Adult ADHD Myths Vs. Facts

Adult ADHD Myths

Welcome back to the You Me ADHD Virtual Discussion, this time exploring important Adult ADHD Myths vs. Facts.  To join the discussion, leave a comment! We’re open 24-7.

The previous post focused on the book’s introduction. Now we enter Part I of the book’s three sections: “From the Tunnel of Love to the Roller Coaster: Could Your Partner Have ADHD?”  Chapter 1 is entitled “Who Has a Ticket to Ride? Spotting ADHD’s Surprising Signs.”

You can read along at home with Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?  (Please note. ADD is now called ADHD, but in 2008, when the time the book debuted, ADHD still meant hyperactivity to the public!  That’s why I used ADD on the cover.)

Guest writer Taylor J. and I welcome your comments.

—Gina Pera

Chapter 1: Who Has A Ticket To Ride (The ADHD Roller Coaster)?

Here are the opening paragraphs of Chapter 1, beginning on page 13:

We’re all married to the same person!” says new online support-group member Sheila. “And somehow this person manages to live in 300 cities at one time—and be both male and female!”

It’s easy to see why Sheila and others draw this wry conclusion: Group chatter typically bubbles over when classic ADHD challenges arise, typically with communication, cooperation, money, or organization. Con­versation cools, though, when topics diverge into phenomena that ring a bell for only a few members—for example, the garage overflowing with rototiller parts or a mate’s “important memorabilia” (if you consider 10-year-old foil ketchup packets memorabilia).

Sure, support-group members are relieved to know they are not dealing with a bigamist, but some become confused by the apparent disparities in reported behaviors and even grow doubtful of the ADHD diagnosis. If your partner is an excellent driver but the group goes on a rant about reckless driving, well, that must mean your partner can’t have ADHD, right? Wrong!

Each ADHD roller coaster sports its own particular twists and turns, and we will keep building on that theme throughout this and future chapters. But it’s important to first recognize the basic signs that point to this ride.

Toward that end, this chapter answers some common questions and helps you to:

  • Know that the official term is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and that it has three subtypes.
  • Realize that most adults have no physical hyperactivity.
  • See how traits involving hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention play out in real life.
  • Identify ADHD’s symptoms, ranked according to reported prevalence in the ADHD Partner Survey.
  • Find out how the diagnosis is made and why leading experts consider ADHD grossly underdiagnosed.
  • Accept that having ADHD does not mean a person lacks intelligence, talent, and strengths.

After Years in Therapy, Now She Tells Us?

By Taylor J.

After a few months of couple therapy, I saw the counselor alone.

She said that many of the things Dr. Math (my husband) and I were dealing with were “quirks” that came with [his] “brilliance.”

I raised my hand, as if I were a third-grader, and asked: “How come, if I lose things, can’t keep track of time or money, get addicted to video games, forget to pay bills, and can’t keep anything clean, it means I have ADHD, but if he does the same things, it’s because he’s brilliant?”

She smiled.

“No, you’re also brilliant. And he also has ADHD.”

After a few years of therapy, she finally comes out with this?

In Chapter 1, Gina addresses the unexpected ways that ADHD can infiltrate our marriages. At this point in the book, she puts it simply: ADHD is a combination of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, which can create impairment in work, school, and relationships.

That’s easy to write out. But ADHD is incredibly difficult to recognize in a marriage due to:

  1. Confusing stereotypes about ADHD from the media and our culture, and
  2. Symptoms that, as Gina writes, “intertwine and crossbreed in bewildering, shape-shifting combinations.”

Highlighting Key Adult ADHD Myths

Chapter 1 primarily focuses on separating ADHD myth from fact, and I want to hit a few highlights here:

Myth: People with ADHD can’t focus.

Fact: People with ADHD have trouble directing their focus at appropriate times.

ADHD has more to do with having difficulty focusing one’s attention right now, on the most critical, task, speaker, or activity, and, once focus has been achieved, maintaining it instead of yielding to distraction.

In fact, many people with ADHD can often focus incredibly well—when they’re sufficiently interested in, or stimulated by the activity.

Myth: “ADHD means you have low intelligence.”

So. your “brilliant” partner with several advanced degrees, or your kid on the honor roll, can’t possibly have it.

Fact: ADHD occurs across all levels of intelligence.

High intelligence can actually mask symptoms, but the person with ADHD will typically expend twice the effort to achieve half of the results of a person without ADHD.

Myth: “Only hyperactive little boys have ADHD.”

Fact: Hyperactivity is only one of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

Plus, it can look completely different in adults and children. Moreover, girls and women are historically underdiagnosed due to the stereotype of ADHD being a “rambunctious boy’s thing.”

Myth: “I had ADHD as a child, and grew out of it.”

Fact: Symptoms manifest differently in adults and children.

Hyperactive children can grow up to be mentally restless adults who get lost in web surfing or video games. Also, adults and children have different levels of responsibility, structure, and support, so symptoms can re-emerge (or be controlled more effectively) in different life circumstances.

Myth: “ADHD is a secret conspiracy of Big Pharma—a marketing gimmick to sell us medication we don’t need.”

Fact: The efficacy of stimulant medications for ADHD was discovered by accident, and has been researched for more than 60 years.

Adult ADHD Myths

People With ADHD Are Individuals

Through it all, Gina repeatedly tries to pound this one fact into our heads: Every single person with ADHD is different.

Everyone will have their own symptom combination, their own maturity level, their own intelligence level, and their own personality.

ADHD is considered a syndrome: a condition with multiple symptoms that vary among the individuals who have it. That doesn’t make ADHD a ‘squishy’ diagnosis, though. Being a syndrome places it in the same category as dozens, if not hundreds of other well-recognized medical conditions that range from Reye’s Syndrome to Diabetes Type II.

However, after interacting with hundreds of partners of people with ADHD, Gina is able to give us a snapshot of what life with an ADHD partner can look like in day-to-day life.

Some of the top contenders:

  • Distractibility: being easily diverted from the intended focus of attention
  • Disorganization: losing track of time, items, and the order in which tasks should be done
  • Poor Sustained Attention: difficulty initiating and/or finishing tasks
  • Forgetfulness: “blanking” on everything from small tasks to important obligations to entire conversations.
  • Restlessness: feeling “on the go” mentally or physically
  • Poor Listening Skills: hearing only half of what was said, or mishearing huge chunks of it.

ADHD Facts Vs. Myths

“Overwhelm” Overwhelmed Me

For me, “overwhelm” was my worst offender. My disorganization and poor prioritization meant that simply getting my kids out the door fed, clothed, and clean was a huge daily fight.

I couldn’t stand making the smallest mistake (such as losing my keys). Because, that would set a domino effect into action: I’d be late to work again, and have to stay later, and then dinner would be late, and then the kids would miss baths again, and then we wouldn’t sleep well…. which meant I was so sleepy that I’d forget where I put my purse next time, and the whole dang thing would start all over again the next morning.

I hated my life.

I internalized all of my failures and thought I was simply a horrible mother and homemaker.

Then, after I started ADHD medication, I was amazed at how much more patient I was as a parent, and as a wife. I could focus long enough to remember where I put things. I could find solutions for frustrating problems—such as making easier meals or buying clips for my key ring.

For This Week’s Reading—Join In:

  1. How did ADHD symptoms show up in your life, or your partner’s?
  2. Which Adult ADHD myths had you harbored before you learned more about it?
  3. What other thoughts did Chapter 1 spark for you?

We welcome your thoughts below in a comment. Your story will help others. 

Here is a hyperlinked list of all the posts in this series:

Read More in The You, Me, ADHD Book Club Series:

And now for the preview of the chapter-by-chapter lineup: the book’s table of contents.  Chapter titles appearing as hyperlinks correspond to an essay in the Book Club. Click to read. 

We stopped at Chapter 20. Would you like to submit your own essay to the Book Club?  We welcome it!   “Finding Your Voice” is an essential part of slowing your ADHD Roller Coaster.                              

Part One

From the Tunnel of Love to the Roller Coaster: Could Your Partner Have ADHD?

Section Introduction

1    Who Has a Ticket to Ride? Spotting ADHD’s Surprising Signs (this post)

2    Laying the Track’s Foundation: What Is ADHD, Anyway?

3    Deconstructing Your Coaster: Why Each Is Unique

4    Financial Loop-the-Loops: “It’s Only Money, Honey!”

5    Driving While Distracted: The Roller Coaster Hits the Road

6    Peaks and Valleys: ADHD in the Bedroom

7    More Mystifying Twists and Turns

Part Two

Roller Coaster Whiplash and G-Force Confusion: How Many Plunges Before You Say, “Whoa!”

Section Introduction

8    First Plunge: Explaining the Inexplicable

9    Second Plunge: Managing the Unmanageable

10  Third Plunge: Breaking Down in Illness—Or Through to Truth

Part Three

Your Relationship and the Art of Roller Coaster Maintenance: Four Success Strategies

Section Introduction

Success Strategy #1: Taking Care of Yourself

Introduction: The Amusement Park’s Emergency Room

11  Strategies for Right Now

12  Solving ADHD’s Double Whammy

Success Strategy #2: Dealing With Denial

Introduction: Roller Coaster? What Roller Coaster?

13  Psychological Denial: The Fear Factor

14  Biological Denial: Not Unwilling to See—Just Unable

15  New Ways to Broach “The Conversation”

16  More Solutions and Strategies

Success Strategy #3: Finding Effective Therapy

Introduction: Calling in a Consultant to Help Retrofit Your Ride

17  Why the Wrong Therapy Is Worse Than No Therapy

18  Therapy That Works for ADHD

19  More Solutions and Strategies

Success Strategy #4: Understanding Medication’s Role

Introduction: Tightening the Brakes on the Roller Coaster

This post from Jaclyn at The ADHD Homestead touches on a range of issues within this section on medication

20  Making Connections Between Brain and Behavior

21  Rx: Treatment Results That Last

22  Maximizing Lifestyle Choices, Minimizing Rx Side Effects

23 Catch Your Breath and Take Five

Appendix A:

Adult ADHD Evaluation and Diagnosis

Appendix B:

“But I Heard That…”: More Background for the Unconvinced

Appendix C:

Three Views from Decades on the ADHD Roller Coaster





39 thoughts on “Adult ADHD Myths Vs. Facts”

  1. I know this is late, but as a person who was diagnosed with ADHD about 12 years ago (and I’m 76 y/o) because my wife recognized the symptoms – and I’ve always had them, I still struggle. You would think my wife would be supportive, but every time I fall into one of those behavior situations that you’ve described – and I can recognize them well later, she becomes angry with me and says “you never change, you been doing the same things for 30 years! I feel like giving up.” She saw my ADHD before I did, but she doesn’t seem to connect things like my social ineptitude, forgetfulness, and funky driving skills with my ADHD. It took me a long time to find a provider who suggested Concerta after years of trying other forms of Ritalin but the Concerta (authorized Generic) worked. Then after a year and a half, poof! – we went into this situation where there are no good authorized generics and Medicare Part D refuses to pay for the brand. Trigen doesn’t help as much as the Patriot generic did, but that’s what my mail order pharmacy is now substituting. So I fall back into some of the old stuff. How could my wife recognize my symptoms and at the same time not have compassion for them when they crop back up. BTW – I am a Ph. D. Mathematician, and my wife is a retire NP. I functioned well in my job as a Math professor for years (except for problems with meeting deadlines), partly because I was really good a focusing on my job. When I wrote my dissertation 45 years ago, I almost didn’t get it finished on time because of procrastination. Probably too much stuff but it’s frustrating to deal with.

    1. Hi Steve,

      I sympathize with your situation.

      re: Concerta….have you tried any non-Concerta medications?

      I offer some suggestions here (e.g. Daytrana patch, Quillivant, Journay PM, Azstarys, etc.)

      Maybe find out what stimulants you CAN get with Medicate Part D—and go from there.

      I don’t know how it works with Medicare but with regular insurance, sometimes they will except a written explanation from the prescriber as to why the brand is necessary. This usually happens only after you’ve tried the generics (maybe 2). Worth looking into.

      re: your perception that your wife does not have compassion for your symptoms. Of course I cannot possibly fathom the reasons. But here are a few common explanations:

      1. Too little, too late (harsh as that sounds)
      2. Feeling that the ADHD Partner uses it as an “excuse”
      3. Never receiving validation for their experience, their suffering …. simply expecting to keep accommodating, helping, etc. without being acknowledged
      4. Lack of proper education (I hate to say it but sometimes RNs, MDs, etc. can be the toughest to get through to)
      5. Lack of cooperative ADHD-friendly strategies.

      If you haven’t checked out my course, now would be a good time. It’s my 29th Anniversary sale (29 together for my husband and I), so it’s 29% off.

      Odds are good, it can help you both.

      You’ll receive the notification if you’re subscribed to my blog.

      Good luck, Steve.

  2. How did ADHD symptoms show up in your life, or your partner’s?
    — When we became parents, DH started to become more disorganized and unable to complete tasks. As we endured some other life changes, the symptoms got worse and worse. On more than one occasion when I left him home with the kids, he has forgotten to feed them! The talking excessively is so draining!

    Which myth had you harbored about ADHD before you learned more about it?
    –my only experience had been with younger kids, most of whom had hyperactivity. I thought DH’s symptoms were due to his upbringing (his mother doing everything for him and not giving him any responsibility growing up).

    What other thoughts did Chapter 1 spark for you?
    –self medicating with junk food!!!
    –how under-diagnosed ADHD is in adults
    –awareness, lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy. Too bad DH thinks medication is the on,y treatment. 🙁

    1. Hi Deb,

      Thanks for responding to discussion points! Taylor will also be happy to see that! 🙂


  3. Gina you do such a wonderful service – many very helpful services! I have not yet found the rx blend that works for me. If I can remember to take the genetic test I will certainly do that…
    Thanks again,

    1. Are there any “Partners of ADHDers” online support groups? I am becoming increasingly frustrated with my partner, but since there are a lot of ADHDers in this book club I don’t want to risk stressing or hurting them by saying a bunch of negative stuff about what it’s like to live with an ADHDer. Is there someplace where I can share and learn from other partners?

    2. Hi Persephone,

      That’s very kind of you. But if you speak from your experience—and not castigating every person with ADHD—it should be fine.

      And the whole purpose of the club was to air these issues publicly, so other people can know this is the range of experience.

      But yes, I founded 10 years ago a free online group, and you are welcome to join us:


  4. Kristi baucum

    I am so tired of hearing the Myth: ADHD or add meds are like speed! They make you super smart?
    Really? How?

    After being diagnosed as an adult 4 children 3 husbands later, finally getting an associate s degree, being very actively involved in all of my children’s lives and ten year age difference between the two sets I should be at an unfair advantage some think because of my illness that there is no clear blood test for?

    I struggle with exucative functioning skills, time management, lack of support from family members and extremely poor decision making results from poor choices i made when I was younger daily along with being add. Not to mention the keys I misplaced because I decided to put them in a new place. Squirrel…

    I was actually focusing on something very important I was to busy to get to earlier before my daughter called and needed her this or that. I’m sorry! I forgot your name yes I really would love to have a job! Time? Can I work at my own time or home? This type of life is chaotic my car is a mess. Yes I exercise. I’m worried time is almost up for me to get meds because I’m 38 the generics didn’t work at all for adderall. I don’t like Ritalin, how can anyone decide I’m to old to treat my illness that controls my life to the extent it does. When you take your meds you usually find your keys remember to read your daily devotional and can somehow manage a good breakfast and a clean car along with getting kids everywhere on time.

    I never really had a way of knowing what I wanted to be as a teenager because I was a parent of two by the age of 19. My mother was bi polar and dad ocd controlling alcoholic. How could I possibly have an unfair advantage? Why would anyone take a heart patient off their medicine that was working because it was time or they were to old? If meds work let them take it why should it be so hard. They don’t work trust me they only make things less difficult and a little more enjoyable. Its a life long illness not a cold or flu we get over. T

    hank you Gina please shorten to your needs. I love your blog I’d love your book too! I’ll have to try and get it! You bring everything into perspective in such an orderly way!

    1. Dear Kristi,

      Thank you so much for writing. You have me tearing up here. I wouldn’t change a word of your comment.

      Everything you describe is exactly what the public needs to understand.

      You know, there is actually no evidence that the stimulants help everyone, ADHD or not, as is often the claim.

      I took one of my husband’s Concerta by accident once (thinking it was an ibuprofen, same shape and color; I carried it for him as an emergency supply in my pill case and had forgotten about it).

      Was I smarter and super-charged? No, I felt like a little hamster in a wheel-cage!! Lots of anxious energy but unable to focus it. I had a headache for two days!

      You’re only 39!!!!! Who is telling you you’re too old for medication? Geez, you’re at that age where peri-menopause could especially be making medication a necessity. Estrogen is a neurotransmitter.

      If money is a factor, you might want to check out the pharma companies’ patient-assistance programs. I know there is one for Vyvanse, which might work well for you if you didn’t do well on Ritalin.

      There is also this savings offer from Vyvanse, I just noticed:

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I hope you win my book this time. If not, post again!


  5. new ideas i have seized from discussion posts… inability to see probable end results of actions… seeking thrill/confrontation… inability to remember what partner has said, even when precisely verbalized… inability to focus on most important tasks…
    thanks to everyone in this group.
    while i have no hope that my husband will accept medical treatment, it is a bit comforting to mentally categorize his most aggravating behaviors as Aadd with hyperactivity thrown in.
    coping mechanism: i have encouraged his extreme exercise: bicycling, running, triathlons, especially when we travel together. when he has pfysically exhausted himself, he is more pleasant to be with and comminicates a bit better.

    1. Hi Christina,

      Thanks for being part of the group. It’s a powerful thing, validation from others.

      Maybe it will even help break through your husband’s resistance to considering Rx.

      The people with ADHD I know who “self-medicate” with exercise (meaning, often to exhaustion) sometimes meet their Waterloo when they injure themselves. At that point, they might be

      Done in moderation, though, it can really be helpful.


  6. How did ADHD symptoms show up in your life, or your partner’s?
    Which myth had you harbored about ADHD before you learned more about it?
    What other thoughts did Chapter 1 spark for you?

    I copied and pasted Q’s to sTay on track..
    1-I’d say ” lost and daydreamer” were big probs ,and lack of sleep. Never quite have understood social faux pas I’d commit and overwhelming guilt for small errors in communication (beat myself up over every ” wrong” I perceived I did, wondering if I was being judged ( became very anxious, sad, isolated as a result)…my husband is just internally driven, talks ALOT (I can remember asking him while dating if he ever stopped talking..first man I didn’t have to ask ‘what are you thinking?’…ha ha (and seeing same traits in our add/adhd sons) are adhd males prone to the ‘wandering eye’ more than in others? He swears he’s never looking 🙂

    2-I thought adhd was only out of control boys that couldn’t sit still, blurted out things without being able to control themselves…

    3- I’ve thought the symptoms were hub’s workload, strict upbringing , lack of affection in young yrs, too much coffee..but over the yrs and mostly after seeing our sons gifts, weaknesses,…it is so nice to know it’s nothing ‘personal’ but genetics and emotions warring with eachother. Hub is so busy and we talk of counseling, but we are both so scatter brained about things, we just kick can along down the road til next time I’m exhausted /overwhelmed and he is stressing and tightens control IMO, ( to maintain order, chaos ,discomfort ..wish he would see necessity for help

    1. Haha, M,

      So you could have asked him, “What are you NOT thinking?”

      Thanks for responding to the discussion points!

      Your first part of #3 sounds much like my rationalizations for my husband’s behavior in our early years. Especially the “too much coffee.”

      Thanks for part of the group.


  7. I have so many stories I could tell regarding “couples counseling”, but for now, I will share the one that made me open my eyes to the fact that unless the counselor is very informed on the challenges of someone with ADHD,, it is pointless and actually more damaging to go to counseling together.

    We had been married about 20 years at this point.

    We had started counseling AGAIN, for about the 8th time in our marriage.
    we were about 3 sessions in, when we were asked to sit facing each other and tell our partner 3 things that were the top needs that we wanted from each other, and we were to repeat those back to our partner when they were finished to show that we had understood correctly.

    My husband went first, and I then said what I had heard. He then smiled and was so happy to be understood!

    Now it was his turn to listen to my 3 needs and repeat back what he had heard me say.
    I tried to keep it as few words as possible and and keep the tears to a minimum, which was quite hard because I was really hurting emotionally.

    Those of you living this life can probably guess what happened next.

    He was able to remember only 1 out of the 3 that I had just stated!

    The counselor had no idea what to say next. He was so uncomfortable and dumbfounded. I will never forget the look on his face!

    I couldn’t help myself and the next thing you know,, I had burst out laughing!! Now the counselor was really at a loss!

    Needless to say,, it was my epiphany to change my approach when seeking help for us.

    We have been married for 32 years now and I am happy to report,, I can still laugh about that day!
    ( at least for today I can 🙂 )

    1. Hey Teresa,

      Thanks so much for starting my morning with a laugh!!

      I share your pain—and humor.

      I got so tired of paying therapists to be entertained by my husband’s antics — in therapy and out. And by entertained, I don’t mean funny. I mean, they’d just sit there with their jaw hanging open! They just couldn’t believe it.

      We became so terrified of encountering another therapist who couldn’t help us that we bonded over that, over avoiding therapy. lol!

      I was so traumatized — and disgusted — that I had to just spend three years writing the first evidence-based book for therapists treating ADHD-challenged couples! 🙂

      Good for you, for being smart enough to have such an epiphany and changing tack. Lucky husband!

      Thanks so much for your comment.

    2. OH MY GOSH!!!

      Yes, at that point, what is a therapist to do?

      Nothing–because there’s nothing that s/he *can* do. 🙁 And it’s a crying shame that you weren’t referred to a psychiatrist at *that moment*.

      Wow, this makes me so angry. 🙁

  8. I love your book. It has been so helpful to me in times of stress. Now we have a new stressor, so I’m back to Chpt. 1 looking for answers. My wife of 25 years has ADD and has been on meds for the last 15 years. All of sudden symptoms are coming back and it’s like she’s not on medication anymore – but she is! She sees a psychologist who prescribes 2 meds. She takes them regularly. My question is, do the meds ‘wear out’ over time? I’ve asked her if she thinks they’re not working or needs to be adjusted and she say’s no. She doesn’t see the problems returning. I’ve asked her to see a talk therapist and she said they’re more trouble then helpful – and I can’t disagree. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Lorena,

      Is this my old friend, who even slogged through that exhaustive survey? Or another Lorena?

      Either way, nice to hear from you. I’m so glad my book has been helpful to you.

      So, tell me, how old is your wife?

      Many things can affect medication efficacy, including hormones but also diet, sleep, and nutritional status (the nervous system — and medications themselves — rely on a plentiful supply of vitamins and minerals to do their job).

      Has she gotten a thorough metabolic workup?

      The scandal is that our healthcare “system” seldom even thinks to check nutritional deficiencies.

      Dr. Bill Walsh is writing about his interesting research in this area.

      And I am planning to cover such topics in the webinars I am developing now. So, stay tuned!


    2. HI – Yes it’s me; old friend Lorena

      My wife is 65 – long past menopause.
      We have a lot of Jeckell/Hyde days – all based on a seeming ‘tone’ of voice.
      Very difficult to navigate. No to the metabolic work up. She has a quarterly
      physical and all is good and improving according to the doc. The doc is not
      aware of the ADD.

    3. Hey Lorena!!

      Thanks again for your early support.

      Yes, that “tone”. I am sorry you are dealing with that. Again.

      So, if she’s long past menopause, that means that all hormones are low. Could be a factor.

      But there are so many others. For example, our dopamine receptors start dying off around age 50. How much depends on genetics and lifestyle factors.

      A quarterly physical and yet no metabolic workup? I’d insist upon that the next time. And if you can, see a physician who can view all these issues comprehensively. (Easier said than done, I know.)

      In the meantime, adding a good multi-vitamin/mineral might provided a needed boost.


    4. I immediately wondered about age as well. Hormones can have a huge effect on medication efficacy. A drop in estrogen, such as after pregnancy, around menopause, at the end of your monthly cycle, after weaning from breastfeeding, etc. can make symptoms much worse.

      I wasn’t on meds while breastfeeding but still felt great and wasn’t troubled by my ADD symptoms. As soon as I started introducing solid foods to my son and my milk supply lowered it was a descent into awfulness. Now, years later, I still feel like my meds don’t help as much at the same dose as they did pre pregnancy.

      I’ve heard menopause is no better, so I have that to look forward to eventually too…

      Having ADD and being a woman is super complicated and difficult =(

    5. So true, Jaclyn. I wish life-scientists could invent some kind of real-time reading of hormonal levels, so medication could be adjusted in a less haphazard manner. Or some kind of implanted device that automatically detected it. Like that contact lens Google has developed for diabetics, to track insulin.

      Maybe too spooky… 😉


    6. Gina,

      Can you give more detail (or any links) about what “our dopamine receptors start dying off around age 50” means in terms of ADHD? Does that mean the thrill- / rage-seeking behaviors escalate in order for the brain to continue to receive its expected dopamine “hit”? Or something else? Also, is that the same for men as for women?


    7. Hi Persephone,

      Our brain pathways are pretty complicated. The implications of age will be different for each individual, based on genetics, overall health, etc.

      In general, I’d put it this way: the effects of declining dopamine activity for people with ADHD are pretty much the same as for the rest of us. We get more forgetful, less spry, less coordinated, etc.

      So, no, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that thrill/rage-seeking behaviors escalate in order to continuing receiving a “dopamine hit.”

      But it might mean that whatever ADHD-related challenges were evident in a younger age might become moreso with aging.

      So, yes, if the person already had difficulties regulating emotional reactions (as many people with ADHD do), that might become a bigger problem.

      Of course, we are more complicated than that. Perhaps the person has learned good coping strategies that keep temper in check, or avoid getting angry over small things in the first place.

      So many possibilities.

      I haven’t heard that it’s different for men than women.

      Here is one older study, by a prominent neuroscientist, Nora Volkow:

      Age-related decreases in brain dopamine activity are associated with a decline in motor function and may also contribute to impaired performance on tasks that involve frontal brain regions. Interventions that enhance dopamine activity may improve performance and quality of life for the elderly. The fact that correlations remained significant after age effects were partialed out suggests that dopamine activity may influence motor and cognitive performance irrespective of age.

  9. I’m not sure how to consolidate my answer. I could write a book here but will try to keep it simple.

    We will be married 32 years in July. It has always been a roller coaster. Berfore I had any thoughts of my husband having ADHD I would write in my journal that “today I awoke the sleeping giant” or that he has a Jekyll / Hyde personality. I love him. I said I was committed to better/worse, sickness/health, or rich/poor. Boy has that been a challenge. We have 3 boys, two with ADHD, and one of which was diagnosed and took RX.

    Long story, short, in November of 2011 I went to an undisclosed location for 5 days. I told my husband I didn’t know how to live with him anymore. My friend gave me a book about Adult ADHD and it was like reading my mail. I couldn’t put the book down. I had my husband look over the book since it’s difficult for him to read a book. He said it was like an open window to issues he had struggled with ALL his life. We talked about modifications we would make. Mostly me 🙂 to ease the stress in his life which triggers outbursts of emotion. We went to ADHD support groups.

    That didn’t last long. He shortly fell off the wagon and today I am shaking my head once again. How do I do this?!?

    I don’t know which personality I will wake up to from one day to the next. I am interested in following this blog and hearing other stories of survival.

    1. Hi Shar,

      I wish that was the first time I’ve heard such a story — enlightenment followed by interest followed by…..nothing.

      The person with ADHD often can’t go it alone—and often needs strong “encouragement” in staying with the program and remembering why it’s important.

      But for many people with ADHD, having a foundation of medication will be the key to making lasting changes.

      Keep reading my book — skip ahead to the medication chapters.


  10. Gina, reading this, I’m just nodding along. What you said about being able to focus, just not on the right things at the right time…. That’s me!! This is plaguing me more than ever now that I’m working from home because no one is here to redirect me! I’m really having to set up a lot of interventions to “trap” myself when I’m hyperfocusing on the wrong things during work hours!!

    That’s a funny myth, too. Because people often act surprised that I have ADHD because I’m very driven and very focused on my goals, and they think ADHD people aren’t ambitious… which is silly. I find that ADHD people, perhaps helped along by the hyperfocus (if it’s controlled in it’s direction), can be VERY driven and ambitious if they have found something they love to do!

    For me, the overwhelm that used to follow me like a black cloud caused me a lot of depression and anxiety for years. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I realised I was treating symptomatic depression, and *that* the issue with how out of control things were and why I needed getting back on track. Once I got treatment for ADHD, the depression lifted- because I was finally able to apply myself and see successes!

    I’m really looking forward to reading your new book!! 😀

    1. HI Carolyn,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write that. It’s so important for the public to understand the complexity of ADHD.

      Not only the public but therapists and psychiatrists, too. How many people with ADHD have I known who languished for years on solely antidepressants, often gaining weight and losing all motivation, but so grateful to have the crushing anxiety diminished they didn’t care. Until they realized their core issue was ADHD. And with treatment, just like you, the depression lifted.

      I’m so glad you’ve figured it out, and can go on to shed light for others.

  11. Oh those therapists! They were the worst for us and just added to our woes. As far as a therapist was concerned, my husband was loving and kind and good and I was an evil control freak who complained too much…. Which I think is the biggest myth we fell for: that it’s all just normal man behavior and not something more.

    Even now, I sometimes feel like I must be the crazy one. 🙂 Really? I get so stressed by him not picking up after himself? Normal guy behavior… What’s my problem? But it’s to such an extreme!

    1. I hear you, Robin!! Loud and clear. What you describe is so common, it’s almost a stereotype!


    2. Yes, Robin! When my mom first moved in with us, she was concerned because I was so “harsh” on Boyfriend and wanted me to back off of my “micromanagement” of such a big, sweet guy who clearly didn’t deserve a controlling harpy like me.

      It took her about a year, but she eventually apologized to me, once she was able to see (and be the recipient of) his erratic and angry behaviors. Ditto our couples’ therapist. She, too, was wooed by Boyfriend’s charm and thought I was just being a controlling witch. It also took her about a year, but our sessions eventually changed from how I needed to just sit back and let him wreck our lives (with a smile on my face) to her calling him out on his behaviors and putting the responsibility squarely on his shoulders.

      FWIW, I approached counseling with the attitude of “I’ll do everything she tells me to do, to the Nth degree, so that in the end my behavior will no longer be a factor in the relationship and the therapist will be forced to take a closer look at him.” It had the added benefit of me having solid, professionally-validated ground to stand on when Boyfriend kept trying to convince me I was the sole source of our problems.

    3. Oh my gosh, yes!!! I was constantly warned about “wearing the pants in the relationship” from our church, etc., who only knew half the story. The thing is, I never *wanted* to be a controlling person! I *wanted* to let him “lead.” I was very caught up in gender roles and tried to follow certain gender-based teachings to the letter. However, it was all useless if the so-called leader of the family couldn’t make cause-and-effect connections, thanks to untreated ADHD. 🙁

    4. Yes! I get accused of taking charge too much, being controlling, etc. But if I don’t take charge, who will???

    5. Yes, the essential double-bind in such cases, Deb.

      That’s why validation of your perceptions is so important. So you don’t continue twisting in the confusion of accepting wrongful blame and can instead focus on better strategies.

      Glad you have joined us!

  12. Truly, before living with my DH, the only thing I thought I knew about ADHD was that it was for hyperactive boys. I knew they were given Ritalin to help, but didn’t know how it worked. Didn’t care. It wasn’t something that affected my life.

    But then came un-diagnosed,un-medicated husband. I knew he was in counseling, but the diagnosis didn’t make sense to me and when we started living together, I started seeing all the other symptoms that I initially thought were willful.

    He was lazy. He couldn’t seem to do much of anything. He was on the computer ALL THE TIME. He couldn’t hold a job. He couldn’t even drive. He thought about things in a strange way, to my thinking.

    I didn’t initially notice that his parents had some strange ways about them too. I thought they were quirky and funny. And sweet. All of them were as sweet as could be. But his brother…, something was different here. He was together, smart and moving up in the world. I later learned he had a different father. Hmm….

    Once I was pointed in the right direction and started reading about ADHD it was like my eyes were opened. I was so excited I wrote to my in-laws right away. Wouldn’t they be pleased to know what DH’s real problem was?

    I was met with skepticism and basically told to chill out. Later MIL admitted she thinks she has it too and later, we were told, much later, that FIL is medicated for OCD. Then brother started having children and every one of them has some kind of ADHD/Autism/Aspbergers issues. Could it have skipped brother or was he just really high functioning?

    Anyway, finally having the tools in place to address DH’s issues and for me to understand what was happening made all the difference.

    Now he is medicated. Now I am more tolerant. Life runs more smoothly; surely not perfect, but much, much better and I couldn’t ask for much more than that.

    1. Hi Penny,

      It’s fascinating how, we might have all the pieces in front of us, but without a “picture” of the puzzle to be assembled, we might not know what we’re looking at or have a clue on assembling the pieces into cogent sense.


  13. Everytime I read things Gina wrote I feel that I,m not alone and someone understands my life to a tee. So much better than trying to talk to counsellors.

    Brilliant and very helpful.

    Everytime I read, I understand my wife a little bit better.

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