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Does your spouse have ADHD?
When adults start looking into their children’s learning struggles, a few things will often cross their mind. Questions such as “Do I have ADHD too?” or “Does my spouse have ADHD?” often surface.
While whether or not someone has ADHD should be left to a doctor for a true diagnosis, there are some signs your spouse will show if they are indeed struggling with ADHD.
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So how can you tell if your spouse has ADHD? And if your spouse does have ADHD should they seek treatment? Will they seek treatment? How will this play out/ affect your relationship?
What are the behaviors of untreated ADHD in Adults?
Here are some telltale signs your spouse might have ADHD:
1. They suffer from Time Blindness:
They may have chalked their constant tardiness to being a “type B” person. But it has done more than just made them casually late to parties.
They might struggle to be on time to work, on time to appointments, on time to the majority of events in their life.
They might blame things like having to deal with the kids, or needing to get gas, etc. But overall, people that don’t suffer from time blindness can account for the added time it takes to get kids ready and get gas and still manage to be on time to most things. Time blindness is a common inner battle among people with ADHD.
2. They have a constant “energy” struggle:
ADHD people struggle to regulate themselves. I’ve said this before, and so have many ADHD experts. ADHD is less an attention issue and more a regulation issue.
ADHD adults will need to search and dig deep to start and continue projects, hit deadlines, and maintain goals etc.
They won’t be able to find the energy to complete the dishes before the pile is huge, or do the laundry before they are sifting the dirty clothes for their least smelly outfits. And they don’t think it’s a major issue.
But this difference in energy or internal motivation for them can cause the responsibility of the home to tip. The spouse who can get things done, whether they have the energy, want, or desire will likely compensate for the lack of the spouse with ADHD. Often, with a lot of resentment.
No matter how many times the spouse who does complete tasks “communicates” with their counterpart about their need for more consistent help from them, the spouse with untreated ADHD will be unable to meet their needs. No matter how much they wish they could they are just incapable of internally motivating themselves to help without intervention or treatment.
How do you know if your spouse has untreated ADHD?
3. They have a pattern of Impulsive behaviors:
What I’ve witnessed most often is overspending and overeating. But it can also be drug abuse and use, as well as thrill seeking. Lack of control and regulation in any of these areas can cause job retention issues, illegal activity issues and relationship hardships.
There is also some research that indicates that diagnosis of ADHD in childhood creates an increased risk of developing personality disorders later in life. Borderline personality disorder being at a 13.1 odd ratio is definitely worth paying close attention to. Some telltale signs of Borderline Personality Disorder include emotional dysregulation and self-image issues, a combination that can make for very impulsive behavior.
4. Hyperfocus only happens when there is acute interest:
Your spouse won’t work on the garden with you, or help you with the laundry but they’ll spend hours on end organizing and detailing their car. They will mow the lawn, weed whip, and leaf blow the driveway but struggle to vacuum, help you put together the baby crib, or anything that requires their attention that they have no real interest in.
It can make them seem selfish, only wanting to complete tasks that they enjoy. When the truth might actually be they can’t focus long enough on other things to complete them, and don’t want to look dumb in front of their spouse. It can make the responsibility of things sorely unfair, as I stated before.
5. They have high and low emotional outbursts:
Struggling to regulate emotions is an often overlooked or a misdiagnosed symptom of ADHD. This can be mistaken as bipolar disorder, but it is not mania. It is the inability to reign in their anger, sensitivity, and impatience.
Being that ADHD affects the prefrontal cortex, it’s important to remember that the prefrontal cortex regulates all executive functions. This includes coping mechanisms to handle rejection, fear, frustration and the like. It’s really no wonder ADHD adults can be quick to anger, or cry over small things.
Often times they can get emotionally overwhelmed and say things they don’t mean, and be hurtful. I wrote a post about Why ADHD spouses may be emotionally abusive.
Please note: ADHD is NOT an excuse for bad behavior. It’s simply worth considering that a lifetime of undiagnosed ADHD, constantly being told they are lazy and/or hot headed can make for an adult with some serious issues in the self-regulation department.
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When I talk to parents about their kids usually I hear a few specific objections. Ironically a variation of the words “my spouse doesn’t believe in ADHD/want them to be tested/ think it’s necessary” comes up often.
While I am not one to want to get in the middle of relationship quarrels, this question usually has a story.
After a few more questions the easiest conclusion I can usually come up with is:
The spouse who is against further investigation into their child’s learning struggles, had learning struggles themselves and was most likely the genetic carrier of the ADHD gene. And somehow came to the conclusion that being labeled with ADHD is a bad thing.
It’s not always the case but I’d say about 9 times out of 10, it is.
Usually, they have had a bad experience with the label of ADHD and this is influencing their concern for their child.
Whether they had it and were never diagnosed, diagnosed and then treated differently or poorly in school, or are simply unaware they have it at all.
They might assume that all children were the same as them. Inattentive and struggled to focus. The idea of “I was like that and I turned out fine” is a common mindset. Help in dealing with this issue is a post for another day.
All the same, it’s a deep rooted issue if your spouse has ADHD and it’s lack of treatment are creating difficulties in your marriage.
Not to mention putting a barrier between your child and their learning. Consider having a talk with your spouse about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Here are some simple, yet non offensive ways to initiate the conversation:
- “Sometimes I wonder if I have depression/anxiety/ADHD, do you ever wonder if you do?”
- “I feel like when I do ______ or ______ it could be because of Anxiety or ADHD, what do you think?”
- “When I was in school I could never focus on math, did you struggle with any subjects?”
- “Do you ever wonder if having a tutor or something could’ve helped you do better in school?”
- “You know [your child’s name] teacher mentioned she/he seems to have trouble staying still in their seat even with a lot of reminders…do you think we should discuss this with her/his doctor?”
Bringing up the conversation of ADHD without pointing fingers at your spouses similarities and or deficits is the key. It’s likely they’ve heard negativity their entire life with their behaviors and rather than contributing to that mindset you want to offer a solution.
Discussing things by trying to relate to them on a level you can will help the most. It’s a “you’re not alone, and you’re not faulty” approach. Inclusivity, mercy and empathy will take you far.