How Can Medication Help ADHD Relationships?

medication help ADHD Relationship?

How can medication help ADHD relationships? It can help in reducing all the ADHD symptoms that challenge that individual in every aspect of life, including domestic life and in relationships. For many, it’s a true game-changer.

In this post of the book club series, we discuss how ADHD can challenge relationships—and how can medication help ADHD relationships.  How does this happen? Lots of reasons. For example, the ADHD Partner often becomes:

  • Better able to listen and remember
  • More careful with spending and driving
  • Better able to feel and act with empathy
  • More reliable in all ways—from taking care of the children to keeping a job to being where they’ve promised to be at the promised time
  • Happier and less frustrated in every aspect of life

Chapter by chapter, the book club discusses my first book,  Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?  You’ll find the first post here: Chapter 1: “You, Me, and ADHD” Online Book Club

With this installment, Taylor J. passes the baton to Jaclyn, another fantastic writer also in a dual-ADHD marriage. Check out her blog (one of my favorites): The ADHD Homestead.

It is my extreme fortune to have two smart friends who are good writers—and in dual-ADHD marriages.  The “ADHD vs. Non-ADHD” paradigm has always rankled me.   There is nothing cookie-cutter about individuals with ADHD or their partners. Jaclyn and Taylor drive home that point.

In this post, Jaclyn shares her insights about Chapters 20-22, which comprise Success Strategy #4: Understanding Medication’s Role.  We welcome you to join in the discussion with a comment below.

—Gina Pera

Medication Help ADHD Relationships?

By Jaclyn 

My hoodie was driving me crazy. One of the seams itched so badly, I struggled to get breakfast ready for my family.

This had been my go-to hoodie for years. There wasn’t even a tag near the itchy spot, and I couldn’t feel anything when I ran my hand along the seam.

I got breakfast on the table, eventually took my ADHD medication, and forgot about the whole thing.

Around 2:00 that afternoon, it struck again.

Then I made the connection: My morning dose of Ritalin was fading. Sure enough, the itching disappeared shortly after I took my afternoon dose.

I don’t generally describe myself as an itchy person. Maybe I should.

Even after taking stimulant medication for years, this surprised me. I’m sharing it with you to illustrate just how far-reaching the effects of these medications can be. It takes years to learn just how much it’s helping.

But Gina didn’t ask me to talk to you about itching, at least not for its own sake. We’re here to talk about relationships. And ADHD. And how stimulant medication fits into that equation. Specifically: How Can Medication Help ADHD Relationships?

Medication Help ADHD Relationships?

My Journey Started with Gina’s Book

I know a little about all these things—itchy seams, ADHD medications, and ADHD’s potential impact on relationships.

My husband and I both have ADHD, though the manifestations differ greatly between us. We both take stimulant medication, though it helps (and fails to help) us in very different ways. Despite reading and writing about ADHD almost every day, I have a lot to learn.

This journey all started with Gina’s first book, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

For some reason, stimulant medications remain a divisive issue in the public’s mind. I’m appalled by the amount of skepticism, conspiracy theories, misinformation, and plain old lack of information out there.

If you want to know how stimulant medications could affect your marriage, don’t skip this chapter in the book. You owe it to yourself, your spouse, and your marriage to be educated. (No, you can’t always count on your doctor.)

That’s not to say meds offer a magic solution. They don’t. They build the capacity to set up coping systems. They can alter our perceptions of time and ourselves, helping us establish a new baseline for “normal” feelings and behavior. Meds helped me learn to recognize when something feels wrong.

Not only that, but my husband and I also discovered a lot of surprises along the way: hidden symptoms we had no idea were related to ADHD.

Here’s what we’ve learned on our journey.

Surprise! It’s ADHD!

I sought out an evaluation for ADHD at two points in my life—in my late teens and again in my mid-20s—each time because I felt like my life was falling apart.

The first time, I was (irrationally) afraid to try medication. A close friend’s bad experience with antidepressants had spooked me about psych meds. The second time, I was desperate.

My husband sought out the evaluation (and medication) for ADHD because I tricked him into reading Gina’s book.

Both of us were surprised to discover the way meds could—and could not—bring about sweeping changes in our lives and our relationship.

Medication Help ADHD Relationships?

Time In Mind: Medication Kicks In

For starters, my perception of time as it related to emotional states completely changed. I had a bad week at work and was blown away by the realization that it was just a week. A new one would begin on Monday! I no longer existed in one of two extremes: permanently fantastic or permanently awful.

In the months before I began taking stimulant medication, I described my status quo as “anxiety and panic mixed with persistent lethargy.”

On my first day with meds, I recorded in my journal: “internally, everything went quiet.”

I began setting up coping systems to put my life back together. I marveled at simple things, like how I could watch my husband unravel a tangled ball of yarn without yelling or grabbing it from his hands.

I could finally imagine getting my head above water.

ADHD Relationships

That Inappropriate, Involuntary Smile

When I asked my husband about any surprising effects of stimulant medication, he said something really interesting:

I’ve always had this odd tendency to involuntarily smile when I’ve made someone very upset with me.

While most of my consciousness would be seriously invested in the conversation, some other corner of my consciousness seemed to just be cruelly amused that I had moved someone to tears. And for some reason, that corner of my consciousness seemed to get full control of my facial muscles.

That behavior always horrified and shamed me, but I also knew it wasn’t really me.

Anyway, I was thrilled to discover that during the times of day when my medication is still effective, that involuntary smiling thing doesn’t happen.

Wow, Right?

He also used to make a sport of riling me up in front of a group of people. He’d say something embarrassing, critical, or otherwise inflammatory to spark a dramatic reaction. (My own ADHD didn’t do me any favors here). Medication almost completely removes that.

The medication also revealed how seldom his urge to eat was motivated by hunger, as opposed to “dopamine issues.” An afternoon snack habit at work had caused him to put on 20-30 pounds post-college. Now he’s back to his high school weight. But on days when he doesn’t take his Vyvanse—or in the evenings, when it’s worn off—watch out!

ADHD Relationship challenges

Limitations: Of Ourselves, Our Meds

Stimulants don’t give us superhuman powers or magically endow us with new skills. They have made it possible for me to develop those skills, but I still have my limits.

We can only focus on a few problem areas at once. Gina mentions this, and it’s something worth dwelling on for a moment.

If you’re the ADHD partner, ask yourself:

  • What are your treatment goals?
  • What do you want to improve about yourself and your life?
  • What are your partner’s goals for you?
  • What about your behavior and your relationship does he or she want to change?

If you’re the partner of the adult with ADHD, ask yourself the same questions.

The result is a Venn diagram: a critical issue to one partner may not even be on the other person’s radar.

For example, I think my husband’s work schedule is a major problem. I worry about his safety driving home because he works such long hours. He agrees in theory, but also admits: “If I’m being honest with myself, it’s the way I like to work.” Until something makes it not worth it (or not possible), his motivation to change will remain low.

While almost all of my treatment goals center around productivity and personal achievement, my husband wishes I could relax and take it easier on myself.

Fortunately, we both agree that treating others well should be a top priority.

My husband writes:

There was a part in Gina’s book where she mentioned that ADHD’ers have a tendency to antagonize others just for the novelty.

I recognized that behavior in myself immediately, and it brought me to tears as I finally accepted that I had ADHD and that I’d been the cause of so many arguments in so many relationships.

I resolved that if nothing else, I had to try to fix that.

I’m not a button-pusher, but I do have a temper and a bad habit of interrupting. Medication can widen the gap between stimulus and response for me. My words still get me into trouble, but I at least have a fighting chance of choosing what comes out of my mouth.

Medication Help ADHD Relationships?

Prepare to Troubleshoot

ADHD is a neurobiological condition that impairs self-awareness and self-perception. In other words, when you’re in it, you can’t always see it. My husband and I live with each other every day, parent a child together, and share each other’s successes or failures in life. We need to look out for each other.

To that end, we try to remain objective and open to feedback when something’s not right. “Did you take your meds yet today?” can be a very practical question, in the right context.  We try to be mindful of the timing of high-stakes conversations to avoid dealing with meds-free arguments.

It’s not perfect, but we’re on the same team, and that’s what counts.

Discussion: How Can Medication Help ADHD Relationships??

  • Do you or your partner take medication for your ADHD? Has doing so improved your relationship?
  • What symptoms is the medication alleviating the most?
  • In what areas do you wish meds could help more?

We’d love to hear your experiences on how ADHD has affected your life and your relationship—in a “single ADHD” or “dual-ADHD” relationship. Can you explain how medication helped your ADHD relationship? Please share a comment below.

Would you like an update on Taylor J, who has been leading this “You, Me, Adult A.D.D.” Book club until now?  I’m delighted to report: With her assistance, her husband found his dream job, and the family of six relocated several states away, to a mid-size city with more resources. She loves her new town and has just finished her first novel!  You will hear from her again, I am sure.  — Gina Pera

20 thoughts on “How Can Medication Help ADHD Relationships?”

  1. Gina,
    I apologize if am wrong here. But, I double and triple checked and the last comment is dated December 2018 ( I read them all) .
    I communicated my disappointment and not tried to accuse or repay.
    I’m psychologist myself and from professional standpoint your response amazes me in a bad way.
    Anyway, I understand that neither my perspective nor my opinions are not welcome here and won’t be bothering you anymore.

    1. Well, Anna, I have to say that your behavior here, as a psychologist, does not impress me.

      You “tried not to accuse”?

      This is what you wrote:

      It’s shocking though to NOT be able to see my comment. Looks like I hold NOT popular opinion that is “ moderated out “ here.
      What can I say?
      Your site – your rules.
      But surprising and invalidating – it surely is.

      Your comments have been immediately approved and have been there for all the world to see.

      I have no idea why you are not seeing them. Perhaps you are not looking thoroughly.

      I don’t tolerate rudeness and accusations of censorship on my own site. As a psychologist, you should understand the meaning of boundaries.

      g

  2. Gina, thank you for the reply and I will surely check the book.
    It’s shocking though to NOT be able to see my comment. Looks like I hold NOT popular opinion that is “ moderated out “ here.
    What can I say?
    Your site – your rules.
    But surprising and invalidating – it surely is.

    1. Anna, you are jumping to false conclusions and accusing me of censorship.

      Your comment was posted, and I responded (you saw that, obviously). And that is how you repay me.

      If you cannot find the comment, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

      Perhaps you want to get your facts straight before making accusations. You just might be making a mistake.
      Gina

  3. I do not think meds are necessarily a good thing. In my experience they made my husband focus even more on what he WANTS to do ( not what needs to be done 🙁 ) , they made him extra intense and resstless. Because of that he would hear the rest of the world ( spouses) ev Ed n less or not at all. When meds wear off he himself is exhausted from that intensity and irritable/ snappy / lack emotional control even more.
    I can compare him on meds to him before and can SURELY tell that MEDS made things for me and between us A LOT WORSE. They totally ruined the remains of communication I was working so hard to maintain. I hate meds:(

    1. Hi Anna,

      “Meds” is a very big category. You cannot know if you “hate meds” until you know your husband received proper medication treatment.

      I will bet good money that your husband, as with so many other adults with ADHD, received pitifully poor medical treatment. In fact, I also would bet good money that he was taking Adderall.

      That’s one reason I do what I do: because we cannot count on the professionals.

      If you or he are interested in improving that situation, I refer you to my first book’s chapters on medication:

      https://amzn.to/2N44BjX

      Thanks for writing.
      Gina

  4. It’s been rough and a blessing. I have ADHD-PI. The meds helped heaps and mostly lifted the fog. My partner doesn’t have ADHD, but I suspect she does. She says it’s depression, but there’s plenty of ADHD signs. I have a harder time spending time with her and that we are on different pages. I think our mental illnesses meshed well before I got treatment. Her personality and mine worked well while I was in a perpetual fog, but I can’t feel the same way now. I’m trying to make it work, but I don’t think it will. I feel awful because I made a bunch of promises and told her I love her, but I just don’t feel it the same anymore. She’s the sweetest, most kind girl I’ve ever known, but I just don’t think I can keep it up. Something is missing now, and I want to find it.

    1. Hi JD,

      Yes, what you describe is a familiar scenario…when the person with ADHD “comes out of the fog” and starts viewing the relationship with better clarity.

      Couples can often work through this, but sometimes it’s just no longer workable. Things that you didn’t notice before (or didn’t care about) suddenly come in focus.

      If you’ve suggested that your partner seek an evaluation for ADHD and she says it’s depression, maybe it is depression or maybe it is ADHD. But the ball is in her court now.

      I’ve seen some of the “sweetest, kindest” people wreak devastation due to their disorganization, lack of seeing consequences, etc. It’s sometimes easy to be sweet and kind when life is lived moment by moment, with no thought toward the future and what must happen now in order to secure that future.

      I’ve also seen dual-ADHD couples’ over-toleration of each other’s habits end them in bankruptcy and homelessness.

      Good luck,
      g

  5. I began medication about two weeks ago. My psychiatrist is titrating my dose and I’ll start the higher dose at the end of the week. What’s fascinating (and I come from a scholarly background, so these kinds of things DO fascinate me) is that when the medicine (which is supposed to be all day/long lasting) wears off for the day, I’m made very, very aware of my combined ADHD symptoms–everything from focus, mood, irritability, eating habits, follow-through. I used to think I was pretty aware of my symptoms, but I wasn’t aware of the scope of influence ADHD had over my entire life.

    While I’m looking forward to having all day/better coverage on my meds, I’m actually kind of glad that I have had the opportunity to experience a day in which I can be aware of being both in control and out of control with my ADHD symptoms. And it definitely validates my decision to go on meds in the first place.

    1. Hi Allison,

      That’s a very good point. When you are in that “transition” between medicated and not, the differences are more clearly observable.

      Sometimes a person just starting with Rx will have great clarity about the benefits medication brings. I will urge that person to “write it down—so you remember the difference.” Invariably, folks think I’m being silly, of course they’ll remember.

      But of course, many do not. Then a few weeks later, they’ll be convinced the medication has stopped working when in fact the novelty of the medication working has simply worn off. 😉

      g

  6. My DH takes medication for ADHD. He takes it mainly to improve his work performance. However, he works long hours and by the time he gets home, it has mostly worn off and I never know who is going to walk through the door at the end of the day.

    He also got this idea that he doesn’t have to take it every day (doctors are still telling adults with ADHD that they can take medication breaks!!!), so he often doesn’t take it on the weekends. It makes him difficult to live with because he is constantly talking or playing video games or picking fights.

    His self-awareness and self-perception is still very poor, so I have a feeling he is not able to tell his psychiatrist the whole truth. I will be joining him at an appointment soon!

    1. Hi Deb,

      The goal of medication is to live a more well-balanced life.

      If your husband is working long hours because he is inefficient — because he is relying solely on the “performance” power of the stimulant and not learning new organizational strategies — that’s a problem.

      His psychiatrist should be asking for your input. It should be conditional to treatment.

      I know this can be a tricky area to navigate with some ADHD partners. Keep working at it!

      g

  7. I’m still new to this. I’m not lucky as some of you discovered adhd in early stage.

    I’m a 42 years old mother I’ve just diagnosed in Feb this year with my partners encouragement and I finally found out what’s wrong with me. I was not surprised after diagnosed but feel overwhelmed and upset after I watched Professor Russell Barkly’s presentations on YouTube.

    Because if I know that I have ADHD-PI earlier I would have different life. I’m on the stage experiencing different drugs. It’s hard and I am just sooooooooo exhausted and he is frustrated too.

    I thought after found out the problem and just need to find correct method to fix it and this is take longer time than we thought. In two month time I had dexamphatamine, ratlin, Vyvsane 50, vyvanse 70 and seems like I have to go back to dexamphatamine again cause this is the only one works for me so far but it’s not stable plus not lasting long and both work and home environment needs me to be concentrating all the time and I might have to take 12 of them every day!

    It’s scary! And I’m living in the fear of my son have 30-40% of chance to have adhd because of me and he is only 3 years old. I don’t know how long my partner will tolerate this ups and downs, in and out Doc’s office.

    If I lost his support and I will have no one to rely on and he will definitely take away my only son from me. Often I’m wondering what if I found out earlier or I dont have ADHD then would my life will be just as normal as others ?

    1. Hi Theresa,

      I wish everyone with ADHD was diagnosed earlier in life. But the fact is, only 1 in 10 adults with ADHD in the U.S. is diagnosed. The rest, not.

      And even those diagnosed are typically getting inferior treatment.

      I bet dollars to doughnuts that your physician is not following any kind of meaningful method. And I bet any co-existing conditions are not being assessed.

      Sometimes you will need a second dose of the stimulant. Sometimes, a low dose of Strattera (25-40 mg) will be a good companion to the stimulant, providing a 24-7 background focus and help with mood….a “soft landing” when the stimulant wears off.

      PLEASE read my book’s chapters on medication. Give a copy to your doc. Don’t let the doc just “throw spaghetti on the wall”.

      Here is the link:

      Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder
      by Gina Pera et al.
      Link: http://amzn.com/0981548709

      Good luck!
      g

  8. You explained everything so well about adult ADHD…

    I have suffered with ADHD since I was in elementary school..when I was young back in the early 80S I took a state test and made a design out of the test but little did I know that would say I was borderline retarded..then I got placed later into LD classes but excelled in those classes..my mom still refused to put me on meds..

    I suffered many years with anger and so on..finally in college Got on retlin…which helped out a great deal..then a Dr said ritlin is for kids you need cylert..took this for many years..I hear this drug off the market..I hated this drug cylert..then I went through a series of antidepressants in which made me crazy for some reason..then I was put on Stratera in which only helped out some.I had 2 kids then my Dr put me on Stratera which was not solving my problems..then kept adding other anti anxity drugs..

    I finally went to another physician and she put me on a stimulant..omg the big diffrence..I don’t get angry fast I can keep my calm..I can focus..I don’t interupt people when they are talking I can handle noises..I’m not edgy and most of all I can sleep..I can sleep..on the other drugs I could not sleep.

    All I’m saying is Dr seem to not like to put adults in a stimulant..but if other non stimulants don’t work talk to your Dr..ADHD is real illness.that needs to be cared for with the right medication..

    1. Dear Heather,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Would you believe 10 subscribers dropped out in response to this post? I guess some people aren’t ready to face some hard truths.

      And look at you….how much you endured due to medical and public ignorance. How you endured, and kept looking for answers….your perseverance is awe-inspiring. And it’s people such as you that I write for. So they find answers, and a better life.

      Thank you. Thank you.

      g

  9. DH takes methylphenidate and an anxiety med.

    The symptoms most alleviated, IMHO, are his rages, his ability to have more insight into himself and he’s much better at being able to get out of the house without taking half of his possessions with him.

    I wish it would help more with him being able to track time, his memory issues and his inability to get himself to do chores or exercise.

    1. Hi Penny,

      Those latter issues (tracking time, chores, exercise) will require more environmentally focused strategies. Meaning, outside help in the form of, for example, an exercise class where he is responsible solely for getting himself there and the teacher does the rest. Or, a team effort in targeting chores and scheduling.

      good luck!

  10. I love this! (Though perhaps I am biased because I love everything Jaclyn writes.)
    I haven’t taken stimulant medication in years. When I was young I disliked how I felt on it.
    But when I read this…I feel like the meds might help me get on top of my life, my marriage, parenting.
    I’m gonna share this with my husband and see what he thinks.

    1. Hi Liz,

      Definitely. I encourage you to consider a trial. The modern formulations are so much smoother, with less jagged ups and downs.

      Years ago, I think they used to give too-high dosages as well. Maybe that’s what you didn’t like.

      The sad truth is that even today, many children with ADHD are not helped in adjusting to the perceptual changes that medication can bring, even if they are “positive.” It’s a big deal, to suddenly see the mess that is one’s room—and not know what to do about it. That’s just one example. There are many more.

      Good luck!
      g

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay in Touch!
Ride the ADHD Roller Coaster
Without Getting Whiplash!
Receive Gina Pera's award-winning blog posts and news of webinars and workshops.
P.S. Your time and privacy—Respected.
No e-mail bombardment—Promised.
No Thanks!
close-link