Stopping to think: Hey guys, how do you... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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Stopping to think

michael682 profile image

Hey guys, how do you work on stopping to think before you speak when you get triggered? My SO tends to trigger me sometimes and it’s near impossible for me to stop and think how to communicate about what set me off. Instead I just outburst and get upset. Any advice on where to start would be appreciated!

17 Replies

These days, as painful as it sounds, I just don't respond. I tend to just keep my mouth. It leads to a lot of awkward silences. If some response is needed, I will say "OK. I hear you", sometimes I will repeat back what my SO is trying to tell me. It's like having a raging dog inside you on a leash and it takes a tremendous amount of self will to not rise to the bait. I've just learned that responding throws fuel on the fire. Often times they are angry or looking for a fight. However, it takes two to fight. So you just take it in and give nothing back that will make things worse.

Some days I'm not sure that is the best strategy though. Avoiding the conflict sometimes does exactly the opposite. I just know that arguing/fighting is a waste of energy and time. It takes a toll on both of us and nothing productive ever comes from it. Just a lot of anger and hurt feelings/resentment.

BTV65 = Yes. For me it seems like it has been worse over the last 5 years with all of the political discord.

Some people are experts at 'pushing my buttons'. I have to realize that when I see certain people, I'm going to get caught up in their....... conversation.

Ok, so the next sentence is not a way to deal with your SO, but someone who's just shooting their mouth off. If you can get comfortable with "a lot of awkward silences", try not saying anything. The other person may not be able to handle it.

If I can catch myself early enough, I just smile and nod my head (Uh-huh. Sure. Right. Ok).

Hmm... Political discord with associates in your life. It can be entertaining sometimes. I find I enjoy some of it. Conflict with someone close to you is very different than conflict with someone who is not a direct part of your life.

HiGlow profile image
HiGlow in reply to BTV65

OMG YES!!!!! I can manage to not talk or respond for a half a day if i am lucky. But it is also makes me feel miserable, and unhappy. but you are right, not talking or not responding just taking it in, does resolve the fighting as long as you can keep it up and take it!

BTV65 profile image
BTV65 in reply to HiGlow

Ideally "not responding" is more about riding out the storm. If the issue at hand is longer term, it's important to note it and come back to it at another time without the trigger that caused the other person to be upset at this time. While arguing often serves no positive purpose, avoiding talking about all issues indefinitely is also a recipe for disaster in the long run.

simandy profile image
simandy in reply to HiGlow

Im exactly the same!! Its draining!

It sounds like you're getting defensive, or having emotional disregulation outbursts, but you don't want to. The impulse control and emotional disregulation of ADHD is a double whammy here, but the techniques are the same for people with and without ADHD: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT (not pop psychology, this is the standard that any therapist would use).

If you've heard the phase "build up your brakes", that's the goal of CBT. The idea is to become very aware of your triggers and the thoughts, physical sensations, and actions that result from them. If you don't notice that you're headed for an outburst, you'll probably have an outburst.

The biggest step is building that warning system. Simply noticing your trigger is really most of the work. There's a second step of challenging your thoughts or intervening in your ramp up to the outburst, but from my experience, the recognition step is 80% of the work.

If your SO is supportive, this trigger recognition work (and the thoughts, sensations, and actions that result from it) should be openly communicated. You don't want to explode, they don't want to salt your wounds, and together you'll have more success at tackling interpersonal issues.

Flamingo30 profile image
Flamingo30 in reply to Clayfox

How do we stop ourselves from interrupting though if we have trouble with impulsiveness due to the nature of our ADHD?

I struggle with blurting things out that I don’t mean sometimes.I do apologise and admit if I have been wrong or upset someone - though I do believe sometimes I genuinely can’t help it.

Are we actually in control of all of our responses when we have ADHD? Is it our choice?

I find it confusing when people say to “think before you respond or speak” when the nature of ADHD is the exact opposite of this. It’s the “Race Car brain with bicycle breaks”

Just curious of whether this is something we actually have control over?

Thanks 🙏

Clayfox profile image
Clayfox in reply to Flamingo30

You've probably heard the phrase "it's a spectrum." No one has perfect impulse control (nor should we, you gotta blink when something is about to pole you in the eye). ADHD does make impulse control harder, like a lot harder. But it's never black and white. It's not that people with ADHD have no impulse control, and people without do. You do have some brakes even if they're not matched with your engine.

There's an aspect that I don't want to bulldoze over, and that's the feelings of guilt, fault, and failure (put another way, self-protection and defensiveness). If you say "I'm having trouble with this thing." And I say "doing it differently may help." It's easy (especially for people with ADHD) to hear the failure and fault in that.

There's an irony here. Dealing with those failure feelings is also made easier through CBT. Recognizing the thoughts, sensations, and actions takes it from swirling thoughts and emotions into something specific, and that allows you to deal with the specific state you're in (although the biggest win is in the recognition, not the techniques to deal with it).

So can you control your impulses? Yes. Is it difficult? Very! Is there a technique that helps? CBT.

There's a good resource from the UK to review what CBT is, how it works, what's it's good for, and even a short course to do CBT on your own:

Flamingo30 profile image
Flamingo30 in reply to Clayfox

Thank you. Very helpful 😊x

BTV65 profile image
BTV65 in reply to Clayfox

OK. You finally sold me. I've seen your responses many times advertising how good CBT is, but this last one finally is going to make me go take a look at it. It helped that you posted a link to a self-help version. :-)

BTV65 profile image
BTV65 in reply to Flamingo30

I feel medication helps immensely with that. I have explained that medication doesn't change who you are or what you think/feel. However in this regard it provides you a buffer. A short span of time to process what you are thinking before your mouth opens and says something that may not be such a good idea.

Sometimes I find it is inevitable to have some conflict with those closest to me.

The main thing is recognising when I have been wrong and apologising if needed. Then also just being aware of my part in things and trying my best to be considerate.

I find it hard to regulate my emotions and I can easily become frustrated with my partner.

I try not to use ADHD as an excuse but I also am aware that it does play a part in who I am and my daily experiences.

It’s a tough one. The good thing is you are aware of it so that’s a positive thing. X

Hi Michael682. I have found that regularily Meditating has helped to build my patience and tolerance with people and life in general. Short answer, huge benefits.

Had this problem. The impulse is really hard to resist. Every argument resulted in me immediately getting emotionally flooded. I’ve never been able to reduce that feeling, but started off by just trying to stay quiet (difficult). I googled a lot about defensiveness and emotional flooding, basically just tried to understand what was going on inside me and identify triggers. I’ve found that it’s good to explain to SO that you’re having that reaction and need to step away and let yourself process and calm down, then come back to it in maybe a couple hours with a clearer mind/hindsight. Knowing they understand feels better. Or to ask for reassurance/help with regulation in a way that can make you feel safer in that moment. Like, a hug or holding hands or something while you talk. I learned this when working with young kids actually hahahh. Rather than immediately responding to an emotionally upset/angry toddler, even if they did something wrong, you help soothe them and calm them down, before addressing the problem with them. Less defensive and much more receptive after that. Nobody modeled or did this with me as a kid so I literally had no skills in emotional regulation, and adhd obvs doesn’t help.. Some people who know me are aware of how intensely I can react, but also noticed that afterwards I would always really reflect on my reaction and could see what I did wrong, where I needed to apologise or alter my view/behaviour, and they appreciated that. So humility is also key.

Maybe it's just me, but I read "My SO tends to trigger me sometimes" and wondered if triggering you is intentional on the part of your SO. Some people unfortunately love to get a rise out of people and will do so with little regard to how it makes the other person feel. Hopefully you can have a conversation with them about what these triggers are and how they effect you. And hopefully they will be able to hear you and make adjustments where necessary and appropriate. Obviously we don't want to ask people to walk on eggshells around us or alter behavior, but if there are small things your SO can do to help you with outbursts while you work on managing your emotions, it's reasonable for you to ask.

Oh, yes I like this point. I think some people with adhd tend to assume it’s all our fault because of regulation issues/low self-esteem etc. - I didn’t even think otherwise in my answer..

E.g. my ex made a lot of “jokes” that focused on flaws or sensitivities. I did become aware I was prone to defensiveness to harmless comments, and worked a lot on improving it. But, it was never enough and despite my significant improvements and requests that my insecurities not be made fun of, “jokes” continued. I realised after the breakup in hindsight that I had done all I could, and if I were in SO’s place, I would neverrr have acted the way they did.

Not to say we shouldn’t take responsibility for our behaviour, but to recognise that a SO should also take responsibility for theirs.

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