ADHD & Relationships: Marriage and Friendship Help

Why adults with mild ADHD may flourish at the office but flounder in personal relationships like friendships and marriage.

Domestic Unrest

ADD at Home

Even a very mild case of ADD can take a serious toll on an individual's capacity to function in a domestic setting. A hyperactive person is likely to find a low-stim life of naps and diapers, grocery lists and cleaning, extremely difficult.

Managing a household requires tremendous organizational skills. Toys, bills, remote controls - for the ADD brain, the sheer amount of stuff to keep track of in an entire house is overwhelming. When the mildly ADD adult finds himself chronically searching for the application forms to summer camp, the bottle of cough syrup, or the keys to the car, he can easily skid into a state of perpetual aggravation.

The distractions inherent in parenthood are difficult for the person who is even mildly ADD. Looked at from the perspective of ADD, children are full-time distraction machines: Their needs are never predictable, and one of their main functions in life is to interrupt their parents. The ADD mother may find herself continually unable to remember what she was doing, where she was going, what she was thinking.

An adult with even mild ADD is likely to feel a grating "pull to the stimulus" of objects each time she sets foot in a messy room. It's hard for her to walk through the house without feeling bombarded by things that need to be done. One woman describes this phenomenon:

I'll walk in the kitchen, see the dirty dishes, and think, "Oh, I have to do those dishes." But then, on my way to get more dish detergent from a cupboard, I'll see the laundry basket and think, "Oh, I have to do the laundry." But then I'll start sorting laundry and... . I feel bad all the time because I'm not getting any of it done.

This woman may want to plan a family trip, but the plane reservations never get made. Or she may want to return to work, but can't find the time to work on her resume. Having to see the dust or the mess is a signal that she is not seeing the larger picture that is her life. She cannot move beyond the present.

Add the ADD adult's problem with forgetfulness and you quickly uncover a group of thoroughly exasperated spouses. Dave, diagnosed in his 40s, is well aware of this problem. However, as a mild ADDer, he has found ways to compensate:

My wife will ask me to get some eggs, a loaf of bread, and a gallon of milk from the store. There's a good chance I've already forgotten one item by the time I'm out the door, and, by the time I reach the store, I've probably forgotten all three. I've learned to survive on notes.

Although Dave has a great deal of difficulty remembering all that he is supposed to do, the mildness of his attention deficit does allow him to "remember to remember." His memory works well enough to keep him coming back to the memory aids without which he would be lost.

Patient Profile: One Woman's Story

Debby, a 50-year-old former therapist, perfectly captures the fine-at-work/miserable-at-home dichotomy mildly ADD adults may confront.

One reason for her success in her career as a therapist was her extraordinary ability to focus upon other people's problems. Unfortunately, "They got better, and I got worse," she says. She was riveted by the problems her patients brought to her, and she had no choice but to live them. As she says: "We who have ADD find other people very contagious." Debby was ricocheting from one patient's life crisis to another.

This article comes from the April-May 2005 Issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: ADHD and Marriage, ADHD and Relationships

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