What You Really Need to Know When Arguing With Someone Who Has ADHD

Arguments happen all the time. Young children frequently squabble over toys and food. Teenagers often argue with their parents about all sorts of things primarily because of the physical and psychological changes they’re experiencing.

For spouses, arguments usually stem from differing opinions, stress or misunderstandings. Friends may quarrel about unmet expectations, miscommunication and loyalty issues.

Although frequent disagreements can be stressful, they’re a natural part of intimate, familial and platonic relationships.

But whether you’re having a disagreement with your spouse, partner, child or friend, you may think and feel otherwise when you’re arguing with someone who has ADHD.

Our clinical experience with ADHD treatment in Dubai through neurofeedback has shown how arguments can be emotionally taxing and affect brain function. Many of our clients with this condition report that getting into arguments is something they do not relish. Their parents and caregivers share the same sentiments as well.

In this article, we’ll discuss some reasons why people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are prone to be more argumentative and some tips on what to do when you find yourself arguing with someone with this condition.

Why Is It Tricky to Get Into Arguments With Someone Who Has ADHD?

Arguing with a person who has ADHD can be uncomfortable, especially if it’s your first time doing so. Even people who deal and work with people with ADHD may find this situation awkward and have difficulties handling it when things get a bit out of hand.

But how do people with ADHD act in arguments? Below are some of the behaviors you may notice when you have a disagreement with them:

As evidenced by these potential behaviors, getting into an argument with a person with ADHD can be challenging.

But what causes people with ADHD to exhibit these behaviors when they’re in emotionally charged situations? Below are some possible reasons:

1. Emotional dysregulation

Emotional dysregulation pertains to the inability to control one’s emotional responses; as a result, reactions become too intense. These behaviors are often deemed inappropriate to the situations that trigger them.

Emotional dysregulation, which is a typical symptom of ADHD, causes people with this condition to have their emotions, particularly anger, escalate within minutes. This can lead to full-blown arguments.

2. Oppositional behavior

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is one of ADHD’s common comorbidities. However, people with ADHD do not need to have this condition to be more argumentative.

Some people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder tend to be oppositional and argumentative by nature. Because of this, they are likely to take an opposite view and disagree with other people most of the time, making arguments go longer and more intensely than usual.

3. Frequent anger and irritability

Some children and adults with ADHD are prone to feeling angry and irritable easily. This can cause them to flare up at the smallest annoyances and initiate confrontations.

Moreover, since people with ADHD tend to be impulsive and experience emotional dysregulation, they quickly act on their emotions and start arguments that don’t need to develop.

4. Sensory overload

Sensory overload happens when the senses are overstimulated, causing the brain to process stimuli inefficiently. This inability to filter and process all sensory input can cause anyone to feel overwhelmed and annoyed.

People with ADHD are more likely to be affected by sensory overload. When this happens, they may become irritated and blow their top off easily, possibly turning simple disagreements into full-blown arguments.

Since people with ADHD have different personalities, there may be other reasons for their tendency to argue frequently and prolong or intensify these disagreements unnecessarily. However, with your support and professional help, they can reprogram their brain and unlearn this habit.

How to Handle Arguments With Someone Who Has ADHD

The first thing you have to do when you get into a disagreement with a person with ADHD is to be non-judgmental. You must understand that their impulsivity and emotional responses are often beyond their control. Being judgmental can only escalate conflicts and possibly cause them to lose trust in you.

You can then follow these tips on how to handle arguments with someone who has ADHD:

1. Give the person you’re speaking with your full attention.

Whether you’re arguing or conversing with someone with ADHD, focus on the situation, listen to the other person and avoid doing other things if possible. Failing to give your full attention to what’s happening can lead to misunderstandings and a more complicated quarrel.

2. Speak concisely and clearly and be direct to the point.

Avoid using complex words and abstract concepts when talking. Use simple words, stick to the point, and speak clearly so the person you’re talking with can process the information quickly and understand what you’re trying to tell them.

3. Ask questions or clarifications when needed.

Many people with ADHD tend to be overcome easily by the fight-flight-freeze-or-fawn response when angry. Because of this, they may say things unintentionally that you may misunderstand. To prevent the conversation from getting out of hand and give them the opportunity to think about what they said, repeat their statement and ask them if you understood it correctly.

4. Keep your attention on the current situation.

Bringing up the past, especially previous arguments, can make the person with ADHD feel attacked, which can further aggravate the situation. As such, focus on the present and stick only to the topic at hand.

5. Give them space.

If the conversation is getting too heated, suggest taking a 10- to 30-minute break, but inform the person you’re speaking with that you will continue the conversation afterward. Doing so will allow both of you to cool down, reflect on what happened and compose your thoughts to express yourselves better.

During arguments, we tend to say things impulsively even when we know we can hurt others. People with ADHD are likely to do this as well. The important thing is to remain non-judgmental and keep our cool to prevent disagreements from getting out of hand.

If you’re constantly getting into heated arguments with someone with ADHD and want to help them unlearn this behavior, contact us to learn about the science behind neurofeedback and how it can help people with ADHD.

Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.

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