ADHD and anger issues interfering with school


ADHD and anger issues interfering with school


your avatar   Stacy, 20-year-old woman

I am 20 years old and have ADHD. I am currently taking medication but I don't see much improvement. I am going to a community college and not doing very well. I have been removed from many classes and also failed classes. I get very frustrated with school. I think it has a lot to do with my anger problem. Sometimes I will get in a mood where all I want to do is destroy things. It doesn't matter what it is, I just feel the need to break something. I have punched doors, walls, kicked things, ripped things and smashed things. I also have lots of trouble dealing with emotions. I don't like to talk about them or think about certain things. I have been told that this is because of my anger problem.

How can I deal with school and my emotions without destroying things?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Stacy,

You are hurting. You see yourself as damaged, no good, a failure, and it's not fair. You resent the world for having done this to you.

Stacy, the majority of young people diagnosed with ADHD actually have nothing wrong with them. In a previous generation, they might have been called "lively" or perhaps "naughty". High-activity girls would have been called "tomboys", and expected to settle down after puberty. Most of them did, the exceptions being the small percentage who REALLY had the condition we now call ADHD. Now, the expectation is a life sentence of being faulty -- and people live up to the expectation.

When I have a new young client accused of "being ADHD", I play a game with them. The child is to pretend to be various things: a dog, a cat, her class teacher, a ballerina... and then a TABLE. A normal, active child will stand on all fours, immobile, for a long time. A child genuinely pestered by ADHD will last no more than a few seconds.

I suggest you have yourself re-assessed. My guess is that you are one of the majority who have been wrongly diagnosed.

I have a suggestion for your consideration about the source of the anger. I have had many clients about your age, who were diagnosed with some medical condition years before: diabetes at 12 years of age, manic-depressive disorder at 15, multiple sclerosis at 18, whatever. They have then reacted with "Why me? It's not fair!" The terrible, ongoing anger was then in response to this way of thinking. Do you think the same could have been true for you, when you were first lumbered with the label of "being ADHD"?

Stacy, even if the diagnosis should prove to be correct, ADHD is not something you ARE, but something you HAVE. It's not a defect in your nature, but an enemy you can fight. It is not a handicap, but a CHALLENGE. Rise to it. Beat it. Focus all that aggression on the enemy within, not the enemy outside.

Your description of your behavior shows considerable control. You have punched up inanimate objects like doors and walls. By implication, you have not hurt old ladies, little children or animals. You have been careful to direct your aggressive energies to where you could make your public statement, without actually hurting someone else. And I think this is wonderful.

Perhaps you can channel them even further. You might do very well at some martial arts. Ai ki do is my favorite. If there is a school for it near you, you might find it very beneficial by:

Releasing your excess physical energy;

Giving you an opportunity to improve your physical fitness, flexibility, coordination;

Above all, it will give you a great deal of self-respect.

Stacy, I am not surprised that you are not doing well in college. You have been taught, for many years now, that as an ADHD, you can expect to be poor at school work, and you have internalized this belief. And every failure or poor result confirms your inner conviction that you can't do this. If you didn't have this inner belief, you might well be a star student.

If it is at all practicable, I recommend that you take a year off from school. Find a job, anything that'll earn you an honest dollar. After all, it's only for an interlude, not for life. Use that year to develop your self-respect. I have a strong feeling from your description that you actually dislike yourself. In particular, you dislike the violence, but feel helpless to get rid of it. You see it as part of your nature.

Well, use that year away from school to defeat this monster that's been with you for years. It'll be hard, because any habit is hard to break. But other people in your situation have done it, so you can do it too.

At the end of it, you will come out of it a BETTER person than those of your classmates who had it easy. Character is strengthened and ennobled by difficulties. Rise to the challenge of your painful youth. The rewards will be worth it.

Good luck,

Bob Rich

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


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