Husband with ADHD takes everything personally

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    • #46412

      Hi all, I’m new to this forum. My husband is a professor who diagnosed himself with ADHD a few years ago after one of his students with ADHD explained his symptoms and told my husband how much he had been helped by medication. My husband’s doctor agreed with his assessment and prescribed meds, which he said have definitely helped him focus better. However, he has not sought therapy (we live in a small town with few resources), and he has many of the issues I have read about in these forums (he won’t pick up after himself, he zones out when I’m talking to him, he is rarely on time, etc) But there is one thing I haven’t seen other people comment about yet, and I’m wondering if it is tied in to the ADHD. Whenever something annoying happens around him, he assumes it is being directed at him. For example, if somebody cuts him off in traffic, he assumes the other driver did it intentionally (instead of just being a bad driver), at which point my husband will start tailgating, brake-checking, etc. When someone smashed a window in our car while it was parked in front of our house, he assumed one of his students did it. The one we’re dealing with right now is that, when he was swimming in the pool at his university recently, the lifeguard & her friend were standing at the edge of the pool looking at her phone and laughing, so my husband assumed that they were filming him and laughing at him (he is slightly overweight and very conscious that he doesn’t look the best in a swimsuit). The supervisor assured him that they were just laughing at a video on the internet, but my husband is not satisfied with that, and is demanding that disciplinary action be taken against the lifeguard. He comes home every day venting about how they’re not taking this issue seriously. When these issues happen, I am torn between wanting to be supportive (“Yes, your feelings are valid. I can see why you would be upset.”) and telling him to just let it go. I have a very low-key personality and rarely get worked up over anything, so I don’t know if my feeling that he’s over-reacting is just due to the fact that he’s handling it differently than I would, or if this really is an issue I should address with him. Any guidance is appreciated!

    • #46471

      Hello cwhite12,

      I myself am an adult with ADHD that never seemed to tone down from childhood. I was just catching up on reading articles on the matter this morning and found something particularly interesting. This article I had just read moments before spotting your post should offer some insight for your husband. It is about something called RSD “Rejection-Sensitive-Dysphoria.

      How ADHD Ignites Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

      I will say, the more you learn about ADHD, the better you can handle him, but I do hope he has been dabbling in the knowledge as well, as it can offer him more aid to understand how his own thoughts, habits, and emotions are not only difficulties he has to bear, but there are many of us that have the same problems and work to overcome them.

      My fiance seems to read something new every few weeks and tells me what she’s learned. I usually already know what she reads, but it comforts me to see her working so hard to understand me. RSD is something quite real, and I have been dealing with it my entire life. Only now do I know what it is and why it happens. It has been so bad that I nearly broke off my engagement with the love of my life due to the irrational fear of her disapproving and hating me, or of me forgetting how to love her because I have tended to lock out people and things in my life that can hurt me.

      I will say, my relationship is special. I am a “here and now” hyper-focusing, goalless man with problems reading social cues, and my fiance is a worry wort about the future and really puts me in my place sometimes. To have someone who can provide structure and support is endearing for someone with ADHD, but sometimes I really need a slap on the wrist from her because my different way of seeing things often leaves me upset at silly things. Also, I tend to not recognize things and people around me and just do what I want: she puts me in my place, I get devastated because of it, and she then reassures me right after. It’s a terrible thing that it hurts to be criticized so much by the one I love, but she has helped me keep perspective in the back of my mind. Every time I get upset at silly things, I think to myself “What would Kayla think?”, and I then think of how she would tell me I’m being irrational and the shame helps me move on, haha.

      Well, I kind of went on about myself quite a bit, but I suppose personal experience is often warranted when advice is needed.

      Good luck on your issue, cwhite12,
      It can be a struggle, but the conflict of a story makes the happy ending much more rewarding.

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by Techknight.
      • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #46473
      Sean Patrick Smith

      Wow! That is my emotional hell also. I was diagnosed 16 years ago; I am now 61. As far back as I can remember that was my thought process – Everybody had to be talking about me. And I can tell you from experience, he is definitely NOT alone.To this day I have to consciously stop myself from assuming. This afternoon I wanted to snap at my wife because she took a deep breath and I assumed it was about why it was taking me so long to do something. Needless to say I was wrong.
      He really needs to own the fact it is part of our ADD brain.

      I found that while medication is good, cognitive behavior therapy will really work for this. It is a therapist coaching him – athletes call it muscle memory. It is not something he can sit down and talk through with a therapist. He needs to learn his triggers and what he can do to evaluate his feelings. He is a professor, he’ll understand the idea of learning about his issue.

      This is something worth the trouble of travelling to a larger town to find a qualified therapist. Take me word for it, your husband will be happier and so will you. He should also try to find a support group he can join. It helps to hear from others going through the same thing

    • #46474

      Hi! Unfortunately – I have to agree. I tend to take things far more personally than I should, too. I don’t want to assume the worst when stuff like that happens, but it’s really hard to remind myself not to, and I think part of the problem stems from some of the struggle for us to make and maintain good friends. I was diagnosed late in life, too, and have always struggled socially. Also, it’s really common for ADHD to be combined with other issues like anxiety or other sensitivities… lots of resources on this site!!! My best suggestion, from experience, is that if he’s unaware of what he is doing and is not seeking or receiving therapy (so he does not have specific tools to work with to deescalate) is to perhaps let him blow off some steam and once he had calmed down a bit maybe he’ll be more receptive to looking at the situation from a different perspective. It works for me. It’s not always pleasant for my partner… but we’ve also talked about it enough that he knows key phrases to catch my attention and get me to just STOP and recognize that I’m over-reacting or not necessarily putting proper perspective on something. Good luck!

    • #46475

      I’m on board with this too. I think a lot of it has to do with insecurities that come along with ADHD. I was diagnosed when I was 9 years old; I’m 36 now. My parents understand I have it, but my mom has always made it sound like she thinks I’m self absorbed when I worry that people are talking about me. Her favorite saying is “it’s not always about you Lauren.” I think that was my first insight into the insecurities that manifest alongside ADHD. While the motivation for me thinking those things isn’t because I’m super self involved but rather it comes from a place of insecurity, and uncertainty.

      I’ve been lucky I have a wonderful family, and loving, understanding friends who have been with me through everything. They’ve learned, as I have, about how to handle, and not to handle certain situations. I think in this case, letting your husband cool off before approaching him about his responses is best. I also agree finding someone for him to talk to is a good idea; even if it means driving to a big city a couple hours away, once or twice a month.

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by Littlefoot.
      • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #46488

      Checkout the website (I think that’s the right site page, if not it should come up in a search) He may have ADD, but like me, not the classic type. This is a helpful article from this site:

      Are There Really 7 Types of ADD?

      I can very much be the same way, taking everything personally. I was once diagnosed & medicated for depression and assumed that was the cause of the short fuse. I’ve been off antidepressants for a decade now but was recently diagnosed & medicated with a stimulant for ADD. It helped at first but then my temper got short again & negative thoughts & whatnot. Anyway, the Healing ADD book is awesome because it shows brains scans and how the ADD works in different brains and has different symptoms. It also has supplement strategies for all the different types if he doesn’t want to be medicated (though I know it is sometimes necessary and after reading that book, because it makes so much sense, I might even be open to an antidepressant again if it is what I need to get out of the hole while I get other systems in place.)

    • #46504
      Penny Williams

      It’s called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, and it’s very real for a lot of individuals with ADHD:

      How ADHD Ignites Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

      Do You Ever Feel Like Your Mood Falls off a Cliff?

      Your Emotional Riot — Or Why ADHD Makes You Feel So Much

      It encompasses rejection and criticism.

      Dr. Dodson says therapy really doesn’t help RSD, but he does recommend two particular medication options that help in the first article I linked above. Finding out about RSD explained SO MUCH about my husband, and my son.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

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