What is it like to be in a relationship with someone who has ADD/ADHD?

By Anne Halsall

I’m currently in a LTR with someone who has ADD. So is my partner. 😉 The fact that we are both ADD certainly helps us understand each other better, but there are definitely things about it that can be difficult for both of us to cope with.

Here are a few things that come to mind:

Periods of hyperfocusing may take your partner’s attention away from you. If they are obsessed with building model planes that week, it will cause them a great deal of frustration and angst to do anything other than building model planes. Give them space when this happens, but also set clear expectations about when you need them to put the hobby down for a while.

Flakiness can definitely be an issue. Sit them down and have a conversation about how hard it is to trust someone who doesn’t do the things they say they will. A far preferable situation is for your partner to be realistic about what they can and can’t manage given their disorder, and to be upfront about it when they probably can’t do something. The flipside of that is when they do say they will do something, they had better actually do it!

Being ADD is very frustrating and sometimes can cause bouts of depression. Recognize depression for what it is (it’s not a failing or a rejection of you) and try to be emotionally supportive. Generally what a person needs most in that situation is a hug and an “it’ll be okay.”

Your partner may have a tendency to multitask compulsively, i.e. check their phone while talking to you, always have a laptop out, etc. They may even get distracted and stop listening to you or trail off mid sentence. If this happens in a situation that is inappropriate, say something about it in a firm but not accusatory tone.

There are some good things too! It can be really fun and stimulating to be around a person who’s mind is going at a mile a minute. My partner seems to know everything that’s ever been put on Wikipedia and drops awesome random facts all the time. It’s important to embrace the good things about your partner since ADD at least plays a part in the person they are.

Addendum: After thinking about this some more, there are a couple of really important points I would add. First, your partner may or may not be taking medication for their disorder. Certain things may be easier for you if they are, but this does not mean you have the right to expect or pressure them to take medication. It is a choice every individual must make for themselves.

Second, ADD/ADHD is not and should not be an excuse to be a bad partner. Likewise, you should not blame every mistake they make in the relationship on their disorder. Try not to frame your discussions around the disorder, but instead focus on the behavior that is bothering you, which may or may not be related to the disorder.

Why I Love My ADHD

By Kazorek

Actually, I fucking hate my ADHD.

And I hate seeing articles with titles like that, articles that espouse the “advantages” of ADHD. What advantages? And you better not fucking say “living in the moment” unless you’re willing to talk about the advantageous “imagination” of a schizophrenic or the exiting “spontaneity” enjoyed by those with bi-polar. People don’t write articles titled Why I Love My Borderline Personality Disorder, so why the fuck do ADHD people write articles like that about their shit? Oh you’re creative and imaginative? So what!? You don’t need ADHD to be those things.

Here’s my article: It bugs me that I need to use a giant black marker, or I just ignore the notes I write to myself. It’s a waste of paper, especially because I need to write notes for simple things like “wash some underwear.” I hate that I need to check off boxes on a daily reminder chart to achieve things many five year olds already do on their own (Breakfast; Weather; Dress; Brush Teeth…). It reminds me of a preschoolers earning gold stars for not peeing their pants or whatever the fuck you give kids gold stars for. Actually, now that I think about it, they get gold starts for the exact fucking reason I get a check mark – for brushing their teeth and eating breakfast. It’s fucking embarrassing and I hide it when friends come over. I hate how it takes my wife an hour to clean the kitchen and it takes me 5 hours. I hate breaking promises. I hate always telling people I will do something, then not fucking doing it. I hate how people I care about interpret my actions, or inaction, as malicious or callous or narcissistic. I hate trying so hard to do right, be proper, and recognize what is expected of me, then being called inconsiderate anyway. I hate how fucking hurt and helpless I feel when people I like judge me based things that never crossed my mind. I hate feeling like a failure. And most of all I hate that I’ll be like this forever.

I’m always seeing articles about how Richard Branson’s ADHD made him a brilliant billionaire businessman. Well that’s good for him. My ADHD made me a janitor. If someone told me I could take a pill that would completely get rid of my ADD forever, I would take two.

I think maybe people get attached to their coping mechanisms or something. I’ll admit, I feel proud of myself when I look at my little pre-school chart and see no blank spaces. And I’m proud it worked and I had the initiative to make it. But I would throw it away in a second if I could.

Who the fuck would love this disorder?

“I am not a psychiatric diagnosis in a fat folder”

by Laura Fishbourne, winner of the 2013 Poetry Competition awarded by the Royal College of Psychiatrists

A Photograph Taken in Honest Lighting

I am pockmarked.
My attention deficit fingers
know every pore
and every blemish.
My skin is a poem
learnt in braille, recited daily.
It is a dig that does not know
if it is being excavated
or exhumed.
Only that it is caving
under the pressure
of pitted, anaemic nails.

I am the photograph
that you put to the back
of the album
but the front of an exhibition.
the unflinching rawness
of adolescent anxiety.
The street translation:
why doesn’t she use concealer?
My mirrors are your
car windows, your LCD
television screens,
the whites of your eyes.

I am not a cocoon/
butterfly metaphor
nor a skin deep maxim.
My foibles are pathological
but I am not a psychiatric
diagnosis in a fat folder
I am a photograph
taken in honest lighting.
A polaroid snap
developing in plain sight.
I am finding
my exposure.

How ADHD Makes Me Feel

By Waltasecbec

  • I hate how many people deny that it’s a real issue, because it feels pretty fucking real to me.
  • I hate that some people assume I’m simply lazy–or worse, that I’m just seeking attention–when they have no idea how much effort I put into managing every single day of my life.
  • I hate that I need to be on medication, and how for a few hours after I take it every day, my heart rate averages around 95-100 beats per minute; I worry about what that’s doing to my overall health.
  • I hate that it makes me sweat more than the average person.
  • I hate that the medicine drains me of energy, leaving me mentally and physically exhausted, yet still unable to sleep.
  • I hate feeling terrified each time a teacher assigns a project, because I know that means several nights of very little sleep, attempting (and failing) to get a head start on said project, culminating in a night with no sleep as I feverishly try to focus and finish the assignment a few hours before it’s due.
  • I hate when people see me lose focus and drift off somewhere, and then ask me what I’m thinking about; it’s easier to just reply “oh, nothing,” than to try to explain the lightning-fast sequence of thoughts that led from, say, Genghis Khan, to a sociological analysis of push-up bras in under a minute.
  • I hate having to plan every waking moment, lest I get distracted and fuck up something important.
  • I hate panicking at the thought of not being able to fill my prescription on time, not because I’m addicted to it, but because I know that going off it for a few days means a steep, rapid decline in productivity from which my grades may never recover.
  • I hate the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that needing medication makes me somehow inferior.
  • I hate that doctors warn me not to tell my friends about what I’m experiencing, because apparently you can get good money selling ADHD meds, and I shouldn’t trust that my friends are actually good people.
  • I hate that this medicine doesn’t alleviate all of my symptoms, and yet it’s still better than not taking anything at all.
  • I hate the extensive mental lists of great ideas that will never come to fruition, and the hundreds of cool projects that I’ve left unfinished because I can’t stay focused for more than a few minutes.
  • I hate when people tell me to just “try harder.”
  • I hate that it’s just not that simple.

ADHD: Under or Over Diagnosed?

By Jillian Weinberger

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the rate of A.D.H.D. diagnosis has exploded over the last decade, the New York Times reported recently.

An estimated 6.4 million children between the ages of four and seventeen have received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, 53 percent more than were diagnosed a decade ago.

And yet, while some kids may be over-diagnosed, for many, the disease goes undetected for years, causing a wide range of other mental and physical problems. This is particularly true for girls and women: according to the New York University Child Study Center, between 50 and 75 percent of girls with A.D.H.D. do not receive a diagnosis.

One of the largest studies of young women with A.D.H.D., published in 2006, found that undiagnosed girls were much more likely to have problems with academic performance, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and risky behaviors, such as substance abuse.

Journalist Katherine Ellison received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis as an adult, at the same time as her 12-year-old son. She chronicled this experience in her book “Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention.” She’s also published a new book, “Square Peg: My Story and What It Means for Raising Innovators, Visionaries, and Out-of-the-Box Thinkers.”

Ellison is concerned with all aspects of the disorder, but worries most about the children who are overlooked.

“I worry more about the kids who don’t get treatment and don’t get recognized and go into schools that are really hostile environments for them.” she said. “Boys are much more likely to get diagnosed … girls slip under the radar even when they have real problems.”

But it’s not just gender that can influence whether someone is diagnosed. There are geographical differences in detection as well.

“You’re much more likely to be diagnosed and to be medicated if you’re in the South than for instance if you’re in California, where I live,” she said.

While there is a problem with underdiagnosis in certain regions and within certain demographics, Ellison acknowledges there are also issues of over-diagnosis.

“There’s all sorts of problems with that,” she added. “There’s problems with abuse of medication and I think there’s still tremendous stigma.”

All the same, A.D.H.D is a real issue, with consequences both for those who don’t get the diagnosis they need, as well as for those who are falsely diagnosed.

“It seems a little bit like global warming. There’s a scientific consensus that this exists. It can be a devastating problem. But there are a lot of A.D.H.D. deniers,” she said.


My Experience with Adderall

By Camille

I did what so many have done to get an Adderall prescription. At the time, I thought it was a well-informed decision. I thought it would improve my psychological situation by making me more productive and focused, and thus less depressed about being unproductive. And despite what I’m about to tell you about my psychiatrist, I take responsibility in my head for having asked for Adderall.

If you were to ask me, I guess I’d say I’m a smart, perceptive person with a long history of use or contact with the effects of prescription and non-prescription drugs.  I walked into my psychiatrist’s office knowing what I was doing.  Ultimately though, it’s still the person with the medical degree’s responsibility to read people, to detect key aspects of the way they’re engaging the situation, and to properly diagnose and medicate a patient.

I think my guy [my psychiatrist] just recognized early on that I was smart and knew myself, so then released himself of doing any further investigation because he trusted me to accurately describe my needs.  The new guy they gave me after that guy retired was no different.  Once I said something to him about Adderall and he responded, “Well, sounds like you know more than I do about it, so I’ll take your word for it.”  I had actually wanted to have a conversation with him about some of the physiological effects of the drug, having read a lot about it, and it became clear that was not going to be possible. So it was just, “Ok, I guess I’ll just take that triplicate [prescription] and be on my way.” (I didn’t actually say that). He has since allowed me to pick up triplicates from the receptionist once every 3 months. I haven’t seen or talked to him since the summer. Again, I think he was just like, “OK she’s smart and isn’t a fiend, so I don’t have to worry about her as a liability.”

I can say I don’t regret being prescribed it.   I’m just not satisfied with the way it was handled.  At the time, I was like, “woohoo, that was easy!”  But looking back on the way my doctors have handled (and not handled) me, it was irresponsible.

Does ADD/ADHD Exist?

By Joe Rojas-Burke

Researchers have come to realize that ADHD may not be a single disorder. It’s starting to look like a group of related disorders, each potentially arising from different environmental and genetic factors and perhaps requiring a different treatment approach:

Experts have long divided cases into three types: those dominated by attention problems, those dominated by hyperactivity, and those with high levels of both. In recent years, however, it’s become clear that these categories aren’t stable; one child’s dominant symptoms can shift over time. A four-year-old’s overwhelming attention problems, for instance, might give way to more prominent hyperactivity by age 10.

Researchers in Oregon are trying to develop a way to more accurately identify sub-types:

It involves a field of mathematics known as graph theory. It’s easiest to picture as a way to group people in space based on how alike they are on a multitude of tests of thinking and behavior. The researchers focused on self-control, attention, speed of mental processing, working memory and several other attributes. They tested the method on 285 children with ADHD.

The kids sorted into six groups, each characterized by distinct strengths and weaknesses in attention, memory, self-control and other tested areas. No group was better or worse in IQ testing or overall severity of ADHD symptoms.

“These are different neuropsychological profiles,” says [OHSU psychology professor Joel] Nigg. “They all have ADHD, but perhaps all for a different reason.”

When the researchers tested typically developing children, they also found great variability, enough to classify four distinct neuropsychological profiles. By taking this normal variation into account, the researchers found they could diagnose ADHD more accurately using behavioral test results.