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Love and other drugs

Updated: 4 days ago

All healthy relationships require paying attention to each other’s thoughts and feelings and maintaining empathy and consideration for one another. However, when in one or both people in a partnership have ADHD, this often presents unique challenges to maintaining these fundamental qualities and can cause significant distress if left unacknowledged.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are varying degrees of the symptoms, and these symptoms can manifest differently depending on the personality of a person.

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Short attention span- Does your partner seem to struggle to remain focused on what you are saying? Forget important things you told them just a few days prior?

  • Difficulty completing tasks and keeping organised - Maybe you feel like the ‘manager’ of the household, and things would ‘fall apart’ if you weren’t there to pick up the pieces.

  • Impulsiveness - Do your arguments often centres around your partners’ impulse-buying eating into your mutual plans for your next holiday?

  • Chronic forgetfulness - Do you hear the words “have you seen my phone/wallet/keys” seemingly a hundred times a week?

  • Easily distractible - Forgetting what they are saying in the middle of a conversation is one example of this… think, ”Ooh! Shiny object!”

  • Restlessness, inability to sit or stand still for long - Ever feel like you can’t watch a movie without feeling your partner fidgeting constantly next to you?

  • Talking excessively or in a fast manner, blurting out answers in conversation - Maybe you feel you are hyper-aware of your partner missing social cues when you are out with friends.

  • Sarcasm, hurt feelings, and unspoken messages don’t seem to ‘get through’ to them in the same way as other people.

How does ADHD impact on relationships?

When we meet someone and fall in love, our ‘love chemicals’ such as dopamine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are rapidly released, giving us that giddy euphoric feeling we associate with attraction. Whilst we all experience this phenomenon to a degree, people with ADHD have additional neurological factors that amp up this experience tenfold.

Adults with ADHD experience higher thresholds for stimulation and novelty-seeking, resulting in an intense hyper-fixation that we call love bombing. At the start of the relationship, Love bombing can be a very flattering experience for the keen recipient, especially when it comes in the form of spontaneous gifts, deep and meaningful conversations until the early hours of the morning, and grand gestures of affection.

However, this intense level of stimulation eventually becomes overwhelming and impossible to maintain. Once the novelty of your relationships’ shiny ‘newness’ wears off, the person with ADHD will return to their comfortable baseline, ready to obsess over their next object of fascination.

This is not to say that the person with ADHD does not still love their partner post-fixation, rather, the contrast between the love bombing and the post-honeymoon return to normality can feel like baffling whiplash for the non-ADHD partner. Coupled with the attention deficit aspect of ADHD, many mistake this abrupt shift in dynamic as their partner no longer desiring them or finding them interesting, which feels hurtful and confusing.

ADHD in adults is very different to that in children and adolescents. Getting a diagnosis even late in life can life altering. For adults you need to be assessed by a psychologist and/or diagnosed by a psychiatrist if medication is determined as appropriate treatment.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is also considered the standard therapeutic approach for ADHD and works either as an adjunct to medication or as a stand alone therapy for managing ADHD symptoms.

Last but not lease self care is also essential, as our cognitive functioning and mood are all improved with good self-care, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise will make the world of difference.