Adult ADHD, Some Additional Thoughts

Do you have Adult ADHD? Do you find yourself in the Dog House with your husband or wife because you forgot to do stuff or got too angry about something?

There are some people who mistakenly believe that Adult ADHD is an excuse for bad behavior. They also believe that understanding the disorder makes excuses for it. Not at all. This is one of those disorders that people can learn to control or compensate for symptoms. For example, if one of the symptoms is forgetting important dates, such as anniversaries and birthday, the solution is to program either the computer, or cell phone to send reminders.

Adult ADHD often leads to divorce because of the inability of the spouse who does not have the disorder to understand the symptoms. On the other hand, the adults with ADHD often use the disorder as an excuse for lack of courtesy, good manners, bad temper, failure to get things done, and selfishness.

When it comes to marriage and children, success requires the efforts of all the adults involved. That translates into doing some of or all of the following:

1. If medication is prescribed to reduce symptoms, do not fail to use the medicines as prescribed.

2. Unfortunately, some of the ADHD medications (Adderall, and other stimulants) can be and are abused. ADHD is no excuse for this type of bad behavior. If a person cannot use medication in a way that is responsible then they should not be using it at all.

3. More important than medication there is the use of ADHD coaching in which patients are taught coping behaviors that help them learn to fulfill responsibilities at home and at work.

4. It is important to keep daily lists of important things to get done at home and at work and cross them off as they are accomplished.

5. ADHD often is accompanied by depression and irritability and quickness to anger. Plenty of exercise, especially aerobic types, are essential in helping relieve tension, depression and irritability. In fact, it has been found that daily exercise can reduce many ADHD symptoms.

6. Meditation with or without Yoga are important in helping reduce stress, not only for people with ADHD, but for everyone.

7. In understanding that you have ADHD it is important to practice openness to the comments your wife or husband is making about your behavior. I have seen too many cases where the ADHD spouse energetically denies doing or forgetting the very things they are doing.

8. Without giving tacit permission to the ADHD spouse for bad behavior, the husband or wife who does not have the disorder really must work to understand that they are with someone who has a very real disorder.

There is a balancing act that goes on here for the non ADHD spouse. Too many husbands or wives attempt to do everything in the household and, thereby, not rely on their partner. Instead, it is right to ask your partner to take care of responsibilities.

People with ADHD are capable and talented people who need not allow their lives to be limited or their marriages a failure.

Your comments and questions are strongly encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

  • Gina Pera

    Hi Allan,

    I largely agree with your points here, and thanks for making them. It's great to see lots more accurate information about Adult ADHD starting to appear on the web.

    I would disagree, though, with your points on medication and coaching. The older formulations (Ritalin and Adderall) present problems for many people with ADHD. They start too quickly, leave too quickly, and in general can often add to the "roller coaster" of adult ADHD.

    So, rather than saying, if you're not going to take medication responsible, stop and get coaching instead....I would say, learn more about proper ADHD medication protocols. If your physician is not following them, find another physician. Or try to educate your physician.

    For many people with ADHD, coaching will do little good without a solid foundation with medication.


    Gina Pera, author

    Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

  • gail

    That is a quote from leading ADHD researcher, Dr Russell Barkley. As a successful, high-functioning woman with ADHD-Combined type, I feel qualified to make a couple of comments.

    Dr Barkley gets it. I lead a largely responsible life, but on my very best day, I have a biologically-based disorder that can be mitigated, but not cured. I have suffered terrible guilt and remorse for years at trying as hard as I can, and screwing up anyway. I am working hard to overcome those feelings and forgive myself.

    I don't think someone who does not suffer from the disorder can understand how mentally and emotionally exhausting it is, even with treatment. Treatment and organizational techniques are not cures.

    It strikes me as somewhat flippant to suggest that, geez, all we have to do is keep a daily to-do list. You need to remember to make one. Then you need not to lose it. Then, you need to remember to consult it. Then, you need to remember to complete the task you just read before something else distracts you. My most frustrating symptom happens to be wandering around with something in my hand, not even aware that I am doing it, absent-mindedly setting it down someplace, and then later turning the house upside down looking for it. Ever lost your keys? I experience the equivalent nearly every day.

    With ADHD, especially in adults, it seems to be acceptable to blame the victim. Many think that depressed people should just "snap out of it." In some ways, society, including some mental health professionals, think we should be able to organize ourselves out of it.

    I have a wonderful circle of family and friends who see my sincere efforts and my remorse when I mess up. As for the rest, I see much less of them these days.

  • Excuse-Me

    Thank You Gail!!! I understand ADD to be a lifelong neurobiologic disability that no one has by choice. It interferes with every aspect of the ADDers life. It is costly in every sense of the word. I am desperately tired of the problems it causes in my life and it hurts my very soul to be defeated by it over and over, only to face it relentlessly every day of my life with no prayer that it will ever not be a part of me. It is a an unrelenting part of my existence that I didn't ask for, didn't even know I had until I was 50, and which I wouldn't wish on anyone. It is painful to try so very hard every single day of my life only to continue to disappoint myself and others with regularity. I have never stopped trying. I can honestly not imagine a way to try harder. I am confident that I try harder than anyone else I know, even though I am 'rewarded' with inferior results and outcomes time and time again. It breaks my heart that I have spent my life ashamed. I know I would be less sad if I felt like the people I care about believed me. My own mom flat out refuses to accept that I have any problem other than being bad, even though she has seen me struggle for over half a century. She has seen that I am completely unable to even use a drawer. If my belongings are not in sight, they cease to exist for me. She has been willing to act disgusted with me for 50+ years, without letting the tiniest bit of understanding much less empathy to emerge. My husband is mad at me regularly and likes to repeat "ADD is not a get of jail free pass" so much, that I despise those words and him whenever I hear them again. I hate him when he says that, instead of hearing his complaint. Yet, it matches most of what I read in the professional articles which also sound as if ADD is indistinguishable from bad behavior. Some articles are even entitled some version version of " is it ADD or just bad behavior?". 'Sounds like we could control our symptoms tidily if we would just follow the simple rules that non ADDers kindly lay out for us with untold ease and regularity. After which we should just be Good for cryin' out loud. When we (inevitably) slip up and fail to meet the expectations of the long suffering non afflicted around us, we've been inconveniently Bad again. So, let's go back over the rules..... let's get it right this time. AGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!! That ADD is a disability is quickly and conveniently overlooked. Once the ADDer (inevitably) screws up again (it's only a matter of time even with all of the medication, coaching, lists and trying in the universe...... which is the very nature of the beast, it IS the disability), those in the vicinity are quick to judge, ready to pounce, and quick to parrot that ADD is not an "excuse". So we Ders are once again expected to apologize for the inconsideration and irritation we've caused, again, and again, and again..... and again. Every every every day of our lives. Relentless. I can no longer try as hard as I can every second of every day of every year. I am exhausted. I can no longer try harder than those for whom routine effort yields predictably positive results, for ridicule. It has taken it's toll. The energy required has become unsustainable. I have grown weary of the low level anger and irritation that 'rewards' my best efforts (to remind me of the suffering I have caused them). My feelings? Nobody cares. Ihave not 'earned' consideration. Is there any other diagnosis that compares? Do spouses gather at other web sites to share the bad behavior of, say, their diabetic wives? or husbands with cancer? The bad behavior of their autistic or schizophrenic offspring? Expressing simple and obvious solutions, like plan ahead? Give it more time? Do non ADDers think we secretly revel in the equivaent of self sabotage? Is that we have no choice but to suffer from our own foibles and pain not punishment enough? Or is it important that someone take on a scolding parental tone and go over the 'simple' solutions again, in support of how hard it is for our families to deal with us? And gain support from other people with an ADD family member? Isn't telling us the obvious somehow like speaking louder when one encounters a non English speaking person? It is not that we don't get it. Louder, and repitition won't help. We just can't reliably correct it every time, irregardless of effort. We are already be Filled to the Brim from working on staying on top of or correcting one of the numerous other thoughts and functions going on simultaneously. Please do not tell me ADD one more time that ADD is not an excuse, nor to make a list. I could use an "atta girl". Believe me, I'm punished. That is covered. "Johhny did well on Wednesday and was punished for life." Again, does any other diagnosis get treated this way? What makes it OK with ADD? When a family member needs a wheelchair, must they justify their 'excuse'? Please comment.

  • Anonymous-1

    You my dear have described me to a T! I am 54 and was diagnosed with Severe ADHD combined-type in March 2010. All my life it has been trying and trying so hard. As far as I know my husband is nonADD/ADHD. He's never been tested and wish he would just to go through the testings. Mine was also alcohol exposed showing some FASD but leans more to the Severe ADD/ADHD combined-type. So, 4 children later, 30 years of marriage and now your husband is unsure if he can do this for the next 30 years, has checked out divorce and the best route to go. I have been unhappy in the marriage because he is tired. So that affects me. The marriage bed is at this point non existant. All of this is affecting his life along with a wound on the leg that is not healing faster due to the stress. So what does one do when your heart is breaking, and the nonADDer is will not seek a counselor or a marriage counselor or go to mental health to get support in the marriage. This ADDer is doing all she can. Money is an issue because there is nothing more financialy available to use. I'm stuck in a city of 22,000 people with minimal help. Not even you own Church understands ADHD. Make lists etc. Yes but remember where you put them. Discipline? That is hard if the determination isn't quite able to be done. Stopping and starting and not finishing is a routine of the ADDer. Anyways, if it comes to divorce, how long can one not allow any intimacy to take place in the marriage before it becomes a state for the nonADDer to legitimately get grounds for a divorce if at all? Remember, 18 years at home, and married at 25, 30 years married with same spouse. My siblings don't know my ADHD behavior either. I just know that there have been 3 divorces already, and one that could have happened but never did and now mine. (I had 3 sisters,1brother).

  • Samantha

    I am 38 now, I was diagnosed at about 31 with Adult ADD. My mom has ADHD. I am a stay-at-home mom of two young children under the age of 3. It is so very hard and so very challenging. Reminders? I have them popping up on my iPhone and Mac all the time. Lists? I have one on the fridge. But those things are not even half the battle. The major battle is my husband. Even though he has talked with our family doctor, as have I, I believe that he believes I can just take this medication and I will suddenly be a different person, or be a "better" version of me, or that the ADD will suddenly (and miraculously) go away. He keeps saying that I'm doing this or that on purpose. Oh how I wish that were so, because I could just STOP. That would mean that I am "normal," that I could actually think clearly, that my head would NOT be a chaotic mess of half-thoughts and fragmented feelings. If I were "normal," I would KNOW when I say the wrong thing, I would be aware of what I'm doing/saying and could actually change it, I would be able to say sorry for something and maybe actually NOT do it again and again and again and again and again and again and again .... I, too, am so so so so tired of trying and trying and trying and trying to be "normal" and failing. My husband would say that that's negative, but it's not. It's my reality. I DO fail. Constantly. How can I be positive? Though I DO try so very hard to sort of "shield" out children from my foibles and faults and complete mess-ups, I know it is inevitable and one or both of them will pick up something, if they haven't already, and, for that, I am so very sorry. It also pains me to know that one or both of them may have what I have. The ONLY good thing is that they have a parent who will watch for the signs and will be able to step in much earlier than the lovely age of 31. ... And, yes, is it not enough that I, too, am suffering? My husband says I'm claiming to be a victim, and that is NOT the case. But what it is, is that I AM suffering. He may be suffering, but so am I. His suffering can be alleviated by one thing, though: All he needs to do is BELIEVE THAT I HAVE AN ACTUAL DISABILITY wherein I am NOT trying to hurt or upset ANYONE. He has it easy, whereas, for me, life is very very very hard. Organized? Me? NO WAY. I know I need to be somewhat organized, with 2 young children, and I try, and I am a tiny bit organized, but not as organized as I should be. I don't lose items, but I lose track of things I'm doing or supposed to do. Miraculously, I don't lose keys or my glasses, or even socks, but staying on task and staying on track of what I was doing a minute ago (even in my Internet stuff, I have, like, 50 tabs open!!! because I keep finding something I want to see or do, etc.), and so the housework barely gets done because it gets done little by little each day. Ugh, it really sucks having ADD. Anyone who doesn't have it is really so very lucky. This disability is so pervasive it affects everything, every aspect of life. It just really sucks. Dr. Schwartz, is there ANY medication out there that works better and faster than Strattera and Concerta? I so want to be normal. (I'm in Canada).


    Thanks, to everyone, for listening.

  • Kasenka

    I have not yet been diagnosed but strongly suspect (now at 44) that I have had ADD all my life. My score on the Goldberg questionnaire was 96. My marriage is in a horrible state and I admit to being a bad (at least very inconsistent) parent, not for lack of trying. Anyway, thank you for the article that shows why I need to take control of my condition. I hope I can get help soon...and in the mean time, try to behave more consciously, and use some of the self-treatment strategies. Thanks again.

  • Robert

    I was married to my wife for a period of 17 years. Our relationship devolved quickly to parent-child after the birth of our 2nd child. 5 weeks after birth, Mom decided to scrap all the planning & go back to work. So I became a Stay At Home Dad raising my son & daughter, putting up with the 5 year old that I married.

    My son's ADHD-PI became a sufficiant problem that I initiated medical investigations in 2006. I was sick of TDSB school teachers playing psychologist. My wife brought false DV charges against me to stop these tests & end our marriage. Turns out mom is ADHD-PI / BiPolar-2. Turns out the Principal of the local school was also a BiPolar-2 divorcee. It took my persistence in civil court to have proper diagnostics & treatment begin for my son.

    Here we are 5 years later. My marriage is over (I do not miss that woman one bit), My children are estrangeged from me. My ex-wife neglects them & they are both failing school. The big joke, my ex-wife is a TDSB teacher (music). Her continuous Parental Alienation has deadened my relationship with my kids. My life savings have gone to lawyers. My career is gone.

    I give up. My ex-wife's parents, both snootie Church goers lied to me about the BiPolar / ADHD which was known in their family. Their family doctor lied when asked directly (then went silent when I showed him a photo of prescriptions he had written). My wife of 17 years lied in both criminal & civil court. The past 26 years, nothing but lies.

    I have spent all of my time with my kids (Wednesday evening & every other weekend) tutoring them & doing homework. The only school work they do. This is getting them by but their demenour is dead.

    Myself, I have lost everything doing it right. Every single TDSB & medical "official" associated with the maternal family has lied. The advice given at CADDAC & CADDRA which are the best stategies (with proper studies to prove) has been ignored by the TDSB. I am tired.

    I no longer trust anyone. I no longer have any energy to give my children. The ex-wife is intent on dragging them down the toilet, time to say goodbye.

    I will be 52 next week. 1/2 of my life has been wasted on simulated people. Vapid retards. There is no point going on, there is nothing left, a huge waste of time.