Self-regulation – The ADHD Brain and the Volume Control

Do you find yourself rushing through things, even though there’s no urgency? Is being first more important than being accurate? Can calm, relaxing situations lead to boredom-induced conflicts? Is your energy battery suddenly depleted – just to be overcharged and through the roof without warning? Do you need to “take something” to feel normal? 

Then you’re in good company!

Living with an ADHD brain in a neurotypical world is a challenge for many reasons. But sometimes it can be hard to disentangle why things that seem so logical and easy for others, keep causing such struggles for the ADHD brain. 

We can use the ADHD 24/7 model to get an overview of what specific aspects of ADHD cause the most difficulties in life. The 2 – 4 – 7 represent overarching areas relevant for anyone aiming to live as meaningful as possible. Delve further into the 24/7 model here.

Tricky relationship with the rewards system 

Did you recognize yourself in one or more of the examples above? 

Then the chances are high that you are struggling with the brain’s reward system and dysregulated dopamine. It is the subcortical brain areas referred to as the reward systems. Those are important for our motivation. They also help us control and steer our behaviors toward what increases the chances of our own – and our species’ – survival.

However, these primitive systems should not be relied on for more long-term goals. 

Many children and adults with ADHD can describe how they react more intensely to reward system activation. They also struggle to delay instant gratification for greater gains later. Dopamine is the key player here. The difficulties in regulating dopamine are thought to be at the core of many of the struggles described in ADHD. 

But it’s not as simple as saying that ADHD goes with too much or too little dopamine. Instead, it seems like the ADHD brain reacts differently to dopamine release compared to brains without ADHD.

The ADHD Brain as a Volume Button 

We can make the super complicated neurobiological processes super simple, in the interest of understanding typical ADHD behaviors better. By simplifying it, we may picture the brain’s reward systems as an elusive volume button for dopamine levels

Because many ADHD brains struggle to find life stimulating enough to get out of bed in the morning. Just to react so intensely to things that it feels impossible to moderate one’s behaviors. 

It’s like the brain’s volume button either gets stuck at zero. And it becomes impossible to get anything done or start up the things you need to do. No matter how important they are to you or others. 

Or, without any reasonable explanation, this illusive volume regulation cranks up to 100. And you are trapped in endless activity loops, unable to stop or recover. 

Mastering ADHD with Self-regulation

Undiagnosed and untreated ADHD may have serious implications, due to both somatic and psychiatric comorbidity. In fact, many of the difficulties accompanying ADHD stem from problems of self-regulation. That is to moderate key aspects of a balanced life, including energy, activity, appetite, sleep, or emotions. 

Mastering your ADHD brain begins with understanding your unique ADHD profile. And through this self-awareness find the tools and life hacks tailored to your life. With self-care and self-compassion following the understanding a diagnosis can bring, many of the problems associated with ADHD can be mitigated. 

You can use the Letterlife app to connect the dots between the different areas of your unique ADHD 24/7 model. And don’t forget to factor in the hormones!

So, let’s get started!

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