View Full Version : Emotional dysregulation


Fuzzy12
10-26-13, 10:56 AM
I had a bad day today. Nothing happened. Was fine in the morning, then got into a little argument with my husband. Really little. it wasn't even an argument. He just told me that I need to do sstop spending so much time on forums and focus on the real world, on our marriage. Actually he just made a request. No biggie.. He's right. Anyway doesn't matter.

The strange thing is my reaction. I just crashed. Strange but not uncommon. I tend to over react. Massively. It's as if the tiniest of triggers can suddenly and absolutely drain all the life out of me. I didn't want to live anymore. Not because of what he'd said but just because suddenly I was so bored with life. nothing to look forward to. Nothing that I could look forward to. Not because my life is so bleak. It isn't. I just lost interest in everything.

Anyway I didn't kill myself as you can see. Can't do that to my family adnd all that crap. I could nt move. I had to lie down And sleep it off. That always helps. Now I'm ok. Embarrassed and a bit worried. That's all. I keep over reacting like this. It happens way to o often and the triggers are always way too small. The triggers aren't important. Anything can trigger this state of complete and absolute exhaustion. It's as if my brain is just waiting for an excuse to throw in the towel. It's as if everything I stumble a bit the earth suddenly opens up beneath me and I end up in free fall. As if I've got some severe allergy to slightly negative emotion s.

What is that? why do I over react like this? even when I know in that moment that it's an over reaction? How can I suddenly make a 180 deg turn from fine to not wanting to live anymore when I know that really nothing has changed?

The fact that sleeping helps makes me wonder if it's something physical. Some misfire in my brain. some chemical reactions going horribly wrong.

Is this an adhd thing? Do stimulants help with that.? Anti depressants don't. Sleeping seems to be the only thing that helps.

dvdnvwls
10-26-13, 11:58 AM
ADDF has been very important to me lately, and if I heard someone say I should spend less time here, I would feel very afraid and hurt because I wouldn't want these friends taken away from me; and yet trying to explain that to someone without ADHD (someone whose "support group of people just like him" is "everybody all the time") would make me feel both intensely embarrassed and really scared.

When I encounter a conflict that has a right and wrong, I have an impulsive tendency to get into it and fight for what I think is right. But when I see a conflict coming and it's ambiguous or confusing or painful for me to think about, then I shut down, like a turtle pulling into its shell - or maybe like a little child hiding under the covers.

You knew he was right, and yet... you also knew there was something else involved, and that made the conflict ambiguous, and it was difficult to talk about because this place can be important sometimes in surprising ways that probably sound ridiculous to someone without ADHD.

So... you're not crazy, this IS kind of a tough one, and yes it does have at least something to do with ADHD. Is it maybe a working-memory problem, lacking the logic to explain this place without sounding weird? (perhaps even sprouting nonsense...) ;) Or a compartmentalization problem, where one area of life doesn't make sense next to another area of life because you had been keeping them mentally separate? Something else? I don't know...

Anyway, one thing to check with yourself about is... was he really feeling hostile, or did it just sort of feel that way to you because you were afraid or confused?

sarahsweets
10-26-13, 12:04 PM
I know this is in the depression section but it does strike me as a very adhd thing.

dvdnvwls
10-26-13, 12:11 PM
So... I think the exhaustion comes from a conflict that won't resolve. For me, sometimes, a conflict with another person won't resolve when there's information very important to the conflict which I feel unable to reveal to the other person because I'm afraid of being cut down or ridiculed or hurt.

I know that you're not being bullied, and yet (for me anyway) the feeling of being bullied comes very close to the feeling of this kind of conflict.

purpleToes
10-26-13, 01:23 PM
Fuzzy, I think you're severely underestimating the emotional impact of that argument. It may have been brief, it may have been conducted at low volume, but it struck at some issues that have deeply troubling you for as far back as I remember you on the forums. It is an intense reaction you're having, but to say it's an over-reaction is to minimize the very real interpersonal conflicts that are going on in your life.

This is not an ADHD thing. The conflict is real, and your hurt feelings are valid, but you didn't have the skills to cope, so you shut down. Sleeping gives you relief because it offers you avoidance and denial. Even though it's an excellent development that you got the ADHD Dx, it doesn't mean you don't have depression anymore. Treating the ADHD will help, but the relationship and self esteem issues are still there, and you still have depressive patterns of processing your feelings that you need to unlearn.

Whatever happened with getting into therapy?

purpleToes
10-26-13, 01:44 PM
The triggers may be tiny, but the built-up stress is not. Think of a balloon, blown up tight, destroyed by a pin prick. The intensity of your reaction isn't about the size of the trigger, it's about how much emotion is built up that is getting triggered. So, from another's perspective it might appear as if you're over-reacting if all they see is the trigger, but from your perspective, there's a lot more going on that you're reacting to... Could be things from your past experience that shaped your assumptions and beliefs and your relationship patterns. Or it could be you're reacting emotionally to implicit communication that isn't congruent with what a person is saying explicitly, such as passive aggressive behavior, where if you don't recognize that's what they're doing, you can't respond intellectually. (people saying one thing but intending for you to get the opposite message in a way they can avoid taking reponsibiliy for it).

dvdnvwls
10-26-13, 04:38 PM
One perceptive person (sarahsweets) says it sounds like a very ADHD thing, and another perceptive person (purpleToes) says it's not (and mentions depression in this context).

Can I be a sort of "bridge" and say that I think it's both, in different ways? With a triggering situation that's just about pure ADHD, but followed by a reaction that has a lot of depression in it?

I've been in that trigger situation many many many times, in the same mentally-vulnerable easy-to-hurt way as Fuzzy was - but my reaction afterwards seems to have been softened or limited by the fact that I wasn't already predisposed to depression.

Being so easy to hurt has I think been one of the "silent monsters" in my life; it affects me in so many ways, and yet can easily be written off as "I'm a weak person", which is a truly damaging thing to be telling oneself over and over. And maybe it's a strange conceptual contortion to figure out that a person as strong as Fuzzy is also vulnerable to being hurt by some things that don't sound like that big of a deal - that is, they don't until you consider the context.

VeryTired
10-27-13, 10:23 PM
Fuzzy, I just want to tell you that this cycle happens often at my house, and interestingly, it happens both to me and to my partner. But I still see it as being an outcome of (his) ADHD. He often gets thrown by smallish problems and disputes, and I see that as being an aspect of impulsivity, and of difficulty taking in what i say and mean. So I see that as an aspect of the ADHD. But when it happens to me, I see it as an aspect of my extreme stress and exhaustion caused by coping with his ADHD.

A ray of light: this has become less common for us than it once was, and my partner chalks that up to his medication making it possible for him to see and understand himself enough to be able to work on making changes. I don't know if it will ever stop, but it has been a relief that it happens less often than it once did.

dvdnvwls
10-28-13, 02:27 AM
Fuzzy, I just want to tell you that this cycle happens often at my house, and interestingly, it happens both to me and to my partner. But I still see it as being an outcome of (his) ADHD. He often gets thrown by smallish problems and disputes, and I see that as being an aspect of impulsivity, and of difficulty taking in what i say and mean. So I see that as an aspect of the ADHD. But when it happens to me, I see it as an aspect of my extreme stress and exhaustion caused by coping with his ADHD.
This has really caught my interest. Would you say a bit more about how getting thrown by smallish problems seems to be an aspect of impulsivity?

VeryTired
10-29-13, 12:26 PM
Hi, dvdnvwls--

Sure, I'll try to explain what I meant. I don't know how clear this will be, though.

Lots of small problems that crop up seem to cause my partner to respond with an impatience that is expressed as a need for instant, active solutions--to me that's impulsivity. The problems can be logistical, but let's take some from the relationship sector as examples.

My partner literally has a hard time hearing me. We talk all the time about how his attention to me is like a radio getting intermittent bad reception. He cares what I say, he knows it's important to me that he listens, and he tries very hard. But we can tell from close study that he often literally misses as much as half of what I say (think of static blocking out the broadcast), and occasionally he misses even more (power outages shut down the radio receiver). Since this is his normal experience, he usually doesn't ask me to fill in every gap, he just works around it by filling in what he thinks or imagines I must be saying. Sometimes that works, sometimes that introduces trouble.

Impulsiveness comes in whenever there is any extra stress added to a situation. This could come from his being tired when we talk, from his having been scared of something unrelated earlier in the day, from our having the conversation in an over-stimulating location (crowded big stores are the worst!), from my speaking in an impatient tone, or from there somehow being high-stakes emotions involved. Whatever the source, a little stress will often trigger an impulsiveness in his response to that I am saying.

What that looks like in practice could be a number of impulsive responses such as catastrophizing, jumping to huge conclusions only tangentially linked to the topic at hand, escalating from discussion to anger, or making sudden un-discussed decisions to take action in some way. So I might make a smallish criticism of him, or ask a question which he interprets as a criticism, and suddenly he's shouting threats in rage, or asking me why I am breaking up with him, or insisting that the answer to the problem is to cancel all plans for the week, or go out and buy something expensive, or to give up projects that we've been working on together for months ...

We have gotten in a lot of trouble like this. Some tough boundary questions have arisen as a result. My first response when there's trouble is to slow down and try to be more reasonable--and to ask questions. He routinely goes off the deep end when I do this--it affects him as though I am taunting, goading and attacking him, which in turn makes me crazy and frustrated ... so soon enough, we get to a point where I actually angry and expressing it. It can be utterly miserable for us both.

Here's where we've gotten with this so far. I assume in all uncomfortable discussions that there is a giant probability that he is reacting not to what I said, but to what he is guessing I said--and I always remember that if this is so, it's not his fault. It's not carelessness or disrespect, it's a challenging disability. That helps me do better responding to him. I can't change hating the feeling that I'm not being heard, but accepting the reason for that reality really helps me. (And here's a good opportunity for me to say that the person who made me understand that I have to do this is none other than dvdnvwls, who frequently posts here about how important it is for non-ADHD partners to realize that their partners with ADHD are who they are and aren't going to change just because we might wish they could. I think about that all the time.)

For my partner, the big thing is that he now identifies pretty much everything bad that ever happens between us as having components of ADHD symptoms in the mix. At first I was a little skeptical of the one-size-fits-all explanation, but so far it has pretty much always been relevant. Anyway, what this means in practice is that as soon as he or I recognize any kind of trouble (bad feelings, unreasonable reactions, incidents of mis-communication) we take an instant time-out to talk about how elements of ADHD symptoms may be raising issues. The deal is that it's a blame-free, collaborative process. We accept that his ADHD gives us grief when least we expect it to, and we try to nip it in the bud by recognition. We often recognize his symptoms by noticing my reactions to them.

If you think about it, that process is an anti-impulsiveness device. It lets him shut off the frantic leaps from one emotion to the next, the jumps from one topic to another, and the scary surges of impulsive action without reflection. It shuts down fights, because we have to be on the same side to explore what actually happened. It can be hard to pause to step outside our discussion to make these observations, and we don't always get it right. But the upside of this is that it really works, and it helps my partner feel trust that he can be accepted even when the effects of his ADHD cannot.

OK, this is getting long, but just in case it helps explain, here's one thing more. I characterize as impulsiveness many of the things I can least understand in my partner's reactions and actions. Maybe it's the wrong term, but to me it seems to fit. I watch him when he is feeling challenged or stressed, and there is often some impulsive reaction. To me it seems as though situations which are hard often involve his making reactions which act as dopamine-boosters for him. Sudden anger, action, purchasing, reciting large amounts of factual information that he knows, making absolute pronouncements, denouncing political opponents--these things all seem to help him restore his brain chemistry when he is stressed by life problems.

Listening to me talk, especially about relationship stuff, is very hard for him. It seems to be a resource-depleting and dopamine-depleting experience for him. So sometimes his response to these conversations is something that brings jolts of energy and dopamine back into the experience. This accounts for his sometimes verbally attacking to start a fight in preference to continuing a long difficult conversation, or rushing out to buy a gadget we can't afford rather than expending more patience to understand a glitch with the gadget we already have. You can imagine what response from me either of those situations creates.

To me, the impulsive behaviors pretty much always seem to have something to do those urgent physiological feelings, those needs to regain inner equilibrium by ekeing out a squirt of dopamine (or whatever brain chemical--maybe dopamine isn't the only one involved) to compensate for the depletion that too much concentration causes him. It's as though he stops being in the same universe I am, and whatever we are talking about becomes a trivial background phenomenon while the main event is his struggle to readjust his internal equilibrium. Obviously, these problems are enormously diminished when his Vyvanse is working, and greatly expanded after it wears off.

Back to what Fuzzy was originally talking about: I said that her feeling of total depletion is one I sometimes experience as well, despite not my having ADHD. Like Fuzzy, I sometimes find that only (too much) sleep can take the edge off after a miserable encounter, even if thing itself is relatively trivial. It's a retreat based on my being totally out of resources to cope--look at my name here. My living with my partner's ADHD has made me a constantly low energy person. His living with his ADHD has made him a frequently impulsive person.

That's how it seems to me, anyway. Apologies if I am not making sense here. I'd love to know how this sounds to you.

dvdnvwls
10-29-13, 01:11 PM
So... an extremely-short paraphrase... sometimes (or often), a seemingly-small incident can get blown out of proportion by accidental assumptions, and those accidental assumptions can lead to totally inappropriate "solutions" that are likely done impulsively?

dvdnvwls
10-29-13, 01:16 PM
Listening to me talk, especially about relationship stuff, is very hard for him. It seems to be a resource-depleting and dopamine-depleting experience for him. So sometimes his response to these conversations is something that brings jolts of energy and dopamine back into the experience. This accounts for his sometimes verbally attacking to start a fight in preference to continuing a long difficult conversation, or rushing out to buy a gadget we can't afford rather than expending more patience to understand a glitch with the gadget we already have. You can imagine what response from me either of those situations creates.
My experience of this phenomenon from "the other side" (I'm assuming it must be the same one because it sounds extremely and sadly familiar) seems to indicate that you might be overestimating the resource-depletion aspect, and underestimating the abject-debilitating-fear-and-consequent-desperate-need-for-soothing aspect. :(

Fuzzy12
10-29-13, 02:30 PM
My experience of this phenomenon from "the other side" (I'm assuming it must be the same one because it sounds extremely and sadly familiar) seems to indicate that you might be overestimating the resource-depletion aspect, and underestimating the abject-debilitating-fear-and-consequent-desperate-need-for-soothing aspect. :(

:grouphug::grouphug::grouphug:

I think, the desperate need for soothing is a big one for me too. I don't buy expensive gadgets but I self soothe by

1. Drinking
2. Smoking
3. Sleeping
4. Eating
5. Day dreaming

All of which usually just end up annoying my husband more.

Fuzzy12
10-29-13, 02:42 PM
Thanks for the interesting replies everyone. I've been planning to respond but it will take me a while, I think. :rolleyes:

dvdnvwls
10-29-13, 02:53 PM
A year's supply of alcohol and cigarettes could potentially dwarf the price of some other expensive gadgets. :(

VeryTired
10-29-13, 05:59 PM
Gotta love your ability to boil a wall of text down to a pithy phrase, dvdnvwls! You more or less got it, but to me the impulsiveness has a more random aspect than you suggest.

"Abject-debilitating-fear-and-consequent-desperate-need-for-soothing aspect" is a pretty good summary, I believe. But I'd just add that it's often a trigger for the good old "utter-exhaustion-and terror-and-despair-based-on-lonely-feeling-of-being-the-only-one-in-the-relationship-required-to-handle-trouble-when-it-arises" on the part of the non-ADHD partner.

Fuzzy, apologies for inadvertently hijacking your thread!

dvdnvwls
10-29-13, 06:24 PM
Gotta love your ability to boil a wall of text down to a pithy phrase, dvdnvwls! You more or less got it, but to me the impulsiveness has a more random aspect than you suggest.

Yes, it certainly does... "Solutions" was in quotation marks to indicate "so-called solutions that are often crazy unrelated things".
"Abject-debilitating-fear-and-consequent-desperate-need-for-soothing aspect" is a pretty good summary, I believe. But I'd just add that it's often a trigger for the good old "utter-exhaustion-and terror-and-despair-based-on-lonely-feeling-of-being-the-only-one-in-the-relationship-required-to-handle-trouble-when-it-arises" on the part of the non-ADHD partner.
It's important for me to remember that non-ADHD partners get scared too. This whole thing can get pretty messy in terms of screwed-up power/control relationships, reliability/unreliability expectations, parent/child where it doesn't belong, yadda yadda yadda. But that takes another ten or a hundred threads, and like you said it's far enough off topic already...