ADHD and aggression

By Kate Kelly

Many people with ADHD are quick to get angry. They feel emotions intensely and can have trouble managing them.

Kids with ADHD tend to have outbursts more often than other kids their age. Much of the time, these flare-ups aren’t threatening. Kids might yell or slam doors. But sometimes, they lose control and become aggressive. 

The impulsivity that fuels aggressive behavior tends to lessen as kids grow up and move into adulthood. But adults with ADHD can sometimes be aggressive, too. It’s often verbal, but not always.

When kids lash out physically, they might kick or hit other kids or even adults. They don’t mean to hurt anyone and often feel terrible afterward. But in the moment, they don’t have the self-control to stop themselves.

For example, a first grader who wants a toy that another child won’t give up might hit the child to get it. A fourth grader might shove a classmate who cuts in line to get the last slice of pizza at lunch. 

Some people with ADHD have other factors that cause aggression. These include stress, bullying, learning challenges, and mental health issues. Lack of sleep and hunger can also have an impact.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.