Mood changes are a common symptom of ADHD, but there are strategies you can use to help manage these sudden shifts.

People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often feel deeply. Emotions can be amplified so that even small moments are heightened. In these moments, your mood may change swiftly and seemingly without warning.

ADHD is a mental health condition that affects nearly 8 million adults and 6.1 million children in the United States. It’s often characterized by difficulty focusing, restlessness, and impulsive behaviors.

Shifts in mood — often called “mood swings” — are common for people with ADHD, and there are many ways to cope. But what causes these shifts, and what can you do to manage them?

While people often associate ADHD with hyperactivity or difficulty paying attention, this condition can cause other symptoms too.

Frequent changes in mood are also a common sign of ADHD. A 2014 study said that emotional dysregulation affects from 25% to 45% of children with ADHD — and a 2020 study said that about 70% of adults with ADHD report emotional dysregulation.

During emotional dysregulation, emotions can feel amplified or more intense — particularly feelings like anger, sadness, or frustration. You may find yourself going from one emotion to another more suddenly than usual.

These mood shifts can happen in a variety of situations or under certain circumstances. These changes in mood can be a result of distraction, the presence of other conditions, or a side effect of medication.

Other common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • impulsivity
  • being easily distracted
  • difficulty focusing or paying attention
  • becoming easily frustrated or irritated
  • restlessness
  • fidgeting
  • difficulty organizing and completing tasks
  • trouble with time management
  • forgetfulness


Difficulty concentrating or being distracted from a task at hand can lead to sudden feelings of frustration or irritation — especially if you have ADHD.

While the condition can make focusing a challenge, you may experience moments of hyperfocus at times. When this concentration is broken, other feelings may emerge.

Distraction can also make it difficult to complete single tasks, as you may find your mind wandering or you may shift your attention to other activities.

Not completing things or feeling behind can alter your mood. You may feel like you’re failing or that your efforts aren’t good enough — even when that’s far from the truth.

Mood disorders and other mental health conditions

While mood shifts are a key symptom of ADHD, they may also indicate the existence of other mental health conditions or mood disorders.

Changes in mood are also linked to other many mental health conditions, including:

These conditions may also increase your feelings of worry or nervousness, which may feel heightened when combined with the symptoms of ADHD.

Certain learning disorders can also increase ADHD-related mood shifts. When faced with learning challenges, you may experience sudden bouts of frustration or feelings of defeat or failure.

If another condition is affecting your ADHD, a mental health professional can help. They can provide a diagnosis and recommend treatment options.


Medication can be effective in treating many symptoms of ADHD, including improving your focus and reducing restlessness. This symptom relief is often physical or cognitive. Emotional symptoms, including mood shifts, are sometimes less likely to be treated by medication.

Stimulant medications, in particular, may trigger sudden or severe changes in mood. As their effects wear off, you may find that you’re quick to become irritable or agitated — even in happy or joyful moments.

If you suspect that your ADHD medication is causing your mood to shift more than usual, consider speaking with a doctor. They may recommend changing your dosage, switching to a new prescription, or adding other treatments to your routine.

There are various ways that you can manage your ADHD, from using coping strategies to making lifestyle changes.

Engaging in mindfulness activities

Practicing mindfulness can calm both your body and mind so that you feel more focused and grounded. It can help you keep your emotions balanced so that your mood stays more even.

Mindfulness activities can also help reduce stress and anxious thoughts, which can both contribute to sudden mood shifts.

Other mindful practices you may want to try include:

Growing your self-awareness

Everyone experiences ADHD and its symptoms differently. Boosting your self-awareness can help you figure out your unique symptoms and the intensity with which you experience them.

Writing things down is a great way to increase your sense of self. Journaling your thoughts, feelings, and experiences allows you to track and reflect on when and how your mood changes. It gives you the opportunity to track any dramatic or sudden shifts in mood.

Journaling can also help you determine what triggers your mood shifts. By identifying your unique triggers, you can steer clear of them or develop targeted strategies for dealing with them.

Exercising or movement

Regular exercise has a lot of physical benefits, but it can also boost your mood — and physical exercise can help with the symptoms of ADHD, according to a 2020 review.

Staying active helps to reduce stress, ease frustration, and make you feel happier and more balanced. When your mood is elevated and your stress levels are low you are less likely to experience sudden emotional shifts.

This doesn’t mean you have to engage in a rigorous workout regime or hit the gym daily. Taking a walk, performing shorter exercise routines, or participating in any activity that you enjoy (like hiking, yoga, or swimming) is enough to get your body moving.

Spending time outside

Being out in nature often promotes calm and reduces stress. This can make it easier to focus, which may, in turn, help you regulate your emotions and have more control over your mood.

Research from 2004 reports that being in green outdoor spaces may reduce ADHD symptoms in children.

Eating a balanced diet

Research has found that certain foods and manufactured ingredients can activate or worsen ADHD symptoms, including refined sugars and saturated fats. Not getting enough fruits, vegetables, and essential vitamins can also bring on ADHD symptoms.

A balanced diet may help protect you against the symptoms of ADHD. It may also lessen the effects of sudden alterations in mood.

You might also consider reducing how much caffeine or alcohol you consume, as these may cause mood shifts.

Getting enough sleep

Sleep is essential to your overall health and wellness, and according to a 2018 review, sleep problems are common in people with ADHD.

A good night’s rest helps restore both your body and mind. When you’re well-rested, your mind is calmer and at ease, so you’re better able to prevent or manage sudden mood shifts.

There are many different treatment options available to help you manage your ADHD and its symptoms — including shifts in mood.

Common treatments include:

  • medication
  • stress management techniques
  • support groups

Working with a mental health professional can also help you cope with ADHD. A therapist or other licensed mental health professional will work with you to develop management strategies tailored to your unique diagnosis and symptoms.

This may mean participating in one or more forms of therapy, such as:

Psych Central also offers resources and information on ADHD to help you on your journey. This hub provides a variety of recommendations for books, apps, podcasts, online resources, and other strategies to help you understand and manage the condition.

ADHD is a mental health condition that causes restlessness, a lack of focus, and impulsive behaviors. This condition can also cause sudden and significant changes in mood, often referred to as “mood swings.”

ADHD-induced mood shifts may be a result of being distracted, comorbid conditions like depression or bipolar disorder, or a side effect of certain medications.

While these changes may be challenging, there’s hope. There are strategies you can use to lessen or prevent mood shifts, such as engaging in mindfulness, eating well and exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and increasing your sense of self-awareness.

If your mood shifts start to affect your daily life, it may be time to reach out to a professional. A therapist or other mental health professionals can recommend treatment options, such as therapy, medication, or stress management techniques.

If you are looking for a therapist but aren’t sure where to start, Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.