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You're so emotional

In high school, I was emo as fuck. As an adult, I react much more emotionally to situations than a lot of people I know.

I feel deeply sad for other people’s misfortune. I feel elated for their success. I take rejection very personally. I have trouble staying calm in the face of injustice.

Turns out, that’s an ADHD thing!

ADHD isn’t just “being hyper.” It’s an executive function disorder that affects multiple areas of your brain. One of those is your ability to regulate your emotions.

People with ADHD are also prone to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (or RSD), which is when we feel a deep sense of pain or emotion when we believe we’ve been rejected.

This in particular can cause ADHDers to either become people pleasers (I used to constantly over-apologize) or bail early, before you have a chance to become rejected or fail.

In the workplace, this can manifest in all sorts of challenging ways…

  • Taking constructive feedback on your work deeply personally.
  • Having a really tough time with code reviews or performance reviews.
  • Feelings of imposter syndrome.
  • Deep anger or sadness around other people’s work, decisions, and so on.
  • A tendency to either not stand up for yourself or be a total asshole.

So… what can you do about it?

ADHD medication can help. They often help you regulate emotions more effectively, so your swings are quite so big. Other dopamine production tricks like exercising or green time can help, too.

I’ve also found that for me personally just being aware that this is an aspect of my ADHD was incredibly helpful.

For years, I thought it was “just me.” Once I had a name for it and going point to it and understood who I was a bit better, I could do things like…

  • Catch my emotions before they get too big.
  • Walk away from situations where I can feel my emotions rising and feel like I can’t reign them in.
  • Point to perceived rejection and ask myself, “is this really a big thing, or is this just my ADHD talking?”
  • Explain how my brain works to people ahead of time, so that I can talk about it more effectively in the moment.

This article sounds like it’s all bad, but there’s a positive flip-side to this.

We’re capable of extremely deep empathy.

When people are sad, or being treated poorly, my emotional dysregulation makes me sad or angry with them. It moves me to action! When I see something that’s not right, I speak up when others remain silent. I literally cannot help myself.

I have had multiple managers tell me that they appreciate that I’m always willing to say what I really feel, even when it’s uncomfortable for others to hear.

ADHD can be hard sometimes. But it’s worth remembering that every challenge it presents is also a gift in other ways.