Can ADHD cause someone to not know they said something?

My husband today mumbled, "Of course" as he was leaving the room in response to something my daughter said. I told him it was extremely rude and mean to respond that way. He was adamant that he didn't say anything at all. I was dumbfounded. I know what I heard.

He's done this in the past, also mixing up words - saying "left" when he meant "right" and actually saying he HEARD "right" come out of his mouth. If I hadn't had witnesses in some instances, I'd think I was going crazy?

Has anyone else experienced this? I am very concerned he has some serious condition.

 

- Dawn M

 

Forums: 

"Forgetting"

I feel for you.

This is typical of my husband. I have long thought that he lies.

Just tonight he warmed up the leftovers we were having for our meal and called out to our daughter that it was ready.  I came into the kitchen and asked why he didn't call me but he called our daughter. "I did call you!", he insisted. He hadn't.

Yesterday we agreed he would come to pick me up at 4.30 and come in to buy a particular item at the shop I was in. He came after 5. He first said he had been waiting in the carpark all along. No he hadn't (I looked & so did a friend). Then he said we had agreed I'd ring him. No we didn't. 

I have usually thought he has been lying to con me. Fortunately I have an excellent memory. But he can try convincing me I got it wrong, sounding annoyed and telling me angrily and condescendingly that I forgot. But I know I remember as I am able to think back and "replay". I have to do this in my job and am good at it.

 I have long felt he treats me like a fool and feels free to lie. But now I am wondering if it is his ADD. Is it though?

Oh, yes, and he has always had a bad memory. And his thinking seems muddeled to me.

 He also seems to think I live in his head too and knows what he is thinking about. So he will say something like "Where is that book?". I say "What book is that, dear?" and he typically gets very annoyed at my not knowing.  

He is quite unable to follow a pointing finger. If I do this, he waves his head around and then typically becomes very angry at me as if I have done something wrong. He just explodes, usually by noises and disgusted non verbal movements and postures that push as if to push or flick me off. Is this ADD?

forgetting/lying

Mine does this all the time!  At first I chalked it up to a defense mechanism to make up for his ADD shortcomings.  Then sometimes I think he really does believe that he said or did something that I KNOW he didn't.  My personal favorite is when he swears that he told me about something, a party, an appt etc, but I know that if he told me I would have immediately written in on our family calendar.  Because he is so aggressive with his insistance that he is right,  I get to thinking sometimes that I was the one with the bad memory, then I realize that I never miss an appt or a special date or paying a bill or anything....he is the one that does that....therefore, its him that has the poor memory and brutal denial of it. 

Drives me nuts.

 

I'd have to say YES

And they aren't really lying because they really believe they did not say anything!

I'm ADD myself and so, I believe, is my dad. While I can't be sure if I do this myself (I definitely feel I don't!!), I know that dad does this all the time.

Example:

This is not exactly about "saying" something...but dad once showed us all a poem he wrote. It was really beautiful. I remember he had suggested that my li'l bro claim it as his own in one of his college interviews (that's bad inuf :P).

Imagine my surprise when three years down the line I see that same poem in some book. Dad never wrote it. But he ***really believed*** he did. I know for sure he would never have asked his own son to use it in a college interview if he "knew" that this was not original work. Somehow he had convinced himself that he had indeed written the poem!

There are of course many other instances, but this one always has been stuck in my head coz I thot it was serious - my brother's college admission could be jeopardised for no fault of his.

 

So yes, ADDers may not know they said something...and what's more..they usually aren't even lying when they claim this!

unbelievable!

That's just unbelievable brighthorse!  I am assuming your bro didn't use the poem?  

 My father in law is also ADD (undiagnosed, but DH got it from him I am sure)  He recently told us  that he was responsible for changing a certain law...a law that happens to be a federal law passed way back in the 50s and yeah, in reality he had nothing to do with it, he just believes he did.  The man has no education, he worked his whole life on the line putting things together in a factory, had NOTHING at all to do with this law, or anything even close to resembling this law.  Go figure.

My husband often did this before he went on meds for his ADHD...

He would often insist he had said something when he hadn't, but it was obvious to me he really *believed* he had indeed said it. I would usually replay the conversation word-for-word in my mind, and after a while I really began to wonder about my grip on reality, as he was so convinced he'd said something and he'd be immediately mad at me that I hadn't heard it.

My husband would also frequently say one word when he meant another, but he would have no awareness that he had substituted "right" for "left," for instance, and he'd simply deny it and get mad if it was brought to his attention.

Since he went on meds, the problem has gotten much, much better. It has also helped me to realize that I wasn't going crazy and wasn't literally losing my ability to process and hear spoken words (at one point I seriously wondered whether I might be beginning to go insane, as my husband was so insistent on his own version of reality and would simply not believe me when I'd replay for him word-for-word what he'd said).

Also, my husband's grammar (particularly subject/verb agreement and his use of prepositions) was almost constantly wrong in virtually every sentence. He had no ability to see this in himself, though, and once again would immediately get very offended and angry if it was quietly (and non-publicly) brought to his attention. After he'd been on meds for a while, he developed the ability to begin hearing and comprehending his own grammatical mistakes.

So at least in my husband's case, these issues are directly related to his ADHD, but are now controlled due to his ADHD being properly treated.

Fantastic Topic

I am so glad you posted this topic, Dawn. I'm feeling less upset as I read what you said and the comments. I'm struggling to retain my sense that I am ok as my husband's biggest defensive (aggressive) manouver is to try to rip away all my self confidences as if destroying me and my happiness will make him ok. Ironically, his behaviour reflects very badly on him. But I have nevertheless been struggling against hitting rock bottom after each onslaught of his. It helps a lot to know this is not my problem but rather his. I guess it's because his brain isn't working as it should but I keep thinking of what he says as if it should be carefully weighed up as if coming from a wise and  mind that reflects reality well.

My relationship with my husband is just about destroyed as a result of his behaviour. Strangely I do care about him but I can't trust him except to try to hurt me so he can feel better.

 You know that story of a bunch of couples crashed in a plane in the middle of nowhere and each couple hasa crust of bread between them? What would your husband or wife do? I know my husband would grab the bread and eat it himself and find some way to justify it through blaming me in a nonsensical way.

He does not act like my friend. How human is he? This is a serious question. I am forced to withdraw from him as if he was a vicious creature, to protect myself. No, he acts like a vicious creature. Is he really one? Actions count, surely?

And how should I reply to his awful comments? He gets livid if I ignore them. Somebody recently suggested I say either "That's interesting" (only) or "Is that fact or your opinion?" I'm still working on that one. 

 

The bread will very likely be yours...

Rosem, I know this is probably too adventurous, given that all I know about your husband is from your posts...but I get the feeling that if it indeed came to a single crust of bread post a plane crash...he will gladly handover the bread to you...and what's more...he will ***insist*** you have the whole thing

A common problem with many ADDers is low awareness of the problems they are causing. And they often end up hurting people when they don't really mean to (like in a "fit of anger").

Please don't assume that they are mean at heart. When it's something as obvious as a plane crash and one slice of bread, even the most fogged out ADDer will see the issue...and there's no doubt really about who gets the bread :-) Please don't think that we don't care!

arwen's picture

"registering" inaccurately

It's not at all uncommon for people with ADHD to do any of the following with respect to speaking and listening:

  • Say something and be unaware of that they have spoken
  • Say something and think they've said something different
  • Not say something and think they've said it
  • Hear something and think they've heard something different
  • Not hear something someone says
  • Think they've heard someone say something when nothing has been said
  • Hear something someone else says and think they've said it themselves
  • Say something themselves and think that someone else has said it

These things occur because of the abnormal neurotransmitter activity in the brain that occurs with ADHD.  If the ADHDer's mind is not focused on the conversation, what is actually said or not said does not necessarily "register" correctly in their memory.  Even if they are trying to focus on the conversation, they may have a distracting thought race through their minds that undermines the ability of what really occurred to "register" correctly.

Here's an analogy that might help you understand this phenomenon.  Imagine that you are hand writing on a postal address form that has several copy layers.  If you press firmly, the address will be easy to read on the bottom copy.  If you press lightly, the address on the bottom copy will be hard to read -- you can try to reconstruct it, but you may not get it quite right.  The memory clarity of the non-ADHD brain for a conversation is typically like the clarity of the address on the bottom copy when you pressed firmly.  The memory clarity of the ADD brain for a conversation may be like the poor clarity of the address on the bottom copy when your pressed lightly -- or worse, maybe as if the printing is not only too light, but also "smudged" (i.e., by those distracting thoughts racing through their brains).

When someone with ADHD has to deal with this hard-to-read "address" (i.e. memory), they may cope with it in a variety of ways.  One common coping mechanism is to make something up based on probability, or wishful thinking, or whatever other strategy seems desirable to them at the time, and hope that what they've made up is a close approximation.  If over many years of growing up the ADHDer gets to be fairly good at this guessing game, it can happen that they stop being aware that they are guessing, and eventually reach a mental point where they believe implicitly in what they've made up  (self-awareness is not most ADHDers' strong suit!!!).   Trust me, based on what my ADHD spouse has told me, ADHDers are probably guessing about what was said far more than most non-ADHDers realize -- because the non-ADHDer assumes that if the ADHDer seems to be remembering the conversation correctly, it is because they actually remember it -- this is not necessarily true!

ADHDers also tend to have trouble with me-you boundaries -- one of the consequences of this difficulty is that they can have difficulties recognizing and remembering what they themselves did or said or thought versus what somebody else did or said.

It's important to understand that whether the information is registered "firmly" or "lightly" or "smudged" is not under the ADHDer's control to any great degree -- they have no way of controlling how their neurotransmitters are working!  Medication can improve this, but if the ADHDer is on an appropriate level of medication already, that's "as good as it gets".  But there are "tricks" and tools that can help.

My husband uses as PDA to help him keep track of things, and he also uses it to take down notes of important conversations -- getting input from me in the process so that the record is accurate.  If the notes are lengthy, and he wants to write down some additional thoughts or questions for him to consider later on, he'll use a notebook.  And sometimes we impress something more firmly in his memory by repetition -- not unlike carefully overprinting that label address several times.

Getting him to use these tools and tricks was not easy -- it took many years of persuasion.  But now we almost never encounter these kinds of difficulties.

Re: "registering" inaccurately

arwen, I have been working on my ADD for about six years now (diagnosed when I was 34) and this is the first time I've heard someone say this. I have always assumed on some level that the problems I had with miscommunication/misunderstanding/misremembering were due to the ADD, but to actually see someone say this is such a relief for me. I try keeping paper notes, but my mind is moving so fast that my hand can't keep up with the thoughts and they get lost. Needless to say, it's affected both my personal and professional life. 

I'm sure it's somewhere on this site, but can you tell me if there is a list or something that talks about the "tools and tricks" someone like me can use for accurately noting and remembering conversations?

I'd love to use a PDA-type device, but I'm a bit of a gadget freak and my better half is against any more gadgets period. So I either have to make due with what I have (currently a Google-phone) or make a really good case for something new.

Thank you very much (and everyone else), and to the non-ADD spouses - please don't give up on us. We're trying, desperately so, to be the people that we and you want us to be. For those of us who found out later in life, it's damn hard because we have to unlearn decades of behavior. But we are trying.

 

arwen's picture

no list i know of

I don't know of any list of tips and tricks for noting and remembering conversations, unfortunately.

My ADD spouse doesn't actually use a PDA these days, he uses a cellphone that has PDA-like capabilities, including sync'ing with his Outlook calendar.  You may be able to get an upgrade on your existing device to do the same.

My husband and I have formal meetings several times a week to discuss issues, logistics and things that need doing, where we each take notes -- sometimes when my husband is having more memory problems than usual, we read them back to each other, to make sure we're on the same page.  Obviously, you can't do something quite like that at work.  However, I know myself that when I've been at work but not up to par (e.g. bad headache), I've asked people I'm talking with if they would mind waiting for a moment for me to take a few notes so I can be sure to follow up appropriately (or whatever else would be appropriate to say).  Nobody ever objected.

We've talked about taping our meetings from time to time, but never got to the point where that seemed like the best option.  For some people, though, it may be more useful than notes.

One thing that I think makes a big difference is structuring the conversation so that it's easier to "register" it correctly.  Again, you probably can't do this at work, but it has really helped us at home.  We try to eliminate all possible distractions when we talk (e.g. turn the TV off), I give my husband as much time as he needs to get the information solid in his head (and I don't do anything else that could distract him while I'm waiting), and we try to limit how much he has to work at remembering at one time.  By uncluttering the conversational environment, the "registration" seems to "take" a lot better.

Good luck!!!

Structuring the conversation

Structuring the conversation is a great idea. The challenge is that we have two small ones (3 1/2 and 19 months) so structured conversations are difficult enough already. But I love the idea.

Taping meetings at work is, frankly, not an option for me - I work in government, and they are paranoid about that sort of thing. I also have a supervisor who doesn't like me to repeat back to him what I understand the tasks to be - because if I use different words than he used, he thinks I'm changing the task. He's very control-and-detail oriented, which of course means that my whole day is one big pile of "hope I got it right this time".

Thank you for the ideas. One thing having ADD has taught me is how to be grateful to those who take the time to help me. I may not always recognize help when I see it, but when I do recognize it - I'm eternally grateful. Thank you.

Nettie's picture

In my face cues

For a fast mover, some distillation is necessary, immediately after the conversation.

1) I try to summarize the conversation (or section) at the end with bullet points, especially action items, and get the person's agreement that I've heard these items correctly.

2) I follow up with a short note, either to myself or both of us. I often use email and then star items that require action. You have to be brutal with your inbox. I sort/star as soon as I read one (or even before with filters). My husband has over 6,000 in his inbox, so I resend his on the day something requires action and follow up with a phone call.

3) I use white boards all over the place (even on the front door - it's metal and I have a little, magnetized white board to see as we're leaving).

4) I have to have visual cues, like leaving my tax docs in a brightly-colored folder on a cleared desk so I can zone in on it. I have piles of stuff in some rooms, but other places I keep clear for an important task.

Do you know your learning style - auditory, etc.? And, writing of zoning, I like this book: Find Your Focus Zone.

If an entire conversation is necessary to recall, maybe the issue is conversation style, and a moderator could help.

Learning style

I'm a visual and kinesthetic person - I learn by seeing and doing. Hearing helps, but I have to be able to visualize what I need to do, and make sure that I can do it. Which is probably while listening is hard for me - I'm already processing things and moving on with a response or whatever. I like to think I'm better than used to be, but the truth is that I have days (or weeks) that are better than others. 

The problem with notes and me is that I have a horrible time identifying the 'take-away' point - the bullet that encapsulates the nugget in the conversation. Either that, or - as I said - my mind is racing 100 miles an hour, and the writing hand can't keep up. So it's a twofold problem of not knowing what to write down, and then not being able to keep up once I figure it out. It's like I need a stenographer to record the conversation, find the relevant points, and give me the nutshell. 

Thank you for the tips. I'll try them out and see if they can work, on some level, for me.

Thank you so much!

This happens quite often in my relationship.  I am the non-ADHD in our relationship.  My mother had Alzheimers before she passed away.  When my man insists that he did not/did say something and I remember differently, it trips me out because I get concerned that MY memory is the one that's going bonkers.  I've often protested with him that I don't have these kinds of issues with other people in my life, to which he would respond with something like, "they're too nice to say anything."  I always thought that was pretty weak, because I have some very honest friends who don't mind telling me what's what.  This explains so much!!!

A related Issue & touched on just now

I have had a lot of problems when I am  accused by my untreated ADD husband of, not only talking nonsense, but also of being crazy, just like my mother, etc.

The trouble is that I grew up with a mother who had (& still has) multiple problems. That ADD list above fitted my mother perfectly. She feels free to embroder the truth. In fact, she is vey like my ADD husband. But she is and was much more volatile & moody.

I was the oldest of my parents' 5 children and parented them all, and myself & my mother. My father was the provider & came home only to sleep and be very horrid from time to time. He hung out at his clubs and was a chronic alcoholic who nevertheless seemed to function normally outside the home.

I am an intelligent, capable & educated person and am pretty sane though my emotions can trouble me. I am not ADD. But I doubt myself terribly and am very affected by put-downs as I tend to believe them. My husband specialises in nasty, nasty put downs. Verbal abuse in all its variations he has down to a fine art. And I am a sucker for it, despite my good mind, knowledge, education, etc. He calls me ridiculingly by my mother's name because I am simply & nicely trying to get him to answer me about something that urgently needs to be dealt with, and I am thrown into an agony of misery & self doubt.

I would like to be set free from my suffering. This is pretty hard when my husband behaves as he does. My mother I have the minimum to do with and I enforce boundaries with her such as refusing to keep accepting chain phone calls from her or to be endlessly talked at. It is hard to do that with my husband though I have improved some things by choosing how I act. All the counsellors, etc that I have seen say to leave him. My GP refused to prescribe me antidepressants & said to leave my husband. Maybe I should go? It doesn't seems as if he will ever change and I find his abuse to be dreadfully upsetting, disturbing and handicapping.