Are All With ADHD the Same?

There is some conversation going on right now in the forums questioning whether it is appropriate to make generalizations about people with ADHD.  One person suggests this is insulting or hurtful to group those with ADHD together.  Another poster asks:  ‘if "they" (people with ADHD) are all so completely different, why do we keep hearing the same behaviors (forgetting, interrupting, not handling money well, etc.) coming up over and over?’  I would like to respond to this question in the blog, rather than in the forums.

The reason that many people with ADHD forget, interrupt, get distracted, etc. is because those are the symptoms that classify them as being ADHD.  If they didn't have those symptoms they wouldn't be "named" ADHD.  But you need only have some of the symptoms on the symptom list to be classified as ADHD.  So this means that ADHD really does come in all sorts of combinations.  I run into people who have "overwhelm" as the most important part of their ADHD, others who have any (but usually not all) of these symptoms, as well:  distraction, hyperactivity, need for stimulation, defensiveness, lack of brakes, inability to read cues, anxiety, depression, etc.  I also have clients who have these characteristics (that are rarely, if ever, discussed on this site...) empathetic, sad, creative, brilliant, confused, loving, proud, willing to try against all odds, successful... you simply cannot generalize in a way that covers every person with ADHD.  We are all individuals - ADHD or not - and deserve to be treated as such.

But the symptoms – in whatever combination you or your partner has them in - are real. At times it seems overwhelming that a partner with ADHD can't seem to make the changes a hopeful (or frustrated) non-ADHD partner wants them to make.  Some with ADHD really can't get out of their own way (just as some people without ADHD can't make the changes that their ADHD partner so needs). Some don’t see a need to.  But for many more it's a matter of time, and fully reassessing who they are.  This is really hard, and may not be done in the time frame that a non-ADHD partner needs.  But that doesn't mean that they can't change - only that they haven't yet.  How to respond to that idea, and whether or not to become hopeful or finally give up, is one of the really big questions that every struggling couple faces.  (Note - it's my experience that some ADHD partners also ask this question, but often find themselves thinking that they can't give up on their angry, frustrated or otherwise unhappy non-ADHD partner because they feel they themselves have messed up and don't really deserve any better.  So your partner may not express it, but may sometimes wonder about giving up, as well.)

Where do I want this all to go?  It sure would be great if things magically, and instantly, got better for everyone at this site.  But since that isn't going to happen, I guess I simply want to reiterate that while your personal experience seems all-consuming, that still only makes it true for you, not (in its entirety) for everyone else.  As a group, you have similar experiences because you have common characteristics by definition (either you are an ADHD person or are in a serious relationship with a person with ADHD) and the good news is that this commonality means there is a wealth of information you can share with each other and learn from.  My strong preference continues to be people use this site to share their personal experiences, share what they've tried, what's worked and what hasn't.  In my perfect world, you would all think of yourselves as a learning community with a common goal - to make your lives better and easier.