Sometimes this is true, especially if your partner is about 30 or younger, given recent years’ increased awareness. Better childhood screening means more of today’s young adults with ADHD were diagnosed long ago. That means they enter relationships fully aware of their strengths and challenges, and they often have embraced good strategies to achieve balance. (Of course, many also assume they “outgrew” ADHD and abandoned medication once they left their parents’ house; that’s another story.)
For most ADHD Partner Survey respondents, however, their ADHD partners were 30 and older when they took the survey in 2004 or 2006. For them, ADHD flew far under the radar screen—sometimes for decades.
Misconceptions about what ADHD is—and is not—can prove a huge obstacle to discovery. You’ll find a list of such misconceptions below.
In large part, that’s why these stalwart survey takers persevered through an exhaustive 54-section survey: They wanted to share the knowledge they learned the hard way, to help others on the learning curve.
Respondents Emphasize Three Important Points
1. They knew their partner for a long time before ever suspecting ADHD—mainly because they knew very little about it and most of what they did know was wrong.
2. They discovered the possibility by randomly coming across a website, article, or book. More recently, a therapist made the discovery. Family doctors seldom recognized it. (If they did, they didn’t mention it.)
3. They wish they’d known earlier, because the ignorance cost them and their families a great deal of money, pain, and anguish.
Respondents’ Frame of Reference:
• Most survey respondents reported that their ADHD partner had not been diagnosed before they met.
• 50 percent reported that their partner’s problematic ADHD symptoms surfaced after only weeks, months, or one year into the relationship.
• 50 percent reported that difficulties took even longer to unfold, precipitated by increased responsibilities (children, employment, a mortgage, etc.). Life simply started demanding more than their brain function could handle. (Yes, this happens to many of us at some point. But for people with ADHD, it tends to happen sooner or more severely.)
• For 72 percent of survey respondents, the ADHD partner received a professional evaluation for ADHD during the relationship. Of those, 90 percent were indeed diagnosed. In most cases, the partner of the adult with ADHD initiated the discussion after seeing a TV show or reading a book, website, or article. (In only four percent of cases did the family physician suggest the possibility.)
Question: What did you know about ADHD before your partner‘s diagnosis?
The survey provided many opportunities to provide details with text responses. Here are some representative responses to the question: “What did you know about Adult ADHD before your partner’s diagnosis?”
• ADHD meant hyperactivity in kids made worse through poor diet. Most people in the UK still don’t know it affects adults.
• I was suspicious about this diagnosis, viewing it as a “catch all” label for children with learning disabilities.
• ADHD seemed a yuppie disease, an excuse for everything. Now I accept it’s a valid diagnosis, but my wife (who has it) doesn’t!
• Growing up, my cousin had very hyperactive ADHD. He took Ritalin and struggled in school. I never thought it manifested itself in adults because everyone said kids grow out of it.
• I’m a psychotherapist, so my training made me aware of it in children, but I had no idea how it affected adult relationships.
• All I knew was that my husband had been called “hyperactive” as a child. The “solution” was to restrict sugar. Um, yeah.
• ADHD was for kids! Years ago, my husband read Driven to Distraction, but I ignored his saying it sounded just like him. For 25 years, he’d diagnosed himself with the disorder in every self-help book he read so I was numb to the diagnosis du jour. Turns out, he was right!
• My college roommate had ADHD and was on Ritalin for her hyperactivity. Until my husband’s diagnosis, I never knew you could have ADHD and show symptoms of lethargy.
• I knew about my wife’s ADHD diagnosis but for years we didn’t realize how it affected our relationship. The forgetting and “absent-mindedness” I could deal with. Only later did I realize the depression, agitation, and blaming that was destroying our marriage were common ADHD traits, too. I believed her that her unhappiness was my fault.
• My husband’s psychiatrist-father knew of his son’s challenges starting early in life. Yet, he believes his genes are too superior for such a diagnosis. He blamed all his son’s problems on someone or something else. For years, I believed him. After all, he was the expert, right? Boy that was helpful. Thanks Dad! Fortunately, we figured it out ourselves and now with treatment my husband’s doing great.
How About You?
Did you have misconceptions about Adult ADHD before you learned the facts?
Feel free to share them in a comment. It’s easy, and you don’t have to register. Just write it in the box below.