How to Deal with an ADHD Spouse

Being married to someone who is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be challenging and stressful at times.

However, having a healthy relationship with a spouse with ADHD is not impossible. To help understand the type of impact an ADHD spouse can have on a marriage and what someone can do to deal with their ADHD spouse, I have interviewed therapist Teri McHugh PhD.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

“I am in private practice and have five offices currently in LA and Ventura County. I graduated from Pepperdine University and received a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and PhD in Clinical Psychology from California Graduate Institute. I have been practicing for over 20 years. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.”

What type of impact can an ADHD spouse have on a marriage?

“ADHD can have a dramatic impact on a marriage. From my experience as a therapist I have noticed that it is very difficult to cope with the symptoms and behaviors of a spouse with ADHD. Communication is most always effected in that with ADHD listening and paying attention is problematic for the person that has ADHD as well as not completing tasks or projects, forgetting to pay bills or performing other routine daily tasks. It is also very common for a person with ADHD to have impulsive behaviors and emotional outbursts and anger management issues. There also is a tendency to have self-medicating behaviors or other addictions, such as chemical dependency.”

What can someone do to deal with his or her ADHD spouse?

“A spouse can start to initiate change in the relationship by starting to set guidelines for better communication, such as active listening, giving feedback that what was heard was correct. Dividing up responsibilities, such as household chores, bill paying, cooking, etc. Making lists and daily schedules are very important in keeping the person with ADHD more on tract and also feeling more accomplished on a daily basis. There are numerous organization tools that can be found online that are very effective in keeping someone more organized and less scattered, such as nozbe.com.”

What type of professional help is available for someone who has an ADHD spouse?

“Therapy is very effective in treating ADHD. Couples therapy can be effective in increasing communication, learning better conflict resolution skills and increasing self-esteem for the person that has ADHD and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety that also accompany the diagnosis. There are also many support groups for those with ADHD and their loved ones, which can be very helpful in understanding the diagnosis better. Education is key to better understand the symptoms especially for the spouse that may be unfamiliar with them.”

What last advice would you like to leave for someone who is having a difficult time being married to his or her ADHD spouse?
“I highly recommend couples or spouses to be proactive in seeking out help early in the relationship for symptoms of ADHD and ADD to avoid the long-term effects of unresolved resentments and negative effects on self esteem and associated symptoms of depression and anxiety. Medication is one option, but not necessarily the answer for everyone.”

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to be very effective in the treatment of ADHD and ADD, as well as the associated symptoms of depression and anxiety related disorders that can accompany the diagnosis.”

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