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Men With ADHD: How to Handle Your Top 3 Challenges

✎ Written by: Denisa Cerna ✓ Fact-checked by: Kaija Sander, Ph.D.


ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is diagnosed in around 5.4% of adult men in the US.


While ADHD is a condition that can be lived with, accepted, and incorporated into one’s lifestyle to ensure things go as smoothly as possible, that doesn’t mean ADHD is without its challenges.


The usual ADHD symptoms in men include impulsiveness, frequent fidgeting, and excessive restlessness (hyperactive ADHD), as well as poor time management skills, problems focusing, and disorganization (inattentive ADHD).


But there’s more to male ADHD than the typical rundown of easily observed signs. With or without realizing it, men with ADHD experience specific challenges that may cause issues in their relationships and everyday life.


Today, we’ll look at the main three.


Emotional Dysregulation and Anger Issues


Adults with ADHD often report high levels of emotional lability – they may be quick to anger, tend to have low frustration tolerance, and might struggle to calm down once upset. This is because it’s very common for them to experience deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR), meaning it can be more difficult for them to respond appropriately to strong emotions.


Research has found that the ways in which men and women express aggression are different. For example, this study shows that men are more likely to express direct aggression (they raise their voice, use offensive language, and display physical violence) while women tend to engage in indirect aggression (such as gossip and social exclusion).


Therefore, men might find it more difficult to cope with emotional impulsivity when ADHD is added to the equation.


According to another study, men who struggled with ADHD symptoms in their childhood are more prone to verbal aggression and physical violence toward their intimate partners than men with no ADHD history.


Of course, this does not mean that having ADHD automatically sentences you to a life of aggression. All it means is that if you have male ADHD, you may have to work harder to keep your cool.


Luckily, there are multiple steps you can take right now.


1. Speak to your doctor or mental health professional


First and foremost, it’s vital to talk things through with your doctor and receive a diagnosis.


Once your health professional recommends the right treatment, you’ll have better clarity of mind and will be more aware of the differences between the condition and your personality, which can help you cope with it more effectively.


2. Exercise


Research indicates that people with ADHD benefit from both long-term exercise and short-term bouts of physical activity. When you move your body, you’re providing an outlet for the hyperactive energy inside you, which is why exercise is especially helpful for men who struggle with hyperactive ADHD.


What’s more, exercise has been shown to improve emotional functioning and stress reactivity, helping you reduce impulsivity and hold your temper more easily.


Not only that, but physical activity increases the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which plays a significant role in regulating attention and focus. This boost in neurotransmitter activity can lead to improved sustained attention and cognitive performance.


3. Use a specific word to take a time-out during an argument


If you’re a man with ADHD, consider discussing your symptoms and challenges with the people closest to you. Then come up with a specific word that allows you to take a “time-out” when you need it.


For example, your emotions may become overwhelming during a disagreement with your partner. In such a case, you can use the word to walk away from the conversation for a short while and let your partner know your ADHD is playing up without any complicated explanations.


This will give you the space to calm down and think more clearly with no guilt attached.

ADHD expert, Michele Novotni, PhD, agrees:


“One ground rule, above all others, is especially important: Stop any discussion right away if you or your partner becomes angry. Take a breather and return to the discussion 30 minutes later, after the anger has dissipated. Go for a walk, visit a neighbor, or play with a pet. You might consider this a time-out for grown-ups.”


Underperforming at Work or University


Seeing as the most typical ADHD symptoms include distractibility, impulsivity, and a loss of focus, it’s understandable that ADHD may be at the root of various challenges in the workplace.


Things aren’t so different in an academic setting – university students with ADHD commonly suffer from poor time management, a lack of daily routine, getting stuck in a cycle of worrying, and impaired academic performance.



If this sounds like something you or a man you know is going through, here are a few things you can consider implementing or suggesting to him (alongside seeking professional treatment).


1. Recognize that ADHD isn’t shameful


While some men may experience feelings of shame when it comes to ADHD and other mental health conditions, it’s important to remember that ADHD is not a reflection of one’s character. On the contrary, dealing with all the challenges that result from ADHD on a daily basis is proof of strength and courage.


In order to sort through your feelings, it may be a good idea to:

  1. Learn more about ADHD and its neurological underpinnings. This can help you realize that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition, and it doesn’t define you as a person. Understanding the science behind it can diminish feelings of shame and self-blame related to struggles in areas like academics, relationships, and self-perception.

  2. Seek positive role models. Research and learn about individuals who have openly discussed their experiences with ADHD. Discover how they’ve embraced their condition and turned it into a positive force in their lives.

  3. Connect with support groups. Participate in ADHD support groups or online communities where you can connect with others who share similar experiences. Hearing their stories and advice can help you realize that you’re not alone.

  4. Speak to your family, friends, or close colleagues. If you’re struggling at work, a colleague might be happy to do “body-doubling” with you, increasing your productivity and focus just by working on tasks alongside you.


2. Set realistic goals


Get realistic about what you can truly achieve in specific time frames. Set goals for both short-term and long-term tasks, for instance by having a daily, weekly, and monthly to-do list.


Example:

  • I will read three secondary sources that support my main essay argument today.

  • I will outline the body of my essay by the end of this week.

  • I will write and submit my essay by the end of this month.

Alternatively, you can also set SMART goals to help yourself stay on track:

  • Specific: What exactly do you want to accomplish?

  • Measurable: How will you know that you’ve achieved it?

  • Attainable: Are your goals realistic and achievable?

  • Relevant: Is this something that will make a difference in your life or positively impact your well-being?

  • Time-based: What deadline are you setting up for yourself?

Don’t forget to celebrate each achievement along the way, no matter how small it seems. Sometimes, getting the laundry done is as much of a feat as deep-cleaning the entire house – both completed tasks deserve proper recognition.


Thrill-Seeking Behavior


Sensation-seeking behavior is a component of impulsivity that’s common in people with adult ADHD, and since men are more likely to take risks than women due to their elevated levels of testosterone, they may display more thrill-seeking behavior.


Be it a new video game, a new hobby, an extramarital affair, changing between jobs frequently, having a phone addiction, or even excessive use of online content, some men with ADHD may be prone to constantly seeking new stimuli to hold their attention.


This might be because people with ADHD often have lower levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s in charge of motivation and reward-based behavior in the brain.


Taking risks and seeking a thrill could therefore be a way to get that rush of dopamine and feel better in the short term, offering a brief sense of instant gratification.


Naturally, this may cause a lot of relationship issues and decrease one’s life satisfaction.

Once you’ve spoken to your doctor or therapist about this, ask them whether they’d recommend you try the following tips:


1. Meditation and mindfulness


Meditation and mindfulness, both of which center around bringing one’s attention to the present moment with acceptance and gentle curiosity, have been shown to potentially improve self-regulation of attention in men with ADHD.


This might show up as being better at ignoring thoughts that don’t relate to what you’re doing at the moment and being able to pay attention even when there are things around to distract you.


Furthermore, mindfulness techniques could help you avoid doing things impulsively and getting too caught up in addictive behaviors because they may improve emotional regulation.


2. Make boredom more fun


If you work at the same desk, shop at the same supermarket, and go to the same restaurant every week, you might soon get bored of the routine and look for distraction elsewhere.

Always try to make “boring” tasks more exciting.


For instance, change your environment during work (if possible), play fun songs while doing mundane house chores, switch up your routine once in a while, or change the desktop background on your computer to add a bit of novelty to your day.


You might also turn a mundane task, such as washing the dishes, into a time-limited game. Letitia Sweitzer, M.Ed., an author of The Elephant in the ADHD Room, says:


“Promise yourself you only have to do it for your optimal focus time…Set a timer for 25 minutes. When it goes off, stop. Now you get to start something new…Set a timer for the second activity and stop when time expires. Then return to the first task, which will now feel new again.”


3. Use rewards to motivate yourself


Dopamine isn’t something you have zero control over. In fact, you can find ways to release dopamine in your brain, for example by promising yourself rewards for completing specific tasks.


Example:

  • Once I have finished this 20-minute task with no breaks, I will take a 5-minute break as a reward.

(To make this effective, set up a timer, for instance, through the Pomofocus App.)


4. Consider trying neurofeedback therapy


Neurofeedback is a type of brain training that uses real-time feedback to help you regulate your brain activity. This is usually done through the use of sensors (called electrodes) placed on the head in order to measure electrical activity in the brain (brainwaves).


This electrical activity is associated with your different levels of consciousness, including anxiety, alertness, sleep, or focus, and it can give you important insights about your current mental state.


The feedback is provided by visual cues (like a game or video) or through auditory cues (such as music or sound). When your brain is not in the target state – for example, when you’re unfocused – the volume may decrease or the images on the screen may become more difficult to see.


If your brain activity is within the right range, though, the volume will go up or the screen will become brighter. This makes it possible for you to see or hear your brain activity in real time.


With practice and consistency, your brain will learn to associate the target brain activity with the reward, thereby regulating it to be in a more focused state. This is why neurofeedback therapy has been proven effective in alleviating ADHD symptoms.


With the right equipment and supervision of an expert, you can do neurofeedback therapy from the comfort of your own home.


Conclusion


Even in 2023, men with ADHD still struggle with being open about their challenges when it comes to mental health.


However, ADHD won’t just go away if you don’t address it. What’s more, untreated ADHD may cause more harm because you won’t be quite sure how to manage your symptoms.


If you struggle with any of the challenges described above, from emotional dysregulation and thrill-seeking behavior to underperforming at work and university, know that you are not alone and that getting an official diagnosis may offer a lot of relief and help you manage your symptoms and get them under control.


Myndlift provides a personalized expert-guided brain training program that can help you achieve your goals towards reaching improved focus and calm. Check if you’re eligible to kick start your journey with us for better brain health from here.


 

About the author:

Denisa Cerna is a non-fiction and fiction writer who's passionate about psychology, mental health, and personal development. She's always on a quest to develop a better insight into the workings of the human mind, be it via reading psychology books or combing through research papers.


About the reviewer:

Kaija Sander is a cognitive neuroscientist and scientific consultant for Myndlift. She holds a BSc in Biomedical Science with a specialization in Neuroscience and Mental Health from Imperial College London and a PhD in Neuroscience from McGill University. Her doctoral research focused on brain connectivity relating to second language learning success. She is passionate about the broader applications of science to have a positive impact on people’s lives.


 

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