ADHD and Relationships

Just as children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, adults coping with ADHD and relationships will encounter difficulties in maintaining both friendships and romantic interests mainly due to issues of communication and stability. Growing up affected by the stigma of having ADHD, i.e., being different from other children, adds to the self-esteem problems naturally experienced by sufferers of ADHD.

Even when the significant other in a relationship understands the problem with ADHD and relationships, it still remains difficult for that person to deal with the everyday emotional and communication issues involving their partner who has ADHD. Problems with trust and responsibility will undoubtedly arise, since many ADHD sufferers will say they are going to be somewhere or do something specific but never carry through with their promises. This is not due to a personality deficiency but rather to their inability to focus and follow through with designated intentions.

Relationship stressors

Certain characteristics which contribute to the strength and longevity of adult relationships are absent or dysfunctional in people with ADHD. These maladaptive behaviors include:

  • apparent disinterest in the other person
  • inability to listen when the other is talking
  • ignoring time commitments
  • misinterpretation of common social cues
  • being vulnerable due to low self-esteem

Specific ADHD and Relationships Issues

Individuals suffering from ADHD may appear outgoing and quick-witted but actually tend to exhibit a degree of introverted behavior because they are afraid of what generally occurs when they attempt to interact with others. Because they have difficulty interpreting social cues and meanings, they frequently remain confused at how a scene may progress from bad to worse while communicating with others.

People involved in relationships with those who have ADHD think this lack of attention to the relationship indicates they are no longer interested or are just too self-absorbed to maintain contact. In reality, however, this stems from an ADHD individual's inability to focus and also to the reduced ability to empathize with others.

Treating ADHD and Relationship Problems

A frequent complaint of people involved in a relationship with ADHD sufferers is that rarely seem to be listening or paying attention to them. A therapist or skills coach working with an ADHD patient will show him various strategies for developing a system of prioritizing and organizing perceptual, emotional and social tasks which can help create a sense of order from the chaos that exists within someone with ADHD.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is also extremely helpful in teaching someone with ADHD how to control the whirlwind of thoughts that distract them from successfully pursuing and maintaining enduring relationships. In addition, CBT can illustrate to someone with ADHD how easy it is for self-defeating ideas which probably emerged during their childhood years to prevent them from feeling good about themselves.

Low self-esteem, even in those without ADHD, will relentlessly erode a relationship until it ends in unhappiness for both parties involved. Patients and their significant others learn through therapy what is occurring in both of their worlds, leading to a better understanding of what it is like to suffer from ADHD in addition to the ADHD patient realizing how is actions affect the stability of a relationship.

Management of ADHD

There is no reason why ADHD symptoms cannot be successfully controlled in an adult who has been diagnosed with the disorder. Further, there is no reason why they cannot have long and fulfilling relationships with friends, family and spouses.

Once someone has been professionally found to have ADHD, treatment should begin immediately. With medication, individual and group therapy and life skills coaching, any ADHD sufferer can learn to manage their ADHD and relationships without having to deal with the issue alone, in confusion and resentment.


› ADHD and Relationships

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