Some adults say
that they have AD/HD, but others say they are AD/HD. Personally, I prefer
to see the AD/HD as just one aspect of a unique individual. Nevertheless,
it is easy to understand why one might say, “I am ADD.” For better or
worse, AD/HD can affect many areas of one’s life. This is particularly
true when the adult marries and has children. The roles of parent and
spouse add new dimensions of complexity to daily life. A woman with
difficulty maintaining divided attention may blow up when her children
start asking for things while she is trying to fix dinner. She may have
difficulty providing the structure her children need to help contain their
own ADD. On the other hand, her generosity, spontaneity and energy may
make the household a Mecca for neighborhood children.
marriage between a spouse with AD/HD and a non-AD/HD partner, may work
well. The wife may provide stability, structure and organizational skills.
At the same time, her husband’s creativity, and quest for novelty may
provide color to her life and help her explore new horizons. This
complementary type of relationship works best when each partner has
insight into his or her unique strengths and weaknesses. They learn from
each other in a dynamic way, and do not allow their roles to become too
rigid. The wife has periods of spontaneity, and the husband then becomes
In other cases,
AD/HD can strain a marriage. The non-ADD spouse may misinterpret the
partner’s disorganization and procrastination as deliberate offences. If
the AD/HD spouse goes on an impulsive spending spree, it may damage family
finances. The urge for novel situations can lead individuals with AD/HD
into repeated job changes or extramarital affairs.
should have a thorough understanding of the psychiatric diagnoses and how
the behaviors associated with the diagnoses affect the entire family.
Often adults with AD/HD have other conditions such as anxiety, depression
or alcohol abuse. It is important to address these conditions too.
Many couples feel
euphoric early in the treatment process when medication begins to have an
effect. They are lulled into the belief that the diagnosis and the
medication will be a panacea. A spouse may despair or even leave the
relationship when old patterns and behaviors re-emerge. Family or couples
therapy can be an important part of treatment for adults with AD/HD.
Remember, it took a long time for each family member to learn their
behavior patterns and it may take time to make lasting changes. The AD/HD
may be an explanation, but neither spouse should use it as an excuse.
Instead, understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you develop
creative coping strategies.
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County Psychiatric Associates
Offices in Monkton and Lutherville, Maryland