Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Emotion Regulation Over the Life Span

  • Hanna ChristiansenEmail author
  • Oliver Hirsch
  • Björn Albrecht
  • Mira-Lynn Chavanon
Attention-Deficit Disorder (A Rostain, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Attention-Deficit Disorder


Purpose of Review

Emotional symptoms are common and persistent in youth and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cause clinically significant impairments. We review recent neuropsychological, neurophysiological, and peripheral psychophysiological evidence for emotion and emotion regulation deficits in ADHD across youth and adults.

Recent Findings

Central and autonomous nervous system correlates argue in favor of more general self-regulation deficits and also specific emotional deficits in ADHD. These include general performance deficits in executive functions, and structural as well as functional impairments in neuronal networks associated with top-down self-regulation. Specific deficits with bottom-up emotional activation in the amygdala and emotion evaluation associated with the orbitofrontal cortex have also been described. Furthermore, vagally mediated, high-frequency heart rate variability is associated with emotional self-regulation deficits throughout the life span. The current evidence is based on multilevel studies that assess associations of emotion regulation. However, further studies that adequately consider the processual recursive character of emotion generation and regulation may give important new insights into emotional regulation of ADHD.


Emotion regulation deficits in ADHD are associated with specific as well as general self-regulation deficits traceable on the level of neuropsychological, neurophysiological, and psychophysiological assessments. The temporal dynamics of the interplay of those different systems need further study in order to optimize and personalize treatment of emotion regulation difficulties, including emotional reactivity, in patients with ADHD.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Emotion regulation Children Adults Neuropsychology Neurophysiology (fMRI EEG) Peripheral psychophysiology (heart rate variability) 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanna Christiansen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Oliver Hirsch
    • 2
  • Björn Albrecht
    • 3
  • Mira-Lynn Chavanon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Clinical Child and Adolescent PsychologyPhilipps-University MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.FOM University of Applied SciencesSiegenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversity Medical Center GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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