Regulation?

When we list symptoms of ADHD, we often talk about things like difficulty concentrating and planning ahead. But ADHD symptoms also carry over into the way people experience emotions.

In particular, ADHD can make it harder to regulate your emotions. One way to think of it is that impulsivity is a core symptom of ADHD, and that includes impulsivity in feeling and acting on emotions.

EmotionsAnother way to think of it is that being able to take a step back and bring your emotions back into balance is an exercise in self-control. It involves recalibrating and telling your brain what to do rather than just going with whatever you feel in the spur of the moment. And these are all skills that ADHD can impact.

So, naturally, the question is: what treatment helps people with ADHD regulate their emotions?

Recently, a team of psychologists addressed this question, looking specifically at whether medication helps people with ADHD regulate their emotions more easily.

In their meta-analysis, the researchers found that common ADHD meds like methylphenidate and amphetamine did help people with ADHD regulate their emotional frame of mind more effectively.

However, the meds certainly didn’t make up the difference between ADHDers and non-ADHDers altogether. The researchers described the size of the effect as “small to moderate.” In other words, meds do help with ADHD-related emotional regulation problems, but they leave something to be desired!

The authors of the study point out that although they’re better than nothing, meds don’t seem to help with ADHD’s emotional symptoms as much as they help with cognitive symptoms like inattention. That left them with the conclusion that researchers need to explore other treatment options because the medications currently being prescribed for ADHD don’t seem to cut it as far as helping with emotion regulation.

In the meantime, though, where does that leave ADHDers? Well, meds do appear to help somewhat, even if they’re not a perfect solution. And non-pharmacological tactics like mindfulness, or just keeping in mind that you have a tendency to let your emotions get away from you in the first place, are worth a shot.

If you have any other techniques that work for you, please share them below!

Image: Flickr/Lucas

Can ADHD Meds Help With Emotion Regulation?

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2017). Can ADHD Meds Help With Emotion Regulation?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Aug 2017
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