How ADHD affects releationships and what you can do about it

Posted on May 26, 2016

Photo: flickr

marriage consultant Melissa Orlov explains, "The most common couple is one who did not know that ADHD was there when they got together. All these things, like distractability, a partner who does not complete tasks when they said they are going to, not feeling very loved…a lot of those things point to ADHD being there and being undiagnosed or mismanaged.”

Psychologist Wes Crenshaw added, those who lean toward the ADHD spectrum and those who lean toward the anxiety spectrum are often attracted to each other because they are complementary. This sets up power dynamics in the relationship that need to be retrained. “Everybody tends to either lean to the anxious side or the ADHD side,” Crenshaw said. “People leaning to the anxious side are careful people, fastidious. People leaning to ADHD side are the carefree and fun folks at the party. What you will see is that the anxious people tend to gravitate to ADHD people and careful people tend to gravitate to the fun people."

Crenshaw and Orlov explained four ways how ADHD affects relationships and what can be done about it.

Firstly, changing dopamine levels throughout a relationship may mean ADHD symptoms don’t show up until later in a relationship. “The biology of infatuation during a courtship is that your brain gets loaded up with a whole lot of extra dopamine,” Orlov said. “The ADHD partner whose normal ADHD brain does not have enough dopamine is actually covered up. My husband was exceptionally attentive. But after about two years, that dopamine level returned down to normal. What that couple is then faced with is a new person in the relationship that wasn’t there before. That person is back at a low dopamine state which is inattentive.”

Secondly, that there are three legs to treatment: physiological, habitual and interactive. “The first leg is physiological which includes exercise, getting better sleep, medications, fish oil … things that change the chemistry of the brain so that you can focus better and manage ADHD symptoms better,” Orlov said. “There is a leg of behavioral changes and habit changes: things like making lists, using a calendar, setting alarms and reminders … having certain systems you put in place,” Orlov said. “The ADHD mind is very unstructured. Creating structures externally helps. The third leg, for couples, is the interactive things. How do they interact around chores? What kind of systems will they have?”

"One of the perceptions in the world about over-diagnosis and over-medication thing comes from the poor diagnosis issue,” said Crenshaw. So he advises that couples should meet with a mental health professional before getting a prescription.

Lastly, “One of things I recommend is: to the extent possible, create as minimalist of a life as you can,” Crenshaw said. “I’m not saying to put your kids up for adoption, but you probably want to get your life down to the most essential things you want to do. Too often with ADD, getting stuff is cool and getting rid of stuff isn’t — whether that is too many job assignments or too many things in the home, or whatever. As life becomes more complex, it also becomes overwhelming. With ADHD, being overwhelmed, whether in a relationship, social relationship or work…it is a big concern.”

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Category(s):Adult ADHD, Relationships & Marriage

Source material from St Louis Public Radio

Mental Health News