ADHD & Personality Disorders

My husband has severe ADD, he takes focalin and suffers all the traditional ADD symptoms, additionally he has a deep sense of sadness, feels worthless and masks his lack of joy with either a funny, upbeat, loud, annoying, or know it all personality. Shortly after our baby was born 2 years ago he began to display anger when our baby cried and his lack of self esteem really began to show through, only to me, not to others. He never complained about anything in our marriage and then all of a sudden declared he was unhappy and moving out, I begged him to finally see a therapist, something I've been asking him to do for years, he sees a psychiatrist but all he does is refill the focalin. A month later he moved out and I discovered a 6 month long affair with a girl he introduced me to. I of course filed for a divorce. The girl he had the affair with quickly stopped speaking to him and his world crashed around him. Suddenly, he realized he was all alone and had ruined his life and all that he loved but felt it is what he deserves as he is worth nothing and deserves nothing. I believe he has very strong traits of borderline personality disorder and some of narcissistic personality disorder. His therapist has told him he has a spending addiction (no doubt about that) and a sex addition. I find it hard to be angry at him anymore given all of this, I just feel sad and hope he can get help so he can be the father his baby deserves. He has even started to hurt himself, cutting himself and hitting himself. He tells me that his therapist agrees that he has traits of both BPD and NPD but says that he doesn't have the full blown personality disorders but rather the traits are caused by both the child abuse and abandonment from his childhood coupled with his ADD. He says he has a dark, deep, blackened hole in his soul from where the love of his parents should be, and it seems nothing can fill it, but he continually tries with all the destructive behavior. He says that the therapist has suggested that perhaps these disorders don't exist but rather feels they are all just symptoms of severe ADD. I'm just wondering if you have heard that such is the case as well? And is it possible to recover from this, not cure the ADD, but at some point not feel totally worthless and that you deserve nothing and stop engaging in such self destructive behavior? I'm very concerned for my husband and want my baby to have a father she can have a meaningful relationship with.

I was searching for

I was searching for information on Adult ADHD and personality/emotional disorders and came upon this post. I don't see and comments or helps after this woman's post. Dr Hallovwell? Do you have any thoughts on this. I too am interested in hearing what you think about the poster's concerns and questions. If the "answer" is on another link somewhere, please post that link. Thank you!

Any Update

I too am at a breaking point in my marriage. Same at the above post, I found all the same traits after our son was born. Of course, each person's situation is different, but Thank God your husband is getting help, mine refuses to acknowledge a problem. His natural mother is on various medications for anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia...but any mention he might be suffering the same is always viewed as an attack on his mom. Whether the marriage lasts, at this point I too just hope he gets help. Besides our son, he has 2 other children who suffer from his challenges. On top of everything mentioned above, there didn’t seem to be mention of denial or transference of blame? I feel my husband is a mirror of the one described above, but no matter how we slice our problems it always ends up my fault somehow? I'm open to taking blame, as I always have and accept that I'm not perfect, but I've begun to refuse to talk to him, argue or fight with him, instead, I find myself just saying "save your breath, I know I'm wrong, I'm sorry, bla, bla, bla..". There's nothing more frustrating than trying to make a marriage work, give your kids the best life, survive adulthood, with someone who continuously behaves this way, requires everything to be centered around him and about him, refuses to exercise his brain and learn something new to move forward in life, is constantly pessimistic about everything good, has an excuse for everything (to aid denial), blames you for everything wrong in his life…AND…when for a little argument, thinks the world is ending and packs up and leaves me to deal with the fallout-then once he’s mentally stable he looks to come back. I've considered marriage counseling, as I was tired of the revolving door, I’ve told him either he’s in or he’s out, but there’s no in-between…but why beat a dead horse...I've been recommending this for us the last couple years, he refuses to participate, saying he's fine and that it's all me and that I should go myself (trouble is, I did, I’ve learned some great stuff about myself and some really good techniques to dealing with all this) BUT…At this point, I feel like it's time to pack my efforts away and just wish him the best for himself, his all of his kids, and with the next victim. Any advice or opinion would be helpful.

My husband has full blown

My husband has full blown ADHD, he takes ritalin, lexapro, librium and wellbutrin and is fighting with depression, also.  Was diagnosed about 2 years ago, he is 52.  He also tries to mask his lack of joy with a loud, annoying, know it all personality.  My husband used to scream and yell at me when our daughter was a baby and she would cry, by saying hurtful things like "can't you shut that kid up".  I remember it so vividly and wondering what was wrong with him and after many outbursts like that, I knew I would be caring for my child alone.  It turned out exactly like that and now he has a very strained relationship with our daughter.  My husband never complained about anything in our marriage either.  Of course, because I was pretty much taking care of everything.  But then one day he hit me with the same stuff "unhappy, doesn't think he has ever loved me, etc".  My husband suffered from abandonment in his childhood, too.  His father died when he was very young and his mother, who had issues of her own, kicked him to the curb when he was still a teenager.  He never says anything but I think my husband has the same dark, deep, blackened hole in his soul also, from a lack of love from parents early on, through no fault of his own.  He is in therapy but I can see it is going to be a long, hard journey.  Good Luck to you in your situation.     

borderline and narcissistic personalities


Hi, Dr. Ned Hallowell here. new Submitted by NedHallowell on Mon, 05/18/2009 - 11:44.

Hi, Dr. Ned Hallowell here.  ---  I was reading some of these posts, and I wanted to comment on the issue of the personality disorders that have been mentioned, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).  Not knowing the individuals who are being described, I'll keep my comments general. 

          BPD is a severe condition, and it cannot be caused by ADD.  ADD may of course co-exist, but treating the ADD will NOT cure the BPD (as treating the ADD so often does cure co-existing depression or anxiety disorders).  The symptoms of BPD include rage, devaluing of loved others, substance abuse, self-injurious behaviors like cutting or making suicidal gestures, flipping from idealizing a person (such as spouse or therapist) to demonizing the same person, manipulation of others, feelings of inner emptiness, a desire to be "filled up" somehow, often extremely intelligent and creative as well as dramatic, usually a history of childhood abuse or abandonment.  These individuals often require psychiatric hospitalization.  They require intensive, ongoing psychotherapy by a person skilled in handling this highly volatile condition.  Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is often the best therapy, sometimes in conjunction with medication.  If you are married to a person with BPD, you MUST get the proper skilled professional help, for your spouse, for you, and for your family.  Do not stop until you have found the full supports and professional help that you need.

          Narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD, is also a highly difficult condition to live with. They are unable to love others.  They see others as an extension of themselves and are unable to empathize with or give to others.  The person with NPD feels an inner worthlessness.  He deals with this by getting others to praise him all the time.  He requires constant adulation.  He can never get enough.  He may get this praise through high achievement (many of our top achievers are narcissists) or through manipulation of others.  He is fundamentally unable to love, either himself or anyone else (I use the male pronoun, but women can also be narcissists).  He is a drain to be around, as his need for attention and ego-boosting is insatiable.  If he senses that he is being in any way devalued or dissed, he becomes rageful, even dangerous.  If you are married to a narcissist, you probably feel lonely in the marriage, worn out by how much emotional support you have to give and how little, if any, you get, and you probably feel afraid of the rage attacks that can come out of nowhere.  Psychotherapy is indicated for the narcissist and for the spouse as well.  There is help, but you absolutely cannot do it alone.  You, the spouse, must find a good therapist.  Often the narcissist refuses to get help, but you, the spouse must get help for yourself.


Does he really have Narcissistic Personality Disorder???

I just had a temultuous six month long relationship with someone who I thought had ADD but after doing more research I'm convinced it is really NPD (or maybe a combo of the two).  Especially after reading this masterpiece of a book that 63 Amazon readers gave five stars too - "Malignant Self Love" by Sam Vaknin. 

I'm in therapy now because of this experience.  I thought I was a mature (49), headstrong woman and I'm flaberghasted that I was taken for this ride, swindled by his charm, reluctant to stop even with the red flags screaming.  When I was four months into it I knew I wanted out then when he just vanished and stopped calling, instead of the relief I knew I'd feel, I was devastated.  Probably because of the ease that he was able to throw me out of his life when I'd invested so much.  There's no chance of being friends with someone so evil.  I was willing to do that - I'm friends with all my ex's - but a person like this doesn't deserve that.

If you are confused whether your self centered mate, or you, has ADD or not, read this book!!  It is a serious eye opener.


Im the one with ADHD and he was the one with NPD

15 years was almost in the end the death of my until he finally left in May. My progressively out of control ADHD symptoms, depression (including suicidality - NOT like me!!) & anxiety have all just about evaporated overnight (although I am still somewhat anxious, suffering PTSD & feeling full of shame). As my head as cleared and Ive been getting support of a therapist, specialised support group, a couple of gorgeous friends and a bit of education it is all just falling into place - click click click! Horrifying to more fully realise what has been going on (I found out about years worth of lying, cheating, deception, deep betrayals & ruthless backstabbing - really shocking spooky weird stuff!) I nevertheless am hugely relieved to at last be able to make sense of my life and to realise that I was not in fact going crazy at all. My self confidence, sense of reality, and trust in my own judgement had been seriously undermined for years but already these have started to improve and I have a sense of hope back in my life for first time in years. My ADHD which of course I had a sense of shame about became just one of many things he used against me to blame me for everything wrong about myself, the relationship and his happiness (or deep lack thereof).

I'm with ya.

I agree it is hard to distinguish between ADHD and BPD/NPD or narcissistic traits, because when you break down the list of typical behaviours, they share many things.  Unfortunately, the DSM-V is diminishing the role of NPD in diagnosis, but there’s still much to be learned from its study.  I too believe I have a spouse with non-diagnosed ADHD, but also learned narcissistic behaviours.   Her mother who has severe attention deficits (and NPD) has severely emotionally abused her and still does so even though my wife is a successful adult.  For example, her mother tells her she’s fat (actually she weighs 120lbs), told her she’s stupid (actually she graduated from an Ivy program with a masters degree).  It’s left my wife with a horribly fragile self esteem and severe oppositional defiance from an irrational controlling parent.  It may not be that our spouses have a full-blown BPD/NPD, but rather, they learn these behaviours as a result of living with their abusive BPD/NPD parents.  Combine that with ADHD and you have a spouse who expresses these behaviours due to both ADHD and severe destruction of self esteem from emotional abuse of narcissistic parents**.  This leaves us unable to approach our spouses with any concerns that we have, even when presented in the most loving and passive manner.  Unfortunately, our spouses will react to adversity using only the tools they have been taught by their parents.  These tools generally consist of ignoring, denial, rage, gaslighting/lies, manipulation, insults and name calling.  Our spouses would rather tear us apart than face any form of reality.  It's like a perfect storm.  So ultimately, these behaviours go unaddressed.  This leaves the non-ADHD spouse hopeless.  I feel horrible for my wife in knowing what she’s dealing with, but I the same time she will continue to destroy our marriage and in the end – destroy me.  So in the end, it really is an issue of your own survival and mental well being.  It’s not fair, but we must come to terms with it. 

**For example lack of empathy; narcissists lack empathy because they are fully engrossed in boosting their self esteem and will destroy anyone in their path who threatens it.  ADHD's lack empathy for sheer lack of focus and the need to search for greater stimulus - which leaves no time to consider their spouses feelings.  In researching NPD, its funny that scientists state that it is difficult to diagnose because many NPD's know the socially correct answers and use them to gain praise or the assessors or will play the victim.

Ignoring; a narcissist will ignore those who no longer feed their ego.  Especially people they’ve been in long term relationships with, because those people see the ugly truth of the narcissist and will no longer participate in their self-aggrandizing charades.  So the narcissist either tries to manipulate them or then ignore them/leave them.  The ADHD will hyperfocus on you similar to a narcissist, not necessarily because of their ego, but because you are new and highly stimulating and exciting.  However, that stimulation fades once the infatuation chemicals fade; so the ADHD moves on and finds a new source of stimulus.

Anger/rage/volatility; narcissists rage because they take every little infraction deeply personally and as a threat to their self worth.  So what looks like a small disagreement, plays into a “life-threatening” encounter with a narcissist.  ADHD’s apparently tend to lack introspection and have a greater tendency to be frustratingly distracted.  They often express that frustration with emotional outbursts. 

Hard to distinguish between AdHD & NPD

Hi, I agree that SOME symptoms of ADHD & NPD might APPEAR on surface to be similar. In my case (as the ADHDer), my difficulties with attention (which can fluctuate between significant innattention and significant tendency to hyperfocus) certainly I can see might appear to suggest significant self centredness & lack of empathy &, especially if Im feeling, tired stressed or overwhelmed, I can be impulsive & this includes being prone to becoming easily frustrated & snappy. These symptoms for me are harder to manage if I have too much on my plate. I find multitasking extremely difficult & taxing - as a mother to a daughter with Innattentive ADHD (like myself), wife of 15 years (to someone who turns out to most probably have fullblown but covert Form of NPD), breast cancer survivor (recovering still years later from the impacts of this on so many levels), daughter to rapidly aging parents, and a professional with a responsible, demanding & complex job, I am forever challenged in my ability to stay focused & organised - it often takes massive amounts of emotional & mental energy & frequently extra time to complete & attend to the numerous tasks & responsibilities of my day to day life! Medication has certainly assisted my ability to focus (hence not needing to work quite so hard to keep it all together).  

However, I would NOT describe myself (nor would ANYBODY who knows me well & has known me well over many years - apart from my ex NPD husband of course) as someone lacking in empathy or the ability for introspection, self awareness, self reflection or personal insight. In fact I (or anybody who knows me) would describe myself as quite the opposite! I am capable of being highly empathic & self aware & open about my shortcomings & frailties - in fact it is significantly a part of who I am. Perhaps these traits have been honed by years of therapy (that I still undertake as necessary - as I am presently) & training & experience as an art psychotherapist. Unfortunately, these very traits were some of the aspects of me that my ex was attracted to & systematically exploited, used against me & undermined my confidence in (as well as so many other aspects of myself). I am still trying to recover from this and so much more after 15 years of being subjected to consistent & escalating covert, insidious psychological & emotional abuse & manipulation. 

And as I understand we all have Narcissistic tendencies and Narcissism can be understood as being on a continuum - from healthy to pathological. Under stress etc, we can all be susceptible to moving up this continuum temporarily. And of course as Alex has mentioned, living with someone with significant, more enduring Narcissism will of course mean some of this rubs off on us to some degree. But neither of these factors equates to having full blown NPD or even being far enough up the continuum/spectrum (even id not fully "diagnosable") to be at a minimum psychologically dangerous to be in a relationship with. 

Perhaps Im oversensitive & perhaps not all Adhders of course are the same in their capacity for empathy or insight into themselves, but I do slightly take offence to the idea of being likened to someone with a sever personality disorder (especially having been the victim of one who was nearly the death of me). I am sure that was not Alex's intention & yes as Ive just mentioned, perhaps I'm being oversensitive (it has only been 7 months since my separation and I am still somewhat reeling from the devastation of my experience although doing much better than I was) but just thought Id share my perspective and feelings about the subject. 

Nevertheless, Im very grateful for & appreciative of these discussions and hope they can continue! 

Thanks so much to you all! xxx


Hi Katetd.  I'm hope you're doing well as we approach the (sometimes most dreaded) holiday season.  Your post provides a lot of insight and is very interesting.  It's good for the non's to get that perspective.  It sounds like you've had a serious experience with one who manipulates and exploits, it must have hurt horribly, even when "coming out the other side" and realizing how bad it was - the anger/hurt you feel towards the person and yourself is very difficult.  I think I still may be in the process of coming out the other side in facing a loved one with such behaviour.  I hope you have an enjoyable holiday with friends and family that truly/freely love and welcome you.

I didn't mean to suggest that ADD'ers are same as NPD/BPD'ers.  The reasons for the outwardly hurtful behaviours is very different.  My post was directed to the original poster of this thread, who was in a situation where they had reason to doubt that ADHD could explain all of their loved one's behaviours - especially where there's intent to hurt and control.  I only meant to express my sympathy with her situation, and offer some things I have learned in working with professionals that I have supporting me.   My counselors and various authors have suggested that those with NPD or deeply engrained/learned NPD traits would rather destroy me before love me.  As you and I have both learned, no one should ever tolerate that.  I was just trying to convey to the original poster that those with real NPD/BPD will not have the capacity to freely love you.  Although those with ADHD may express some hurtful behaviours like ignoring and impulsive rage, their reasons are entirely different and not malicious - they are capable of moderation.  In a horribly terse manner to the OP, one's worth the fight (ADHD), the other is not (true NPD/BPD).  I hope the OP can navigate her muddy waters where these to conditions meet and determine what she is dealing with and if it's worth fighting for. 

Best wishes to all over the holidays. 

Thanks Alex!

Hi there! I'm sorry I missed your reply! I haven't checked in for ages! Thank you for responding, I really appreciate it. I did suspect you did not mean any offence but was probably just feeling over sensitive at even the idea of ADHD & NPD put anywhere near the same category as each other...and of course because of my tendency to impulsiveness & inattention I probably didn't read the full thread and just reacted to what I first read!! I can't exactly remember, but it is quite possible - and if so, I apologize for going off half cocked!! :D 

It was a tough Xmas & I experienced another confirmation of how truly vile my ex he doesn't have our daughters best interests at heart at last vestige of hope gone... so I was pretty rattled! However, I can happily say my daughter & I are doing much better & I am learning to deal with him much more effectively! I have to say though that I've had to use the support of an online closed group for victims of Narcissistic Abuse, see a therapist who specialises in working with victims of narcissistic abuse, read up on & learn as much as I can about what makes Narcs tick & how they operate, as well as the particular impact of this type of abuse & what is require for recovery & importantly, if I have to deal with bugger how to deal with him appropriately & safely!! So I've nicknamed myself the "Ninja Spiritual Warrior""! :) and I'm giving back by helping out newcomers in the online group from all round the experience pales into insignificance to some peoples experiences...truly truly mind boggling!! What a loss of innocence & lesson I have learnt about the best & the worst of humanity in my time!! Phew! 

Hope 2014 is going well for you Alex & thanks once again so much for responding! <3