ADHD & Irritability

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is classified into three types: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, ADHD appears to be present in children throughout the world at a rate of about 4 or 5 percent and in adults at a rate of 2 percent. The symptom of irritability tends to intensify if the disorder continues into adolescence and adulthood.

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The common symptom of irritability found in people with ADHD is poorly controlled by psychostimulants, notes Dr. Neppe of the Pacific Neuropsychiatric Institute. Therefore, the most effective and commonly prescribed stimulant medications, such as Ritalin or Adderal, will have limited affects on the serious symptom of irritability.


Interacting with a person who has ADHD and easily becomes irritable can be challenging to co-workers, teachers, friends and family. According to, people with ADHD may experience frequent mood swings and hot tempers, which they are unable to control to the point that they experience outbursts of anger and an inability to wait patiently.


When dealing with people, especially children, who have ADHD and are known to become irritated easily, it is important to establish expectations and consequences. People with ADHD can easily become frustrated and irritable when they are confused or do not remember the rules or expectations. Rules and expectations should therefore be stated verbally in a clear and simple fashion. It is also a good idea to have the rules and expectations written down, so the person can easily see them.

Also, if the person does not meet expectations or follow the rules she should be given the established consequence and reminded of what she did wrong. According to, children with ADHD respond positively to the consistent use of clear expectations and consequences.


To reduce irritability among people with ADHD it is important to help reduce their overall frustrations and harness their excess energies. Make sure that the person with ADHD gets at least eight hours of quality sleep every night. The symptoms of ADHD are intensified by even mild sleep deprivation, according to This source also recommends that people with ADHD have the opportunity to use their excess energy: Regular physical activity will help increase concentration and decrease depression and anxiety. Adults with ADHD should incorporate regular exercise routines into their daily schedule for at least five days a week.


Treatment for irritability will provide the individual with an education on ADHD, an understanding of how his behaviors limit his success and interactions with others, and techniques to help manage the symptoms and reduce his level of irritability.

Specific forms of treatment used can include behavioral coaching, cognitive-behavioral therapy, family or couples therapy, interpersonal therapy and social skills training. Also, medication is generally used to decrease the overall symptoms of ADHD. The physician may experiment with nonstimulant medications to reduce the person’s level of irritability, such as Strattera or antidepressants such as bupropion.