Many people mistakenly believe that ADHD is a problem seen only childhood -- one that children "grow out of." Yet, about one-third to one-half of those who had ADHD in childhood -- nearly 5% of Americans -- continue to have it into adulthood.
The inattentiveness and difficulty finishing tasks that made it tough for children to sit still in school can evolve into self-esteem issues, trouble holding down a job, and substance abuse problems. These symptoms of adult ADHD can also put a real strain on relationships.
The exact causes of ADHD are not known.
Experts do know that ADHD has a strong genetic component. In addition, they think that genes that control the levels or functioning of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters seem to be different in those with ADHD.
In some cases, though, there is no genetic link to ADHD, but other common behaviors, such as smoking or drinking during pregnancy, as well as other obstetrical complications have been linked to ADHD in children.
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Many adults with ADHD also have never been diagnosed. Until you know you have ADHD, you can't get the right treatment for it and your relationships could suffer.
How Does ADHD Affect Relationships?
The hallmark symptoms of ADHD -- forgetfulness, inattentiveness, difficulty completing tasks, and impulsivity -- can all wreak havoc on relationships. All of these issues can be complicated even more if children are in the picture.
Here are some of the problems you might face if you or your partner has ADHD:
Difficulty listening and paying attention. An individual with ADHD may "zone out" or talk out of turn, making it difficult to communicate. It can also cause the partner to feel as though what he or she has to say doesn't matter or isn't valued.
Trouble completing tasks. ADHD can lead to poor organizational skills and forgetfulness. A man with ADHD may miss his wife's birthday or their wedding anniversary, or may forget to stop at the store on the way home from work as his wife had asked. This forgetfulness may make his wife feel hurt and think that her husband doesn't care, when he's actually forgotten because he has trouble staying on top of things. That same inability to finish tasks may translate into a lack of commitment when it comes to marriage or other relationships.
Inability to handle responsibilities. Someone with ADHD might forget to pay the bills, neglect to clear a dangerous pile of branches from the backyard, or leave a toxic cleaner on the sink while children are playing nearby.
Impulsive behavior. People with ADHD constantly need stimulation, and may fail to think through the consequences of their actions. This can lead to reckless, irresponsible behaviors (like driving too fast with the kids in the car).
Emotional overreaction. Someone with ADHD may lose his or her temper easily, leading to major misunderstandings. Arguments can quickly spiral out of control, because the person with ADHD is unable to talk through issues calmly.
ADHD can destroy your marriage or relationship if you don't get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.