The study findings were released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
“Our research offers strong evidence that heritable factors influence how we control our emotions,” study author Dr. Craig Surman, of the MGH Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD Program, said in a hospital news release.
“Emotion — like capacities such as the ability to pay attention or control physical movement — is probably under forms of brain control that we are just beginning to understand. Our findings also indicate that ADHD doesn’t just impact things like reading, listening and getting the bills paid on time; it also can impact how people regulate themselves more broadly, including their emotional expression,” he added.
Some adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also experience excessive emotional reactions to everyday situations, a combination that appears to run in families.
That’s the finding of a Massachusetts General Hospital study that included 83 participants — 23 with ADHD alone, 27 with ADHD plus deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR), 33 with neither condition — plus their siblings.
People with ADHD generally have more difficulty paying attention and controlling their impulses than those without it; many also display high levels of anger, frustration and impatience in response to minor disappointments and inconveniences — responses that may be symptoms of DESR.
The researchers found that the siblings of people with both ADHD and DESR were much more likely to have both conditions than those with ADHD alone.
Previous research has shown that people with ADHD and DESR have “a reduced quality of life and difficulties with personal relationships and social success,” Surman noted.
An estimated 4 percent of the adult population has ADHD and more than half of those with ADHD may also have DESR. That means that about 5 million adults in the United States may have both ADHD and poor emotional control, he explained.