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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.

Dive deeper

ADHD medication

ADHD medication doesn’t make kids aggressive — in fact, it helps most kids with self-control. But sometimes medication makes kids edgy and irritable. When that happens, it may need to be adjusted.

Learn more about ADHD medication , and see a list of signs that medication needs to be adjusted .

ADHD and mental health issues

ADHD often co-occurs with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It can also co-occur with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

These conditions can cause or add to anger and aggression. It’s important to diagnose and treat them apart from ADHD.

Learn about the link between:

Next steps

Teachers and families should connect as soon as possible. They can share what they’ve been seeing and talk about strategies and supports that might help. 

Reach out and set up a time to talk. Take notes on what you’ve been seeing and share that information to get a fuller picture.

Pediatricians can also play a key role in getting answers and finding solutions. They may have recommendations for help at school.

For parents and caregivers: Get tips for talking to teachers about behavior challenges .

For educators: Discover positive behavior strategies you can use in class.

If you have ADHD and get aggressive: Reach out to your health care provider to share what you’re experiencing and talk about next steps.

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Share ADHD and aggression

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom