Behavioral component of ADHD treatment

Hi.  My husband has ADD or ADHD (he says its the former, but I think it might be the latter, because he cannot keep his hands or feet still when he's sitting down).  He has struggled with depression since he was a teenager but was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD just a few years ago.  He is on meds.  He loves them.  Not that he overindulges, but he's really into the pharmaceutical approach, trying this, trying that, saving meds from old prescriptions, taking nonprescription things (for example, melatonin and fish oil capsules).  I think this reflects his scientific training. 

But he seems to have problems making behavioral changes.  For example, in our relationship, as in many relationships in which one spouse has ADD/ADHD, we do very unequal amounts of household chores.  The one chore that my husband is very willing to do regularly is vacuuming, and this makes me happy, because I hate to vacuum.  But he can't seem to find a way to remember to vacuum.  He used to program his phone to ring at 8 a.m. on Friday morning and he would vacuum then.  Great.  It was a system and it worked.  Well, he doesn't do that anymore.  Another example:  he hasn't had a full-time job in almost three years.  This is a big deal to me.  I've said that him looking for a job is very important to me and that his failure to do so is approaching the point of being a deal breaker for our marriage. But he can't get himself to sit down and take the steps that are needed to apply for jobs. 

I've suggested that he get an ADHD coach.  He said that he doesn't want to spend money on this right now (valid point).  But I'm not seeing the behavior changes that would really help his ADD/ADHD and thus might help our relationship.  Any tips for what he can do and what I can suggest?  Thank you.


OH, I just saw a not so

OH, I just saw a not so distant past reflection of myself in the description of your husband.  ADD or ADHD...  I have ADD.  Or officially something like "ADHD minus Hyperactivity with anxiety"  my hands and feet are always moving.  I believe it is do to my unmanaged anxiety more than my ADD.

So...  You ADD husband believes he has found the magic pill...  I to was stuck in this belief.  I take my medication like a champ.  I have two different ones I take.  one like clockwork on regular doses, the other as needed with self regulation to fill in the gaps or give me a boost on bad days.  the meds were a God send.  A gift from Heaven. 31 years of a cloudy, clumsy head opened up to a new world.  The sun was shining and the birds were singing. I added some vitamins and fish oil to my diet.  Life was good....   For me...

It has taken my life hitting rock bottom so hard, I don't even know what direction is down.  My wife is a packed bag away from a big F U and a wave good by.  I have done so much damage with the unmanaged symptoms in my life, it may not be repairable.  I love my wife dearly...  Honestly...  I can't in words adequately explain to you what she means to me...  And she hates me.

I have seen a therapist too, and he is really good.  He has helped me a lot...  But he only knows me as I present myself in his office.  If I don't see a problem in my life, It's hard for me to explain it to him.

I hope your husband can see and accept the fact that he doesn't really have it all together.  He may feel great, but that doesn't last long without some serious change.  And when you have ADD...  it is change you can't make on your own.  I've tried...  and failed, and failed again.

And I now understand, I have already Taken WAY to much from my wife to expect her to help me manage.  

For me to see it for the first time for real...  I had to see the pain.  I don't know if I was lucky, or what, and I don't know how I saw it.  For a short time my wife wasn't angry, yelling, judging or criticizing me.  I just saw her break down and express the pain and loneliness.  It touched me so hard I had never hated who I had become more than at that moment.  The realization of what I had done has sent me spinning.  

It was that moment of openness.  she was soft yet honest.  without nagging, without anger...  that was a key to hearing her...

You being disappointed will most likely cause him to feel shame.  Be upfront with where your at, but don't be judgmental or critical.  He will have to take responsibility for the wake he leaves behind him, and managing it in the future.  You can't do it for him, but if you are able.  be positive and encouraging.  but honest about how you feel.


ADD + Anxiety here, too...

Leg and / or foot shaking / bouncing since birth :) Not H though... I agree with you to a T. The meds changed my life, instantly, but I knew there was A Lot more work to do. The meds gave me the ability to better See the damage as well as do something About the damage. Diagnosed at age 43, almost three years ago. There have been many up and downs documented in my posts here, but trending slowly upwards. The best tactic is reading about the things you have done that made your spouse angry/lonely, begin corrective behaviors, own the past bad behaviors, say you are sorry, then be consistent with the new actions/reactions and be VERY patient with your spouse noticing any changes on your part, because they Will be sceptical that the changes are lasting, real and not just the latest hyper-focus.  

Thank you both for your

Thank you both for your responses.  The fact that the hands and feet moving constantly might be from anxiety is very interesting and something I hadn't thought of.  Definitely could be the case for my husband, as he doesn't seem hyperactive otherwise. 

I have hit what I thought was bottom many times in our relationship but I don't think my husband has.  I think that me leaving might be "bottom" for him but I don't know.  It would be a hard step to take because of our finances, but I have been very tempted to take the step anyway.

Whenever I talk about my disappointment over things, my husband tells me how bad this makes him feel, and that seems to shut off both the conversation and any move toward change on his part.  I do believe that he feels shame and guilt, and I know how painful such feelings can be, but sometimes I also think that he has learned that if he says this to me, I will stop talking about issues, for fear of hurting him more.  Where should I go from here?


My DH has been a 'leg shaker'

My DH has been a 'leg shaker' since I met him. He says it helps calm his brain/thoughts to have his leg going all the time. He is AD'H'D...but my understanding for adults is that the 'H' stands more for impulse control issues and compulsivity than being hyperactive. I know that I noticed when we were in counseling, when he was a little more nervous than usual, his leg would go 100mph. So, it might be tied to anxiety as well. Calming. ??

summerwine's picture

Hyperactivity in adults can

Hyperactivity in adults can become almost constant  restlessness. That's me!

Leg Shaker Pro

I think it buffers the Insane Noise of Quiet. If I sat still for too long without Any movement, I would have been asleep ;)

My constant movement is greatly reduced, not Gone by any stretch of the imagination, but less.

Plan a time to talk

Guilt and shame are probably there for him. Realizing how you have affected the people around you your whole life is pretty over-whelming. That being said, if he thinks showing you how bad he feels can avoid confrontation about it from you I can see that as an example of a bad coping skill. I Hated confrontation... If you sort of setup a time to talk about something, then he could prepare for it mentally and not have the anxiety of a conversation in the dreaded "Out of Nowhere" scenario. Being caught unprepared is an ADDer's nightmare and the impulsive reactions can be Very unpredictable.

Seeing that you have gained some insight as to what he is going through can certainly help. I still don't believe my DW thinks ADD is much more than generic reactions that everyone has used as an excuse for a history of behaviors. The big thing is the He has to begin to un-do these old comfortable coping skills. It is possible...

Thank you again for your

Thank you again for your insights.  They're very helpful to read. 

I know there are a few reasons why it's so hard for me to accept my husband's unwillingness to work on his behavior.  1) I'm very active and motivated to try to change things.  I never give up.  I refuse to think that I might have no influence over a situation.  Now, obviously, this belief, taken to its logical conclusion, has some holes.  There are things that I can't control.  But for many things in life, believing that I can change and affect things is a useful attitude to have. 2) I'd much rather change my behaviors than take medications.  Again, not always a good thing.  But it does affect how I feel about my husband's approach to ADHD.  3) I had a difficult adolescence; I went through serious emotional problems, I had major therapy, and my mom said at some point that I had screwed up the family.  So I've been there and done that.  I felt mad and ashamed when my mom blamed me for things, but instead of hiding, I tried to clean up my act.  Seeing my husband not try to work harder on his "act" is hard for me.


You sound very motivated and this quality is absolutely needed. It is totally true about not being able to change things out of your control. I really believe that the meds are only part of the answer and that the main portion of success lies in what you learn about what challenges you face, own what you have done, apologize to those you have hurt and strive to make new behaviors the ones people expect from you, not the old precedents. It takes a Long Time to change what is perceived, which was hard for me but I understood that the train wreck took a long time to start and would take a long time to stop. My meds help make me feel better, communicate better in real time, which started to rebuild a little self-esteem which was a real issue for me. 

I'm sure it's hard for you and your spouse has got to do the work himself. It has been up and down for me for almost 3 years, but I am going to make things better for me and my family. I wish I knew how to motivate some of the ADDer's who resist bettering things. My motivation was saving my marriage. When I think how close it came to the edge, it still scares me today.