Monday, May 31, 2010

Adult ADHD is Real: But How to Convince the Unconvinced?

Living with unrecognized ADHD, in a loved one or in oneself, can feel like being lost in the fog—often on a roller coaster.
      “I hope others can be spared from stumbling through the fog like my husband and I did,” Edith says. “For our first 25 years together, I thought Joe was lazy or selfish or both.”
     Edith also wondered if she was failing as a wife because she had so little success in motivating Joe to be more cooperative and thoughtful toward her and the children. At times she chalked it up to she and Joe marching to the beat of different drummers. “For years, I went back and forth in confusion, with no idea that adult ADHD existed,” she says. “Then he was diagnosed at age 55.”
     Adults with ADHD also use the fog metaphor, including this woman, who was diagnosed at age 52:

I don’t quite know how to describe my life to people who haven’t experienced ADHD the way I have. Imagine driving a car in heavy fog. You get tense, because you can’t see the edges of the road or what’s in front of you. In other words, you often can’t see how your actions will result in predictable consequences, which instead seem to come out of nowhere. 
So you inch along, gripping the wheel, anxious that you’re going to crash into something.That’s how my life was for a half century, until I figured out ADHD. Few people other than my family members would have guessed I had ADHD just by looking at me or talking to me. I worked hard to “pass for normal,” had earned some impressive college degrees, and had tons of plausible excuses for my goof-ups.
When I started taking the stimulant medication, though, the fog suddenly lifted and the road ahead was clear. I could relax my hold on the wheel and enjoy the drive. I could even appreciate the scenery without worrying that I’d get distracted and run off the road. The things most people take for granted, most people with ADHD struggle over for years until they figure out they have it.

Until now, perhaps you have been slogging through serious mental fog, not understanding how your life got so confusing. Even if you have learned about ADHD, maybe you harbor concerns or misconceptions about the validity of the diagnosis or the safety of the medication that help treat it. You are not alone. Everything about ADHD seems to cause confusion, including its name, until you get the facts.
      Below are five statements or questions I sometimes hear from skeptical partners of adults with newly diagnosed ADHD (and, phrased slightly differently, from some adults with ADHD themselves). So, let's take some time to debunk each one.

Q: My Partner Has Lots of Attention—for Some Things!

That’s true for most people with ADHD, and that’s one big reason why unrecognized ADHD symptoms can cause hurt feelings between partners. “You can pay attention when you want to” is the tiresome phrase that has echoed throughout the lives of adults with ADHD. Chalk it up as more unfortunate fallout from the misleading words Attention Deficit Disorder. It has nothing to do with attention deficits or even short attention spans.
      “ADHD is really not so much a disorder of attention as it is a disorder of self-regulation,” says psychologist Russell Barkley, who detailed his theory in 1997 in the landmark book ADHD and the Nature of Self-Control. Recent brain science discoveries have indicated that ADHD affects specific brain areas, including the frontal lobe, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum. These areas show less activity and less reactivity to stimulation than in people without ADHD symptoms.
      What does having “less reactivity to stimulation” mean? And how does it relate to regulating attention? All humans need stimulation. It engages us in life and helps us meet our goals. Our mere interest in something—an appealing object, thought, or event and even potential danger or risk—triggers the release of brain chemicals that help arouse and maintain attention until the goal is met.
      Given genetic differences in people with ADHD, you might say they sit at one end of the human spectrum, the end that requires higher-than average stimulation in order to trigger interest and release those chemicals.  That’s why one psychiatrist calls ADHD Search for Stimulation Syndrome.
      For example, these adults might find themselves doing “stimulating” activities (such as talking on the phone or playing video games) when they should pursue “boring” activities (such as falling sleep and paying bills). In fact, one support-group member jokingly suggests a name much more explicit than ADHD: If It’s Boring, It Ain’t Gonna Happen Unless You Make Me Disorder.
      These adults know that the “more mature” pursuits are important, but knowledge alone cannot fuel motivation or attention; the payoff is simply neither sufficiently immediate nor rewarding. (In fact, it’s the mere anticipation of a reward that our brains find most stimulating; in comparison, the actual reward can feel like a letdown.) Moreover, what might feel boring or tedious to you might feel unnerving and undoable to your partner—like physical and mental “static” or even pain.
      Once you understand this, it’s easy to see why many adults with ADHD flock to highly stimulating activities that offer quick rewards—driving fast, spending money, smoking cigarettes, picking fights, eating junk food, jumping out of airplanes, playing video games, being the life of the party, or even pushing themselves into a workaholic frenzy, to name a few. These activities produce initial feelings of focus and a paradoxical inner calm, but over time, over-the-top stimulation typically makes everything worse.
      The challenge: Finding healthier ways to get sufficient stimulation and feelings of being rewarded.
      In fact, given what you’ve learned about ADHD and stimulation, it should come as no surprise that the first-line medical treatment for ADHD is called stimulant medication.

Q: My Partner Gets the Fun, and I Get the Drudgery?

Unfortunately, this is a common scenario when ADHD remains both undetected and unaddressed. Understanding why these disparities exist marks the first step toward rectifying them.
      For example, no one enjoys cleaning out the garage, but most people without ADHD can drum up the motivation to complete this tedious task. Why? Perhaps because they remember how annoying it is to search for items in a messy garage or park the car on the street in the wintertime.
      Moreover, they can integrate information from both the past and future and keep it in mind as they temporarily put the brake on fun distractions and bite the boring bullet. Simple, eh? Not quite.
     People with ADHD can possess challenges in each of those critical areas that most of us take for granted:
  • summoning motivation
  • thinking of future consequences
  • remembering past difficulties
  • “putting on the brakes” and
  • following through on tasks that aren’t immediately gratifying or stimulating.
     What about the consequences they know will take place—for example, the utilities being shut off mid-winter for lack of payment or arriving at retirement age without savings? That’s where challenges occur in what psychologist Barkley calls cross-temporal organization. It might sound like a term from Star Trek, but it actually means that people with ADHD tend to view two kinds of time: Now and Not Now. And if you can’t possibly imagine yourself in the time of Not Now—where the consequential chickens come home to roost—it might as well be a million years in the future. Something that irrelevant to Now simply doesn’t kick the attention machine into gear.

Q: My Partner is Consistent—at Being Inconsistent!

Congratulations. Your observation matches that of most ADHD experts. That’s why some prefer the term Variable Attention Syndrome.
      Some people with ADHD might find only a few subjects or activities highly stimulating or rewarding, and they lock on those targets to the exclusion of all else. (This is often referred to as hyperfocus, a phenomenon touched upon several times in this book.)
      Others find so many things interesting that they can’t pick out the most relevant.
      This man, diagnosed with ADHD at age 42, describes what it’s like to constantly deal with both challenges:
The way I experience ADHD is like being at a loud party where everyone’s talking and the music is blaring, and you’re trying to hear what one person is saying but you can’t because you’re seeing, feeling, and hearing everything happening around you—at the exact same time.
Then five minutes later, it’s like you’ve finally locked into what that one person is saying, but the focus is so intense you’re no longer aware that the rest of the universe exists and so you miss your ride home. Repeat this situation 100 times a day.

Q: So My Partner Can’t “Try Harder” to Pay Attention?

Now you’re catching on. In fact, trying harder can make things worse. Here’s why. One thing our brains need in order to sustain attention is glucose. Glucose fuels our brain cells, and because they cannot store it they demand a steady supply.
      Groundbreaking research in 1990 using brain-imaging techniques showed lower than average glucose metabolism in the brains of adults who had been hyperactive since childhood.8 The largest reductions were in brain areas known to be involved in the control of attention and motor activity.
      The fun doesn’t end there, though. Typically, when we need to concentrate, more glucose flows to our brain. Yet, when a person with ADHD (remember, who already has lower glucose levels) tries harder to concentrate, the brain activity slows even further. Some describe it as “brain freeze.”
      The bottom line is this: People with ADHD typically can’t just decide to find an activity interesting or to perform on demand. Their brain chemistry must cooperate, and no amount of your crying or pleading will help. In fact, it usually makes things worse.

Q: Maybe My Partner Just Needs to Grow Up!

It’s true. Adults with ADHD often catch flak for being irresponsible and immature. After all, we commonly associate maturity with establishing and meeting priorities while still managing to pay bills, perhaps earn a living or take care of the house and children, and tend to our own health and relationships.
     But, in fact, these are a few of the ways in which ADHD’s core challenge in self-regulation can, when left untreated, thwart mature behavior.
      We’ll use a simple, everyday metaphor to explain. Consider three key areas in which a person’s poor self-regulation impairs the ability to drive an automobile:

Challenge #1: Stepping on the accelerator

In psychological lingo, this is called motivation or arousal. People with ADHD can have difficulty getting started on a task. Instead of initiating the first step, they might procrastinate, waiting until the last adrenaline-spiking moment to step on the gas. (Or they never begin, vexed by all the planning and distractions and lacking the motivation to overcome them.) Then, even once they gain forward motion, they might fail to regulate acceleration, which brings us to:

Challenge #2: Putting on the brakes

“My boyfriend just doesn’t know how to stop,” says Linda. “Stop talking. Stop spending. Stop to think of consequences. Stop to think about me for a change.”
      At their core, many ADHD symptoms reflect an inability to stop, or inhibit, undesirable behavior, as born out by more than 200 studies in the literature. The “mental brakes” just don’t grip very tightly. “When you put the brakes on your actions, you’re inhibiting, or controlling, behavior,” says one leading ADHD authority, private-practice physician Patricia Quinn, author of the classic book for children with ADHD: Putting on the Brakes: Young People’s Guide to Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
      In fact, the “big three” common ADHD traits—inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity—each relate to the act of braking. A concise summary comes from pediatric neurologist Martin Kutscher, assistant clinical professor at the New York Medical College and author of Kids in the Syndrome Mix of ADHD, LD, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, Bipolar, and More!:

Inattentive—Unable to put the brakes on distractions
Impulsive—Unable to put the brakes on thoughts
Hyperactive—Unable to put the brakes on acting upon distractions or thoughts

Braking plays a pivotal role in self-regulation because a lot of what we do in life is based upon what we don’t do.  Drivers must also know when to move forward and prepare for doing so, which brings them up against:

Challenge #3: Shifting gears, steering clear, changing routes

Driving from point A to point B efficiently, enjoyably, and safely requires self-regulation. The driver must coordinate a delicate balance of braking and accelerating, turning and going straight, and watching the road and avoiding obstacles while taking in the scenery (not to mention taking rest stops and refueling).
      With challenges in self-regulation, some adults with ADHD might find it tough to create balance in any activity, behavior, or thought, much less coordinate many things at once. To the outside observer, it might look like the person is living at the extreme of any behavior. For example, he or she might be super frugal or super extravagant, super productive or super slothful, the super fun parent or the super disciplinarian.
      In fact, if the adult with ADHD was not diagnosed until well into adulthood, the scene in the rearview mirror might resemble this, from a man diagnosed at age 40:
I now see how I spent much of my life veering down a highway where only a cliff on one side and a guard rail on the other kept me on the road, bouncing against one to the other and back again. It seems that I was always either overshooting or undershooting, overworking or underworking, overdetailing or underdetailing, and never doing anything consistently right.
Stopping something when they should stop. Starting something when they should start. Not underdoing and not overdoing, but finding the middle ground in being a mature adult. That’s the challenge for all of us humans, but it looms even larger for people with ADHD.
      The good news: Whether you have ADHD or love someone who does, this road trip called Life needn’t feel like being whipped around on an out-of-control roller coaster. The first step off the coasterand out of the fog—is getting the facts.

Adapted from Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder.

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  1. thank you!


  2. Thankyou Gina! This helps explain things a wee bit more.

    I've ordered your book from Amazon, but live in Australia and couldn't afford rapid postage... should be here next month lol :)

  3. I am so glad I found your blog. I have just started meds for ADHD 2 weeks ago and have really seen an improvement. I have battled with this all my life (I'm 36) but always had been able to function with all the "tricks" I learned from various counselors and tutors. I now have so many things to focus on (Parent, Wife, Job, etc) that it was all just too overwhelming to deal with and I knew I finally needed to get some additional help. I look forward to reading through your previous posts and sharing them with my family and friends. Like the person said..."It's like a fog has lifted".



  4. Thanks for the information you've shared Gina. A big help to us.

  5. Thanks for you concise overview of life with ADHD. My son (23) was diagnosed last year and my husband was diagnosed 6 months later (55). I still feel very overwhelmed with trying to hold together all of the daily living activities with two ADHD individuals in my house. I do see the disability in their actions or inactions but it is difficult not to be frustrated. Great blog and I have linked to it at my blog.

  6. HI Sapphyre, I'm glad you have my three blogs while you're waiting for the book! :-)

    FYI - the book is available as an immediate-download PDF from the publisher's website:

    We thought this would be helpful for our far-flung friends around the globe. But of course a hardcopy book is a more practical choice if you can get your hands on it.

  7. Hi Brandi,
    Good for you! You're on your way out of the fog. If you have my book, I encourage you to check out the chapters on medication. It's so important to follow a protocol, including using rating scales at each physician visit, so you can stay on track and not let adverse side effects slow your progress.

    I'm preparing a presentation now for the CHADD conference this fall, in Atlanta, on distinguishing between ADHD symptoms and the poor coping skills that many people have accumulated over a lifetime of living with undiagnosed ADHD. It's definitely a two-part process -- optimizing the meds and at the same time leaving behind habits that might be counterproductive.

    Best of luck!

  8. Hi Pam,
    Thanks for stopping in. It sounds like you might still be in the early stages of the learning curve -- six months and 1 year since the diagnoses.

    The more you ground yourself in a solid education about ADHD, the faster you'll move through that learning curve. And the more clear you are what can improve with treatment and what must be part of acceptance, the more clear your husband and son can be.

    And of course, your husband and son should be optimizing their learning curve, too, with solid education, support, and treatment.

    I wish you all the best, and congrats for "discovering" ADHD. :-)

  9. Hi Satu and ADHD Resource -- thank you!

  10. Thanks Gina. I actually work for our state's disability protection and advocacy group and know a lot about ADHD. However, the intellectual knowledge doesn't seem to help the overwhelm. I read, attend conferences, and advocate for children with ADHD along with other disabilities.

  11. HI Pam,

    I know what you mean. Simply knowing what constitutes effective medical treatment for ADHD and seeing what people actually receive, the "disconnect" feels very overwhelming to me sometimes.

    Every bit of knowledge we share helps to turn the tide, though, so good for you for being an educated advocate!


  12. Wow, what an eye opening post for me. I am 42 and was diagnosed just 2 months ago after living a lifetime of making excuses for myself. I can absolutely relate to everything written here. Especially that party analogy. I don't know if that makes me happy or sad. :)

    I am on medication now which really helps me focus but it doesn't keep my brain organized so I am a bit discouraged about that. But! I am learning more about it every day (through people like you!) and as a writer, I am conjuring up the courage to write my own story.

    I have read things about adult ADHD here and there since my diagnosis, but it's taken me 2 months to really start diving into it. Denial, I am sure... :)

    I am subscribed here now....thank you for this great post.

  13. I am still confused about ADHD. My husband has been diagnosed years ago and takes no meds. He is able to complete tasks, down to the minutae, emnjoys the high of spending money, driving fast and yet he seems to perseverate on ideas and thoughts. He is unable to "give up" on specific ideas that just won't work or the outcome is so convulated the effort is not worth it. Is that part of ADHD?


  14. I agree 100% about the nomenclature used to describe ADHD. I wish they would find another term to describe it in the DSM IV. It is not that we have a deficit in attention, it is exactly the opposite. WE NOTICE EVERYTHING! and it drains us. It is like your brain is a television set and someone else has the remote and they are flipping through the channels about 100 mph. I found the diagnosis ADD when I was walking through a bookstore and saw the book, "Driven To Distraction". I was doing an internship in college at the time. We also often appear stupid to people, because we have difficulty being put on the spot and having to recall information. Well I got news for ya. My IQ is 118, My wife has an IQ of 138, which she would have to have to keep up with me. If it were not for her, I don't know where I would be. When I saw that movie, "A Beautiful Mind", I wept. Just change the charachters and the diagnosis and this is my story. It was tough growing up with this. I am 49 now and can tell you horror stories about dealing with teachers and authority figures. This follows you right on through into adulthood. It wreaks havoc with one's self-confidence and self esteem. I don't tell people this, to seek sympathy, because we who have ADD, noone in the adult workworld makes any allowances for people who struggle with this, nor do they give a S#*T! Mostly, they just find a way to get rid of you and they do.

  15. Reading this has helped me. I work for someone who has ADHD (i.e. they fit exactly the descriptions given) and I come home absolutely exhausted. To get this person to focus on anything, or to listen to me and actually hear what I'm saying .........I can't describe it. Just exhausting.

  16. I agree with Anonymous on June 22. How do you deal with someone with ADHD who refuses to seek behavioral therapy and denys the many problems/difficulties that are caused by their choices and behaviors? It's exhausting, frustrating, and futile. Any suggestions?

  17. So many anonymouses! (Anonymice?)

    Anon 6/22 A - You asked:
    "He is able to complete tasks, down to the minutae, emnjoys the high of spending money, driving fast and yet he seems to perseverate on ideas and thoughts. He is unable to "give up" on specific ideas that just won't work or the outcome is so convulated the effort is not worth it. Is that part of ADHD?"

    ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all condition. There is a range of symptoms, there's a degree of symptoms, and then there are the co-existing conditions such as anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc.

    Perhaps your husband is "self-medicating" with driving fast, spending money, and getting caught up in minutiae. :-) And yes, transitions are difficult for many people with ADHD. Some can get very "stuck" on an idea.

    Anon 6/22 B - Yes, the name Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has to be one of the lamest ever efforts at naming something. Didn't the crew who came up with this have at least one friend in marketing? :-)

    One of my favorite alternate names is "Search for Stimulation Syndrome." And that works, until the person gets overstimulated and is desperately seeking some peace.

    Anon 6/22 C: Yes, the strain of dealing with another person's unrecognized ADHD symptoms isn't limited to romantic relationships. There are siblings, bosses, parents, co-workers, etc.

    Anon 6/23 -- "Behavioral therapy" really isn't thought to be very useful for ADHD, so maybe you're lobbying for the wrong treatment. By the time they reach a certain age, many adults with undiagnosed ADHD have learned that the garden-variety therapist isn't going to understand them -- and might even make things worse. (I devote a chapter to this in the book, because otherwise people can't imagine what I mean.)

    As for denying the difficulties, etc., well, that is pretty common with moderate-to-severe ADHD. "Denial' has both a physiological and a psychological component. I wish I could offer suggestions in a post, but that's why I had to write a lengthy book. :-)

    Step 1: Educating yourself about ADHD and its evidence-based treatment strategies. Only then can you help the person out of "denial" and also be a more reliable support to the person with ADHD in choosing and following through on treatment.

  18. Hi Jessica,

    I read a fascinating story years ago, about a man who had been blind since an early childhood accident. He was in his 50s, and had built a nice life for himself. He worked as a massage therapist.

    Then he became engaged, and his fiancee read about an innovative surgery that restored the vision of people who had suffered injuries such as his. He was a bit reluctant, but she sallied forth.

    He had the surgery, and it was a "success" but his life was turned upside down. All the coping skills he'd developed suddenly flew out the window. For example, he could no longer do simple tasks, such as eat an apple. Somehow, being able to see it disrupted his ability to feel what it was he had in his hand -- and know how to eat it.

    This is a long-winded way to say that sometimes I think it's best to go a little slowly in turning one's life upside down in learning about one's ADHD. Not to suggest that you are experiencing anything as drastic as this man (how would I know?) or that you won't adjust just fine and be thrilled with your new abilities, now that you no longer wrestle with the "invisible entity" called ADHD.

    Just that I imagine it is a real paradigm-shifter, and it's good to be a bit gentle with yourself. Good for you, thought, for coming out of your "denial." :-)

  19. ADHD can be decreased if you follow some simple steps:
    Exercise regularly so that excess energy is utilised in a positive way and soothes and calms the body. Sleep atleast for 7-8 hours every night. Write down every assignment, message, or important thought. Listen when others are speaking and try not to speak too quickly yourself.

  20. It's so nice to know we're not alone in this struggle. My 20 year old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD at age 14 and soon thereafter I (mom) was too. We both take adderall. My husband and I are always struggling with her reluctance to grow up. She has never held a job and also doesn't drive. Even though she assures us she won't live in our basement forever, sometimes we wonder. It helps a little to be reminded that she'll grow up when she's ready and shouldn't be compared to her older sisters.

  21. hello,
    I ordered the book for myself and it has started to finally open the door to some solutions in my fiance's and my life. He was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, took medication Ritalin in college and quit after the doses made him what he claims feel like a zombie. His life has been filled with changes, impulsivity etc etc since then..our relationship has been a roller coast since the beginning...myself I have dealt with some of my own challenges in the beginning of it and perhaps if he wasn't suffering from impulsivity and ADHD we would have never ended up together...however..its been a long journey of chaos, so much fighting, him suffering from depression, anxiety, entering therapy for his depression and anxiety and finally to what I think is a conclusion that he needs treatment and medication for what appears to be ADHD symptoms.

    He has read pages in your book and took the mini test..he was desperate at the time since his life seemed so difficult and challenging on a daily basis he did not know what to do. We are also expecting our first child in January and I think it is important to him to be present and put his demons behind.

    He has booked an evaluation assessment for October 8th. He is also talking to his counsellors about it and reading as much as he can..He also has read in your book that taking Pseudoephedrine helps with some of the symptoms..he has been taking it after discussing it with a pharmacist..he claims it helps with his concentration at work..but we both know its just a small band-aid solution for now.

    My problem is..I am very tired..I have dealt with alot and his behaviour especially in the last 6 months has been so trying on me..and confusing..Unfortunately his preferred method of self medication is seeking conflict ..(which now makes sense) but it has taken a toll on me emotionally and spiritually. Being a person that is slightly fragile from coming out of a big battle with own nasty demons..I am spent. I know its not going to be much further until things get better..and I am hanging on by a thread...cherishing the new moments where we are happy and looking forward to more to come once medication is part of his life. But it is hard as I am feeling I have put in alot...his fog is not lifted yet so I deal with outbursts and still have the "enabling" "co-dependent" tendencies I resorted to keep the peace.

    It feels really good to share this on this blog especially on yours since I know your book has been the key to a possible happy future for us and our family. So thank you.


  22. does taking . . . "overdoing a task to the point of making it more difficult and lengthy is a symptom of What?" is what was typed in the google search engine. is ADHD like that?

  23. Hi Anonymous -- I'm not sure I understand your question. But it is true that some people with ADHD have trouble with "overdoing" and "underdoing." In other words, they have trouble with finding the happy medium.

    So, yes, some people with ADHD might not approach a task in a very efficient way. They might not plan the steps, for example, and so end up doing step C before step A, causing them to have to backtrack.

    Also, if the task is boring, the person with ADHD might subconsciously devise a way to make it more interesting by making it unnecessarily complicated.

    For example, say that you want to reorganize a messy closet. It can be difficult to look at the "mess" and know what to take out/leave in and how to reorganize. So you pull everything out of the closet and decide to totally redesign the closet with a fancy storage system. This takes hours of research online and perhaps several trips to Home Depot and Storage-system stores. A new storage system might be a good idea, but you might get bogged down in the selection and implementation. And meanwhile the closet stays a mess! :-)


  24. HI Joanna,

    I'm so sorry I never responded to your message; not sure what happened there.

    I hope things have calmed down for you and your husband by now. Some people will have that reaction to Ritalin, but typically because the dosage is too high. Please re-read the medication protocol in my book (from Dr. Margaret Weiss) and work with your physician on following it.

    The sad fact is, many physicians do not know about this protocol or the importance of following it. They assume that ADHD is easy to treat -- just prescribe a stimulant at an "average" dose. But it's not that easy. There is no "average" with ADHD.

    It's important to work as a TEAM on this (as another chapter in the book explains, and so does a post on this blog). You are working as a team on being new parents soon (congratulations!), and that will only continue as you raise your family. As tired as I'm sure you are, this is a necessary step in ensuring that you gain more support over time as your husband's treatment progresses.

    best of luck,

  25. HI Marcia,

    Yes, it's true. Many teens and young adults with ADHD just don't mature at the same rate as teens/young adults without ADHD. Your daughter might be 20, but functionally she might be closer to 17 or younger.

    That said, I would still encourage you to pursue strategies that will help her to be independent. This often takes extra focus when it comes to young people with ADHD.


  26. I'm reading this for the first time and think maybe I should get checked for this... I have a lot of trouble 'getting motivated' and I try... it might work for a little bit but then I slump back... house work, school work... I always come up with an explanation, but it's like I don't know WHY it didn't get done... and I am embarrassed. :(
    Is there somewhere I could find a checklist or something to help see if this could be my problem and that I could show my doctor if I go in?

  27. hi Reba,

    It's worth your while to investigate ADHD as a possible explanation for WHY. ;-)

    You could start with the interactive quiz posted here:

    Also visit - This is the National Resource Center on AD/HD, a program of CHADD established with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be a national clearinghouse of information and resources concerning this important public health concern.

    And because sometimes women experience ADHD a little differently, you could visit the website for the National Center for Women and Girls with ADHD:

    Their bookstore features many books and PDFs of special interest to women with ADHD:

    Be sure to check out their self-assessment symptom inventory for women; this could be a useful document to share with your evaluating professional:

  28. Thank you very much for the links! I am checking out the one for women now and a lot of it really seems to match me... Maybe time to make an appt.

  29. What about how to cope when hsb (or one spouse) will not hear about ADHD after years of evidence, but all the signs are clearly present and interfering with the relationship?

  30. Hi Anonymous -- that is a complex question and depends entirely upon your situation.

    ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all condition, and how one "copes" with it in a partner can involve many variables.

    If the issues were simpler or more uniform, I wouldn't have had to write a 384-page book. :-)


  31. I couldn't function without Vyvanse (thank you, health insurance) only manage by living a very circumscribed existance. I don't date or have friends or watch tv. I bowl once a week with a league, & that's my only social outlet. People don't like me, & I've given up trying to make friends.

  32. Such a interesting article to read.

  33. Anonymous wrote: "I couldn't function without Vyvanse (thank you, health insurance) only manage by living a very circumscribed existance. I don't date or have friends or watch tv. I bowl once a week with a league, & that's my only social outlet. People don't like me, & I've given up trying to make friends."

    I'm so sorry to hear this. I wonder if you might have better luck making friends now that you understand how ADHD symptoms, untreated in the past, could have interfered.

    For many people with ADHD, the medication helps to notice social cues and to be able to act upon them. A good book on this is by Dr. Michele Novotni, called "What Does Everyone Else Know That I Don't?"

    Good luck to you.

  34. After 19 years of marriage, I can't reasonably expect my DH to join me in my newly diagnosed ADHD discovery quest, the problems of this disorder are mine to solve. However, I keep reading that in order to heal a relationship troubled by the effects/symptoms of ADHD, both partners have to be involved in identifying the symptoms as being caused by the disorder and work together to create new ways of 'being' or 'living' that will position the ADHD'er for success... and will thus relieve a great deal of the issues faced in the relationship. How am I supposed to do that if he won't even acknowledge the disorder, won't read any literature, won't let me read anything to him, and has emotionally checked out of the relationship?

    Thanks for any advice you all have, I've found these forums/blogs really useful.

  35. Hi there,

    I'm sorry to hear you find yourself in this situation. It's a lot to ask of a person with late-diagnosis ADHD, to deal not only with our labyrinthine mental healthcare system (that isn't alway knowledgeable about ADHD) and one's own issues but also to get the partner on board.

    When this situation is presented at our local Adult ADHD group, here is my reaction:

    1. It takes a large amount of intelligence and empathy in order for the partners of adults with ADHD to "get it."

    2. Some partners of adults with ADHD put up mental roadblocks to "getting it" because their patience, understanding, etc. bottomed out a long time ago. They simply cannot take in more information that says they have to be even more understanding, patient, accommodating, etc.

    Of course, that's not really the message (or shouldn't be, anyway). But some are simply too worn down to hear anything else. They also might put up mental walls at being told that a partner's ADHD is really a "it takes two to tango" problem. In other words, that both partners bear equal responsibility for the challenges.

    Yes, both partners serve the relationship best by understanding ADHD and remaining compassionate about each other's shortcomings. But when ADHD-related impairments are prominent, understanding goes only so far. In many cases, treatment needs to be part of the equation.

    The partner with ADHD needs to step up to the plate and address these impairments; they can't expect the partner to do all the work. Which brings me to the next point.

    3. You've heard the expression "Seeing is believing"? it might be that, to get your partner's attention and buy-in, you need to start taming the "ADHD Roller Coaster." Seeing is believing -- and certainly more powerful than reading books. Once your partner knows there's something to this ADHD stuff because your behaviors change, he might be more willing to join you in cooperative strategies.

    4. Could your partner be suffering from clinical depression or anxiety?

    After years of living with a partner's challenging ADHD symptoms, it's not uncommon to develop depression or anxiety. The tricky part: This might not always be obvious to the person, who might have lost sight long ago of how it feels not to be depressed or anxious. So, it could be that is what's happening with your partner. With men, in particular, I understand that depression and anxiety can sometimes result in rigid or "emotionally checked out" mindsets.

    I hope this helps, and I wish you luck.

  36. Thanks Gina, it keeps me motivated and also pushes me out of depression. Your book is awesome, you are awesome too! Thanks once again, you are like my angel, as due to your book I finally understood what is going on since my childhood. Many thanks Gina!

    Julius :)


  37. Hi Julius,

    How does that "Google Translate" widget on this blog work for Lithuanian? Is it anything close to a readable translation? :-)

    I'm so glad you found my book -- and found it helpful.


  38. So I've recently been diagnosed with adult ADHD, I'm 32. I've known about ADHD since I was around 18 but thought since I can do the fun stuff and not the boring essential stuff I must just be lazy. After seeing a shrink for several months they told me I'm ADHD and want to try meds.

    So yeah, I tried Strattera but it made me nuts, I've been on Adderall for a bit over a week, and while still adjusting to it (dosage, peaks & valleys, insomnia) I for the first time in a long time have hope for the future.

    My point though is this, as I read this article tears came to my eyes, I've never heard my life so perfectly described by someone who's never met me. I don't think there's a point in there that doesn't fit me.


    1. Thank you, D. I'm so glad that my work has meaning for you.


  39. Has anyone good ideas 4 motivating someone with ADHD 2 seek help

    1. Sometimes they have to lose everything to get it through their heads that they have a problem - same as alcoholics (these 2 groups often intersect.)

  40. The most frustrating situation of all is the over-the-top ADHD/ ODD type who absolutely refuses to believe in any way that anything's wrong with them - it's YOU! Even though they've workaholic and hobby-holic'd their calendar solid - time-debted and seriously sleep deprived, can only sleep with the TV or headphones on, neglect all chores and mutual responsibilities unless forced to do them, and of course - neglect YOU.

    Then of course there's the impulsive temper, forgetfulness of all kinds of things, large and small, extremely cluttered, ... did I forget anything?

    Oh yeah - the addictions -going back to drinking after "supposedly" quitting (due to chronic, crazy drunk drama!)

    SO frustrating - they don't even see it. Versus: the people who take meds, who have often commented about how the meds FINALLY helped them see WHAT they were doing and HOW they were affecting others.

    It's Catch -22 - when they just won't believe it or do anything about it.

    Right now I'm the non-ADHD'er in that relationship, and I finally threw him out. (Actually, I'm slightly ADHD/PI, but I've done tons of therapy & take it all seriously. So I was even considerate of his situation - certainly moreso than a really non-ADHD'er might be.) I gave him 30 days notice, but I guess he didn't think I'd really make him leave. I think he thought he had me, that I was co-dependent.

    Disrespect and ADHD are just toxic, toxic, toxic! And SO much worse together!

    I tried, I really did. I'm not confused - I just see that the only way he MIGHT consider his real problem is if his great home and support (my great apartment & me) are gone, and he's in a free fall. Not holding my breath though!

    Giving MYSELF a hug - or three! I need it! ;)


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