Is this ADHD?

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    • #41183
      Hope @ ADDitude

      This discussion was originally started by user dmar27 in ADDitude’s now-retired community. The ADDitude editors have included it here to encourage more discussion.


      I’ve been with my husband for 11 tumultuous years and we’re now recently separated. It doesn’t look good.

      We briefly saw a couples therapist who asked me if my husband had ever received an ADHD diagnosis, and that question piqued my interest. I went home and read Melissa Orlov’s “ADHD Effect on Marriage,” and page for page, it described my relationship—every issue I’ve had with my husband, every strange/hurtful quirk of his—as well as the reactions (anger, frustration, nagging) I’ve had in turn. I was floored. I’m wary of internet diagnoses but in all the years I’ve read through self help couples books, I’ve never encountered one that described our situation so accurately. It changed my perspective profoundly and for the first time I feel true sympathy for behaviors that I have up to now assumed were weak character, lack of love, indifference, or even malice.

      However, his father, who is a neurologist, and a close friend of his, who is a psychiatrist skeptical of ADHD as a legitimate condition, are both certain that he does not have it. Both know him well, but neither person has spoken to me about what I’ve observed in our relationship. He is a high-functioning, highly-intelligent individual who has good habits and is successful at work (although he has a prior history of job instability that I think was caused by ADHD-like behaviors). The only area where I feel his ADHD behavior is still evident is in our home life.

      He has highly intelligent friends with ADHD who have dysfunctional lives, and he tells me that both physicians do not believe he has ADHD because it is a diagnosis of impaired functioning. He thinks I am latching onto this ADHD notion as a way of “gaslighting” him or blaming him for our marital problems. I am sincere in my suspicion (and the couples therapist, who works with ADHD patients, was the one who first raised this possibility), but I am curious – is there a possibility that he could display such ADHD-like behaviors but not be clinically positive?

      He shows many behaviors that seem to fit so well with ADHD: he is always a bit restless, intensely passionate and knowledgeable about things that interest him but “reliably unreliable” about household tasks that are boring. He seems to zone out while I’m talking about topics that don’t interest him, although he is fully engaged when discussing topics that interest him. Sometimes he changes topics abruptly, making me feel blown off. In fact, one of the biggest issues I have in our relationship is that I often don’t feel heard or acknowledged. He can be distracted during the strangest times. Many times we have been on vacation in front of amazing sights or during incredible moments and he starts talking about something completely unrelated (old TV show, random memory). I’d always assumed that he was just bored by travel/sights, but I found it a really consistent, peculiar habit.

      He seems to miss emotional cues and is responsive to doing chores only when I get upset/angry. He interrupts but is also sensitive to being interrupted or misunderstood. We have frequent fights where he seems to say one thing but then adamantly denies it, telling me I have misconstrued his words. He is so articulate that sometimes I give him the benefit of the doubt. I find him rude/untactful, although not always purposefully so. Despite these issues, he is very social and popular – he’s extroverted and goes out of his way to connect with new people. He has low self-esteem (well-masked) and is harsh on himself for past failures. When told during these times that he is a wonderful/successful guy, he doesn’t respond or acknowledge these statements.

      He seems earnest to help out around the house and be there for me during a very challenging time in my career, but he is often absent-minded and spends as much time as possible going out socializing or on social media – even right after he promises to stay home and complete tasks. He is always saying he will do it tomorrow, and that it will take less time than I think. While doing a boring task at home, he tends to wander off or work very slowly, despite my best (positively constructed) attempts to keep him engaged. I do most of the housework and all of the domestic planning, despite being in a very intense career.

      He is prone to overeating and (in the past) drinking, although he has a very high metabolism so he doesn’t gain weight. He drinks A LOT of coffee. He isn’t scatterbrained or overly eager about starting new hobbies, but when he gets into something, he develops a remarkably deep (though not always lasting) interest in it.

      I apologize for the long note, but I am thoroughly confused. I don’t want to be sensationalistic and overly zealous in labeling him, but could I be misguided about this man? He has mellowed out a lot, but the inattentiveness around the house and emotional disconnect still drive me to hopeless frustration. Is he just a passionate, type A man in an incompatible relationship who (like many men) is absent-minded around the house?

      I also forgot to mention that he works out several times a week, which I’ve read goes a long way towards improving ADHD symptoms.

    • #41187
      Hope @ ADDitude

      This reply was originally posted by user lolofrederick in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      Hi dmar27,

      It sounds like you’ve learned a lot about the disorder and have observed many symptoms in your spouse. There’s an old saying: If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, then it’s a duck. I’d say you’re on target in your suspicion that he has ADHD.

      It’s been my experience that mental health professionals’ knowledge of ADHD can be very limited and often dated. I wouldn’t rely heavily on the opinions of the neurologist or psychiatrist, especially one who is admittedly skeptical about the disorder.

      The big question is: what does HE think? It’s up to him to learn about the disorder, own how it affects him and do the work to manage it.

      My husband and I were both diagnosed in our late forties and learning about how it manifests in each other was a relationship game changer.

      Wishing you the best! Laura

    • #41188
      Hope @ ADDitude

      This reply was originally posted by user ADHDmomma in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      ADHD is a diagnosis of degree. Everyone has some symptoms of ADHD sometimes, but they must have many of the symptoms at once and to the severity that it impairs function:

      The other key piece is the willingness of the patient to consider it and accept it. All your knowledge about ADHD and your suspicions won’t do any good if he isn’t willing to consider the possibility of ADHD, which it sounds like he’s not. Your insistence that he consider it when he’s quite opposed to the possibility can actually just make things worse.

      ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #41189
      Hope @ ADDitude

      This reply was originally posted by user dmar27 in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      Thank you for your insights. He remains highly skeptical, although the neurologist father now recommends we seek out a specialist in adult ADHD, and I think he (my husband) is becoming more open to it.

      In the meantime, our marriage is broken and I am exhausted. I have spoken to close friends with ADHD partners/family members, and without successful treatment it sounds like a very difficult life. It has, thus far, been a difficult life.

      In my situation, I think what complicates the diagnosis is that my husband has a very high IQ and has numerous adaptive coping mechanisms (high caffeine intake, rigid habits, near daily strenuous exercise, very loving family, a very good workplace fit) that mitigate some of the symptoms overall. But in our marriage, his behavior has been a constant stress that I feel very alone in navigating.

      For those who may find themselves in a similar situation, I found this article helpful:

    • #41193
      Hope @ ADDitude

      This reply was originally posted by user Angie_H in ADDitude’s now-retired community.

      The label is irrelevant. It’s the behaviors that matter. I’ve had many struggles with my husband. He recently agreed to see an ADHD coach but won’t commit to a date for an appointment. Meanwhile, I continue to read, examine my part in our interactions, and try to figure out how I can be more effective in influencing my husband. Some things help, some don’t. I keep trying to have a marriage which is good for both of us. All the best to you in this journey.

    • #47190

      ADHD can be helped with a simple cheap tool — a Fidget.

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