In Consultation

In Consultation

Hidden in Plain Sight: Adult AD/HD is Too Often Unrecognized

By Gina Pera

March/April 2011

Q: A couple has asked me to help them deal with the husband's new AD/HD diagnosis and their past 20 years of discord. Financial problems loom large, and both seem exhausted.
Where do I begin?

A: You describe an all-too-familiar scenario. By the time couples finally realize that adult AD/HD is the common thread running through their long-term woes, they're often hanging onto their last, frayed nerve—and maybe their last dollar, too. It often takes a decisive event—discovery of secret debts, a job loss, an affair, an eye-opening article about AD/HD—to focus attention after years of missed red flags.

It's not solely the symptoms that afflict relationships, though adults with untreated AD/HD have roughly double the divorce rate. It's also the years of misattributing the symptoms to lack of caring, selfishness, passive-aggressiveness, and immaturity. Undiagnosed adults often lug around a lifetime of poor coping strategies and cognitive distortions; over time, the same becomes true for their mates. With both people reacting blindly to the effects of AD/HD, which counseling frequently doesn't identify, their life together can feel like a wild roller-coaster ride.

Jeanine complains she's been riding the roller coaster throughout her 20-year marriage to Bart, trying to hang on and "manage the unmanageable" of his chronic forgetfulness, perpetual tardiness, disorganization, and erratic sleep schedule. She repeats a common…

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