ADHD, Poor Emotional Control Run in Families – New Study

I’ve seen this phenomena for years in my private practice where I teach clients anger management tools – parents bring in their teenage son and want me to ‘fix’ his anger problem. The adolescent often has ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and trouble managing his emotions (i.e., mainly anger, but also anxiety, shame, guilt and sadness). As I begin to work with the troubled teen, it becomes obvious that he is not the only person in the family with difficulty managing anger and other negative emotions.

Anger Management Difficulties & ADHD Run In Families

Online Anger Management Class For Parents Plus Individual Anger Management Coaching for Teenager

Typically, I’ll suggest that the parents take my online anger management course, in conjunction with individual coaching for their teenager. This has been highly effective in creating families that are cooperative, peaceful, and respectful.

This study just came out today demonstrating that ADHD and difficulty managing strong negative emotions, such as anger, run in families. In my mind, it’s a genetic predisposition which is activated by an emotionally volatile environment.

You may be interested in a guide book to your mind if you are reading this. If so, I have just the thing, and it’s free! You can instantly get a complimentary PDF copy of my award-winning book (Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought). It teaches you concrete steps to turn down the volume on anger and other negative emotions (as well as proven methods to turn up the volume on positive emotions). All you have to do is visit my main website at, click on the yellow book icon at the top left of the page and enter your name and email address.

For more information on my online anger management class, visit There are even four free online anger management classes available there!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

Anger management coach

Proudly Serving San Ramon, Danville, Alamo and Walnut Creek CA since 2000

Here is the write up of the study from Science Daily…

ADHD and anger in teens and families 

Combination of ADHD and Poor Emotional Control Runs in Families, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 5, 2011) — A subgroup of adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also exhibit excessive emotional reactions to everyday occurrences, and this combination of ADHD and emotional reactivity appears to run in families. A study from a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-based research team finds that siblings of individuals with both ADHD and deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR) had a significantly greater risk of having both conditions than did siblings of those with ADHD alone.

The study, which will appear in the American Journal of Psychiatry, has received early online release.

“Our research offers strong evidence that heritable factors influence how we control our emotions,” says Craig Surman, MD, of the MGH Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD Program, the study’s lead author. “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.”

Along with the classic ADHD symptoms of trouble paying attention, excessive physical activity and poor impulse control, many individuals with ADHD display high levels of anger, frustration and impatience. In contrast to mood disorders, which are characterized by the persistence of specific emotions and behaviors, DESR involves emotional expressions that are brief and occur in reaction to situations that would be expected to produce similar but much less extreme responses in most individuals. For example, an individual who consistently reacts to minor disappointments by snapping at family members or co-workers or who displays great distress in response to small inconveniences may have DESR.

While some investigators have proposed that poor emotional control be included among the defining symptoms of ADHD, previous studies have not clarified whether the two conditions are separate conditions that appear together by chance or if they are related. Also previously unknown was whether DESR is transmitted among family members, something that is well known to be the case for ADHD.

The current study began with a group of 83 participants — 23 with ADHD alone, 27 with ADHD plus DESR, and 33 comparison participants with neither condition — and then enrolled one or more siblings of each of the original participants. Researchers conducted standardized diagnostic interviews with all participants to determine whether they met the criteria for ADHD and other mental health conditions. Diagnoses were confirmed by expert clinicians who were blinded to participants’ diagnoses or their sibling status. Participants also reported their current frequency of DESR-associated symptoms and were determined to have DESR if their control of emotional reactions was worse than that of 95 percent of a large group of individuals without ADHD, which included the comparison sample in this study.

As expected, ADHD was more common, in the siblings of original participants with ADHD than in the comparison group. However, co-occurrence of both ADHD and DESR was found almost exclusively among siblings of the original participants who reported both conditions.

“Other research that we and another group have conducted found that individuals with ADHD who also display emotional overreaction have a reduced quality of life and difficulties with personal relationships and social success,” Surman says. “Studies have shown that 4 percent of the adult population has ADHD, and this investigation is part of a larger study that found DESR in more than half of the enrolled adults with ADHD, suggesting that roughly 5 million adults in the U.S. may have the combination of ADHD and poor emotional control.”

He adds, “Increased recognition of emotional dysregulation, its frequency in adults with ADHD and the potential consequences of both conditions will help people get support for these challenges. Future research needs to examine both medication- and non-medication-based therapies and improve our understanding of who could benefit from these therapies.” Surman is an instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital.
Journal Reference:
1. C. B. H. Surman, J. Biederman, T. Spencer, D. Yorks, C. A. Miller, C. R. Petty, S. V. Faraone. Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation and Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Family Risk Analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2011; DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.10081172

Workplace Anger Best Dealt With Via Compassion

ScienceDaily (Apr. 18, 2011) — Challenging traditional views of workplace anger, a new article by a Temple University Fox School of Business professor suggests that even intense emotional outbursts can prove beneficial if responded to with compassion.

Workplace anger and online anger management classes
Dr. Deanna Geddes, chair of the Fox School’s Human Resource Management Department, argues that more supportive responses by managers and co-workers after displays of deviant anger can promote positive change at work, while sanctioning or doing nothing does not.

“The trouble with sanctions: Organizational responses to deviant anger displays at work,” co-authored with University of Baltimore’s Dr. Lisa T. Stickney, states that “when companies choose to sanction organizational members expressing deviant anger, these actions may divert attention and resources from correcting the initial, anger-provoking event that triggered the employee’s emotional outburst.”
In a study of 194 people who acknowledged witnessing an incident of deviant anger at work, the researchers found no connection between firing an irate employee and solving underlying workplace problems. Geddes and Stickney also found that even a single act of support by a manager or co-worker and the angered employee can improve workplace tension.

Managers who recognize their potential role in angering an employee “may be motivated to respond more compassionately to help restore a favorable working relationship,” the researchers wrote in the journal Human Relations.
If management shows “an active interest in addressing underlying issues that prompted employee anger, perceptions of improved situations increase significantly,” the researchers wrote.

“Business codes of conduct are often about what we shouldn’t do as an angry employee in emotional episodes, while few, if any, tend to address our role as observers of emotional episodes,” according to the article. “Such guidelines, if available, could expand to include positive suggestions for those who witness, judge and respond to angry employees — formally or informally.”
Workplace compassion as antidote to anger

The findings stem from the Dual Threshold Model of workplace anger expression, which distinguishes between suppressed and deviant anger. Researchers label the space between suppressed and deviant anger as the zone most likely to achieve positive change. The model distinguishes between muted anger — complaints to co-workers and friends who lack the authority to resolve the situation — as the least productive way to prompt change. Geddes created the model with Dr. Ronda Roberts Callister of Utah State University.

“Some of the most transformational conversations come about through expressed anger,” Geddes said.’


Compassion does not occur without self-compassion. One cannot feel compassion for others without first feeling compassion for self. The foundation of compassion is self-compassion.

For more info on the latest tools in the positive psychology of anger management, visit You can get a FREE copy of John’s award-winning book on ways to turn down the volume on negative emotions and turn up the volume on positive emotions by clicking on the yellow book icon and entering your name and email address.

Also, be sure to check out the fantastic blog on positive psychology of anger management at

Have a day filled with compassion!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder of Guide to Self, Inc.

Award-winning author, anger management coach, blogger, abnormal guy
Journal Reference:

1. D. Geddes, L. T. Stickney. The trouble with sanctions: Organizational responses to deviant anger displays at work. Human Relations, 2010; 64 (2): 201 DOI: 10.1177/0018726710375482

Temple University (2011, April 18). Compassion, not sanctions, is best response to workplace anger. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from¬ /releases/2011/04/110414131853.htm.

Long-Term Users of Ecstasy and Thizz Risk Hardcore Brain Damage – New Study

I have a number of angry, male, teenage clients who use ecstasy, or thizz (which is a combination of ecstasy and PHP/cocaine/meth).  I’m always on the lookout for new studies that highlight the physical, cognitive and emotional effects drugs have on people. Yesterday, I found out about a brand new study from

Ecstasy MDMA Thizz in Danville CA

Ecstasy (Thizz, MDMA) Seems Prevalent in Danville, CA

‘ScienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2011) — Long term users of the popular recreational drug ecstasy (MDMA) risk structural brain damage, suggests preliminary research published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Other research has suggested that people who use ecstasy develop significant memory problems, so the Dutch researchers wanted to find out if there was any clinical evidence of structural changes in the brain to back this up.

They focused on the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for long term memory.

They measured the volume of the hippocampus using MRI scans in 10 young men in their mid 20s who were long term users of ecstasy and seven of their healthy peers in their early 20s with no history of ecstasy use.

Although the ecstasy group had used more amphetamine and cocaine than their peers, both sets of young men had used similar amounts of recreational drugs, bar ecstasy, and drank alcohol regularly.

The ecstasy group had not been using on average for more than two months before the start of the study, but had taken an average of 281 ecstasy tablets over the preceding six and a half years.

The MRI scans showed that hippocampal volume in this group was 10.5% smaller than that of their peers, and the overall proportion of grey matter was on average 4.6% lower, after adjusting for total brain volume.

Ecstasy use on the rise

This indicates that the effects of ecstasy may not be restricted to the hippocampus alone, say the authors

“Taken together, these data provide preliminary evidence suggesting that ecstasy users may be prone to incurring hippocampal damage, following chronic use of this drug,” they write.

They add that their findings echo those of other researchers who have reported acute swelling and subsequent atrophy of hippocampal tissue in long term ecstasy users.

And they point out: “Hippocampal atrophy is a hallmark for diseases of progressive cognitive impairment in older patients, such as Alzheimer’s disease.”‘


It’s my deep-seated belief based on experience and a pretty good  (really, just pretty good, memory is NOT my strength!) understanding of the literature that most substance use is a means to escape the emotional mind – feelings such as ennui, embarrassment, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, loneliness, alienation, excitement, disappointment, and heartache. One of the problems with ecstasy, or MDMA, is that it changes the way in which the brain perceives pleasure. Over time, the brain loses the ability to perceive pleasure without the addition of ecstasy. Without the ability to feel pleasure, chonic ex users lose the ability to ‘approach’ things they desire and increasingly ‘avoid discomfort.’

Anger in teenagers seems to be on the rise 2011 April

Lacking the ability to approach things they desire means that fulfilling activities are non-existent. So goal-setting and, more importantly, goal achievement, a major source of meaning and personal satisfaction, do not happen.

On the bright side, research has shown that the brain can recover rapidly, creating new neurons and new pathways. Changes in the brain occur every minute of every day. Your brain is always growing, developing, learning, and recreating itself!

My goal is to help you realize where you are, what you are missing (the hardest part), and to take small steps in a constructive, meaningful direction.

This is done through teaching tools such as self-forgiveness, mindfulness (sounds weak but is tremendously powerful), compassion, challenging catastrophic thinking, reframing, best possible self and more. By layering these tools one atop the other, there is a cumulative, additive effect wherby my clients become less filled with negative emotions (e.g., anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness) and more open to positive emotions (e.g., curiosity, awe, hope, courage, pride, and contentment).

All the best,
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can download a FREE copy of John’s award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought. It is awesome! Just visit, click on the picture of the yellow book on the left side of the screen and enter your name and email address in the required fields. This will also give you access to a bunch of free anger management online video classes. What could be better in this day and age of falling economies, changing breadwinner roles, and political correctness and incorrect polititicians?!

Also, be sure to check out John’s offering on the latest proven tools for anger management at

Mindfulness Shown to Reduce Pain Perception By 40%


Demystifying meditation — brain imaging illustrates how meditation reduces pain

April 6, 2011 by Editor
Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have shown that meditation produces a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness.

Mindfulness - Positive psychology and pain management

Fifteen healthy volunteers (who had never meditated) attended four 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique known as “focused attention.” This is a form of mindfulness meditation where people are taught to attend to the breath and let go of distracting thoughts and emotions.

Both before and after meditation training, study participants’ brain activity was examined using arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI) to capture longer duration brain processes. During these scans, a pain-inducing heat device was placed on each participant’s right leg. This device heated a small area of their skin to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that most people find painful, over a 5-minute period.

Scans taken after meditation training showed that the pain ratings for every participant were reduced.

At the same time, meditation significantly reduced brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, an area that is crucially involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is.

The research also showed that meditation increased brain activity in areas including the anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula and the orbito-frontal cortex, which shape how the brain builds an experience of pain from nerve signals from the body. The more these areas were activated by meditation, the more that pain was reduced.

The decreases ranged from 11 to 93 percent, which is a greater reduction in pain than with morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, says researcher Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D.
Zeidan and colleagues believe that meditation has great potential for clinical use because so little training was required to produce such dramatic pain-relieving effects. “This study shows that meditation produces real effects in the brain and can provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain without medications,” he said.

Their work appears April 6 in The Journal of Neuroscience.

For a FREE PDF copy of John’s award-winning self-help book on proven exercises to turn down the volume on negative emotions and ways to turn up the volume on positive emotions, including mindfulness tips, visit Click on the yellow book icon and enter your name and email address for instant access!

For FREE online anger management courses, visit where you can have full access to 4 free anger management classes by anger management expert John Schinnerer, Ph.D. 

There is also a full 10 week course on Positive Psychology of Anger Management available at the same site for the ridiculously low price of $297.

Upcoming Surge in Male Depression – Rough Economy and Increased Irritability To Have Negative Effects on Kids

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc. 

Experts are predicting that rough economic times are likely to lead to a sizeable increase in male depression and irritability and a massive shift in whom is doing the parenting in the United States and how well they are doing it.  

Will Men Become More Prone to Depression Than Women?

While women have traditionally been twice as likely to develop depression, that may change in the coming 10 years. Companies in the Western world are undergoing a profound reorganization that is likely to have a ripple effect throughout society. Blue-collar, physically-demanding jobs, which have traditionally been held predominantly by men, are being outsourced to nations with cheaper sources of labor or are being replaced by technology. 

75% of Jobs Lost Since 2007 Were Held By Men

Since the start of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 out of 100 jobs lost in the U.S. were filled by men. The likelihood that traditional male occupations will return is low.

“Western men, particularly those with low education, will face a difficult road in the 21st century,” wrote Dr. Boadie Dunlop, director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at Emory University School of Medicine, in his recent commentary in the March 2011 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.While it’s difficult to directly connect layoffs with depression, it is known that unexpected job loss is linked to a variety of mental issues such as depression, irritability, lower self-esteem, and anxiety.    

More Women Becoming Primary Breadwinners

In their commentary, Dr. Dunlop and co-author, Tanja Mletzko, M.A., highlight the trend in which more women are becoming the main source of income for the family. The percentage of wives whom earn more than their spouses has risen from 4% in 1970 to 22% in 2007.  

The Downward Depression Spiral

Generally, men place a higher level of importance on being the financial provider and the defender of the family as compared to women. For many men, difficulty fulfilling the role of provider is likely to spark feelings of irritability and a depressed mood. In turn, this increase in negative emotion is likely to fuel more frequent and more intense arguments within the marriage.  This powder keg of negative affect and discord may lead to increased substance abuse and dissatisfaction with life. 

Depressed Men Spank More, Read Less to Children

Adding to this gloomy picture are recent findings from the University of Michigan Health System this month which state that depressed fathers are four times as likely to spank and less likely to read to their children. R. Neal Davis reports that depressed fathers stand a good chance of negatively influencing the development of their child. These findings are reported in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics.The U. of M. study followed 1,746 dads of 1-year-old children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. The fathers were asked how frequently they read to, sang to and played with their child(ren). The dads were also asked how frequently, if at all, they spanked their children in the past 30 days.  All dads were also checked for depressive symptoms.  Seven percent of the 1,746 fathers had significant depression. Of the depressed dads, nearly 20% reported reading less frequently to their children as compared to those without depression (41% vs. 58% read at least three times per week).  

Depressed Dads Three Times As Likely to Spank 

Perhaps more startling, over 40% of the depressed dads reported spanking their child in the past 30 days. This percentage was more than three times higher compared to fathers who weren’t depressed. It’s unknown to what extent spanking was under-reported by either group. 

Dads parenting male depression

Men Will Need Support to Parent Effectively

In any case, men who are transitioning to being more involved with parenting and running the home will need training and support in the areas of emotional management, parenting, and stress management. 


Emotional management skills are critical to help men recognize and manage strong negative emotions such as sadness, anger and anxiety.  It’s also essential that we, as men, revisit what it means to be a ‘real man.’ We must redefine masculinity and think outside the box when it comes to how we think of ourselves and our roles in society. While there are bound to be some bumps in the road, in the long term, more active fathers is a positive development.  

Remember, we’re all rookies as parents when we first step into the role of father or mother.

About the Author

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is in private practice helping clients learn anger management, stress management and the latest ways to deal with destructive negative emotions. He also helps people discover happier, more meaningful lives via positive psychology. His offices are in Danville, California 94526. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in educational psychology.  He has been an executive, speaker and coach for over 14 years.  John is Founder of Guide To Self, a company that coaches clients to happiness and success using the latest in positive psychology.  He hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the SF Bay Area.   His areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to anger management, to coaching men.  He wrote the award-winning, “Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,” which is available for FREE right now at His blog, Shrunken Mind, was recently recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web. His new video blog teaches a unique positive psychology approach to anger management (