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How To Understand And Disarm Explosive Emotions

Explosive Emotions, an ADHD Wild Card

Explosive Emotions are a very challenging aspect of ADHD because Doctors have found dysregulated emotions difficult to test and diagnose because they occur so randomly.

According to Attention Magazine, it has been determined that the memory loss that accompanies ADHD often enables stronger than normal emotional outbursts. It appears that brain networks that carry and transfer emotional information are limited insome ADHDers. Therefore, when ADHDers have explosive emotions, the intensity may use up all the processing space in their brain resulting in the inability to think of or process any other important, relevant information.

They often completely ignore social etiquette and become obsessed with the indisputable “rightness” of their opinion and the absolute necessity of its acceptance as truth. As a result, their emotions are over the top, causing other people to be surprised by their intensity. In addition, they may even have trouble remembering the conflict incident accurately.

Dennis, Gracie and Rita

Dennis’s sister, Rita, who was four years younger, had also been diagnosed with ADHD.

Rita had decided to spend Christmas with Dennis and his wife, Gracie. They were very excited about the opportunity to spend time with Rita. It had been several years since her last visit.

Rita was an artist for a publishing house in New York City. Dennis hadn’t seen any of her work since their high school days. So, a few nights before her arrival, he sat down at the computer to see if he could find any of her art online.

Nothing came up under her name, so he tried the publishing house. He paged through multiple book reviews on the website.

Gracie came up behind him and touched his shoulder. He almost jumped out of his chair as he grabbed her hand.

“Ouch, that hurt,” she said.

Dennis turned toward her saying, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “You’re as white as a ghost and you’re shaking.”

She sat down in the chair beside him.

“Look at this,” he said, turning the computer screen so she could see it.

“What is that?” Gracie asked. “That’s scary.”

“That’s my sister’s artwork,” he said. “She’s illustrating horror and satanic stories.”

Gracie paused, looking intently at the screen as she paged through different book summaries.

“This is going to be an interesting Christmas, to say the least.”

Rita’s Arrival

Rita flew in on a midnight flight from New York City, three days before Christmas. Dennis met her at the gate. He noticed she didn’t look happy.

“Are you okay?” he asked as she walked up. He could see she had a weird T-shirt on. Without a word, she grabbed the edge of the shirt holding it out so he could read it. “I haven’t had any sleep or any meds and you’ll just have to deal with it!!!”

Dennis didn’t know what to do or say. They walked to the baggage department in total silence.

During the hour’s drive to the house, Dennis recalled some of the events from their childhood while Rita feigned sleep in the passenger seat.

Dennis’s Old Memories

He remembered when Rita finished 8th grade. The class had an outing to a local amusement park. The students and their parents were warned that if anyone did not get on the bus to come home they would be eliminated from the graduation activities.

Guess who wasn’t on the bus? You’re right, Rita. When Dennis and his mom arrived at the school to pick her up she wasn’t there.

His mom was afraid they’d have to call the police and Rita would end up in Juvenile Detention. As they got on the highway, they prayed they would find her.

When they got to the amusement park, she was sitting in the back of a pickup full of teenagers just ready to take off. Dennis jumped out and yelled her name. She got down out of the truck and into the car.

There was total silence all the way home. That night when everyone was asleep, she climbed out of her bedroom window and walked the streets as self-punishment for her actions or so she said.

A few months later she went for a joy ride with the same group for a full weekend. Her mom knew she had to do something drastic or Rita would end up in the juvenile court system.

When Rita got home her bags were packed and she was taken to her grandparents and then to Mom’s cousin. Her mom wanted her to have a chance at a good life, not the one she was unknowingly creating for herself.

Christmas Begins

Gracie went out to the car to greet them, Rita didn’t say anything, she just pulled out her shirt like she did with Dennis.

Gracie and Dennis looked at each other shrugging their shoulders. They didn’t know what to expect.

The next morning was Sunday. They usually went to church, but this morning they decided to watch online and let Rita sleep.

The pastor was about halfway through his sermon when Rita came charging out of the bedroom madder than a wet hen.

The table had been set for her breakfast. She went to the table and sat down. In a few minutes, she jumped up from the table pointing at the TV and screaming at the top of her lungs that “White Supremacist B…S…”

Dennis impulsively jumped up, stepping toward her with his finger pointed in her direction shouting “No, that’s the truth.”

Rita grabbed a knife off the table and started toward Dennis. Her body was visibly shaking in rage.

Gracie jumped up between them telling them both to calm down. She didn’t want to call the cops. With both of them being impulsive the situation could escalate to violence.

“Rita, calm down,” Gracie said firmly numerous times. Each time Rita appeared to get angrier.

“This IS calm,” Rita shouted, showing her hand that was shaking like a leaf.

Things could only get worse leading to more conflict and possibly the need for police intervention, so Dennis and Gracie left the house, expecting to talk things over with Rita later when she had calmed down. But instead, Rita packed her bags, got an Uber back to the airport and flew home.

Analysis of the Explosive Emotions

In the story above, Rita’s mind was so filled with rage after overhearing what she thought was White Supremacist Ideology that she couldn’t process any other information, like the common courtesy of being a guest in someone else’s home.

Given that she hadn’t slept for several days, a lack of sleep makes ADHD symptoms worse. She also seemed to be experiencing extreme sensitivity to disapproval or being told she was wrong. All in all, Rita was in a bad way.

Dennis, who also had ADHD with explosive emotions, impulsively reacted when he heard Rita call the message his pastor was giving “White Supremacist BS.” He took a step toward Rita with a finger pointed in her direction saying, “That’s the truth. What he’s saying is the truth.” But then, with Gracie’s intervention, he was able to pull back his emotions. But Rita stepped toward him enraged. Why the difference?

Slowing Down Runaway Emotions

One of the strategies for controlling Explosive Emotions is to develop self-control and self-discipline by taking responsibility for your emotional reactions.

Dennis’s pastor had suggested that studying God’s Word could help a person with ADHD or Dementia minimize their symptoms. So, Dennis began studying the Word following this protocol:

  1. Find a place where he could quiet his mind was essential to meditating on God’s Word and hearing God’s voice.
  2. He began writing out the scripture that he was studying.
  3. Reading the scriptures in different translations gave him a fuller meaning.
  4. He began praying, asking God to give him wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) NIV

5. He wrote the spontaneous thoughts God gave him.

6. He set up a regular study schedule to be in the Word consistently.


After regularly studying what God’s Word said about these symptoms Dennis started experiencing more self-control.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) NIV

Dennis had acted impulsively toward Rita, but pulled the intense emotions back much quicker than before and calmed himself down. Rita’s emotions flared for hours, as was her normal behavior pattern.

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