Is being unobservant a symptom of ADD?

My husband came home from work and I went to run an errand in his car. (Both our names are on it, but he usually drives it.) When I got home I asked him "So how long has your windshield been broken and how come you didn't tell me?" He did not believe me that his windshield was broken and had to go out and look at it. He has no idea how long it's been broken. This is a man who drives hundreds of mile s a week. I was last in the car Saturday and it wasn't broken then.

My question: Is it typical for ADDers to be that unobservant? Are they really in that much of a fog? Granted, he's out of his meds and I can't get him to go by the doctor's office and pick up a new prescription. Anyone had a similar experience?

My husband is ADHD and has

My husband is ADHD and has this same many things seem so out of his 'scope' take that for what it's worth. Not sure if it is ADHD related or not, but I know many of them describe the inability to see 'messes' around it might be the same thing.

Seems like unobservant...

There have been one million times in my life that I was looking directly at the object I was looking for... If it would have been a snake, it would have bitten me... I know, I know :-)

It is similar to people telling me I have a hearing problem. In a noisy restaurant you could be sitting right accross from me and I would try to hear you, but you had no chance because there was noise coming at me from every direction. The Net Affect is I hear Nothing. I even had mine checked and my hearing was Good for my age!

Picture an aisle in a grocery store of cereal boxes. I used to go up and down the row 5 times before I could see the box I was looking for. To me, before meds, I saw a blurry sea of colored similar sized and shaped objects. TOO many visual signals firing at me at once.


gigs26's picture

Yes, common - but not a fog

Yes, it's very common for people with ADHD to be less observant than most - in fact my adult ADHD therapy group spent an entire session talking about observational skills.

But in that therapy group, at least, it’s not about being in a fog, but about our attention being consumed by something else – sometimes appropriately and sometimes not, because we are struggling to regulate our attention.

Many of us struggle to pick up on social cues that seem to come easily to others, such as reading people's moods/body language/etc.; we’ll walk out the door without noticing the letter on the table that we're supposed to put in the mail; we’ll scour the kitchen spotless but forget to put the milk back in the fridge; we don’t realize the phone is ringing when we’re working. Sometimes it’s an inability to keep our attention away from something, like if the TV is on in the next room we have to go turn it off to have a conversation; we can’t just tune it out.

It’s the opposite of a fog – it’s having too many stimuli coming at once (Less than a ¼ tank! Meetings coming up! Traffic! Destination! Current events! Speed limit!), without the filter a non-ADHD brain will more readily apply.

Body language, for sure...

My wife and I go through Big Miscues in the realm of body language and facial expressions. She aways sees a look on my face and will say "What's wrong?, You look like you have something to tell me?, Why are you mad, sad, glad?", and so on... Before my diagnosis I would always tell her the she needs to go to Facial Recognition School :-) As it turns out it was me never getting the visual cues and since I did not ever see them, I must give off cues that are completely off the mark. Sometimes it is kind of funny, sometimes not... The meds definitely help me see ques I never saw before, and I have to learn how to react to them too.

I think one of the most important changes has been "Time Awareness" the meds help slow things down, less "(Less than a ¼ tank! Meetings coming up! Traffic! Destination! Current events! Speed limit!)", so my days are thought through and better planned. Now because of the time awareness I start to get agitated when people are poking along like they have all day, or trying to shove extra agendas into an already busy day. I am still learning to adjust...

The whole "More Observant Me" is also not nearly as laid-back as I used to be either... Good and Bad, I guess.


Your self awareness, and

Your self awareness, and ability to verbalize it, are impressive to me. So, would you say that you're more easily angered now? Does this manifest itself in all sitatuions? (home, work, in the car, grocery store, etc)

As you may know, my husband tried Concerta and Vyvanse and both made him really irritable. He was not easily irritated before meds. He was 0-60 in 2 seconds afterwards. I think now, looking back, it was due to being on a dosage that was too high. Did you always notice your shorter fuse or is it something you just started to notice? (don't remember you mentioning it before) Anyway, if it is a new 'symptom', that it could be related to a recent medication increase? Does your wife notice? What does she say about it, if she does?


I immediately noticed less anger after I started taking my Adderall. I was always pretty laid back, because I would not react until something was really blowing up in my face. So... Laid back, held back, bottled things inside, but on rare occasion "The straw that broke the camel's back" Explosion (Never Violent...) and very rare most people would never believe I could have a bad temper before the ADD discovery. Now I feel like I am learning to react in a more timely basis, but it has been a learning experience. I can experience things that can make someone mad or irritated, that I would never have realized before or hold back because I would not be able to respond in a way that would make an attempt at rebuttal worth the risk of looking dumb. I will react now, not explosively, but react in ways I never did before. Arguments with my wife drove her crazy because I shut down, she would speak for me, put words in my mouth and know she was right because I could not say anything. So in the "Be careful what you wish for scenario" I react with my side of the story or opinion and It catches her off guard she get's defensive and I am in debate mode with clear thoughts. Weird... This is the one area that she will admit ADD meds are doing something.

I think I can be a little irritable at times, but nothing really major... I've asked my wife, because I can get irritable when my plan gets interrupted or the drive through messes up my order or I'm finishing a project and someone stops by or calls and I know my time is running out and I am trying to be a guy who remembers things and finishes projects and I've got a bunch to prove. The awareness of all the things that get you distracted and make you look like that same guy from ADD-land make me a little cranky    :-) Really I feel better than I have in my life. I do know that Exercise is Key now in the big picture. I injured my hip/tendon/lower back and got out of my walking routine for about a month, the first day I walked early before work, I noticed how great I felt all morning. A lot less cranky feeling that day, SO I need my walks along with Adderall and reading posts like yours :-)


So, would it make sense to

So, would it make sense to you that someone with ADHD could bottle up weeks, months, or years worth of stuff...and then when it all adds up and comes to a head, there is a 'shut down' period..because of this inability, you describe, to deal with stuff in the here and now?

Total sense...

I was going through life juggling the right amount of oranges, until 2009, when I left my company after 12 years where my wife worked as well, the new job was a big pay raise with big expectations, I lost someone who was as close to me as my dad, marriage was on auto-pilot like room mates, and more lead my anxiety attacks that sent me to the doctor and ended up discovering the ADD... So, yes... I bottled up, avoided conflict and ignored anything that was not on fire.

I was lucky enough to respond well to the Adderall and feel immediate improvement. Do you think your husband feels like his treatment was not going well, so he could feel like this is another disappointment, after taking a chance on treatment, sticking his head out of his comfort zone? I cannot imagine how I would feel if I went from one kind of bad to a new bad... I hope you and your husband get this figured out.


DF's picture


I relate to you on several levels.  I'm going into an appointment in a few hours to see about an "official" diagnosis.  I don't need it, I know I have a problem.  Coming to this site has been like an open book into my life that I'm seeing for the first time.  I'm hoping that with an official diagnosis, maybe my wife will look into it some.  Maybe see if some of what she's feeling is related to what so many of you are experiencing with your ADD spouses.  She's told me to stop analyzing her so I'm trying not to make assumptions here in the event that she ever chooses to look through this web site.  I just know I've been a problem for years and of all the subtle hints she's dropped on me, I've fumbled badly.   I know I have to take care of myself so she can see the difference.  It's a struggle and I'm concerned about how the meds will make me react.  I've always bottled things up and I don't like being angry.  My wife also thought I was angry.  I hate that I frown 24x7, but I've always got the light on upstairs and never realized it.   I also have a stupid smirk that I don't control very well.  It happens when I'm uncomfortable and it sends a very bad message.  I hate it so gosh darn much!


As for driving - I'm mindful of my kids in the car so my driving is bad, but walking is a whole new game.  I'm an impatient walker.  I like taking walks with the family, but they always tell me to slow down.  I always think I am walking slow so it feels like a crawl when I slow down to everyone else's pace.  Don't get me started on slow walkers at work!  Ugh!  You'd think I has about to wet my pants........ 


It sounds like we do have a few traits in common. I think you are doing this right so far. You recognize that you are different and you have done some research and are seeing a professional. That's great! It's a long hard road, I'm not going to lie about it. Euphoria after finding out there is a reason we are different, sadness over the things that could be different if this was discovered earlier. Guilt over how this has affected to ones you love most. This is a new kind of roller coaster. I was worried about the meds because I knew what they were and I've always worried about addictions because of my impulsivity. Don't worry, so much, 70% of us respond well to stimulints. Keep exercising BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE :) I never realized I was addicted to food, know I'm 95 pounds lighter than I was two years ago. Let us know how your appointment goes. Best wishes, YYZ
DF's picture

Reply to Similar...

Diagnosis is official.  I'm ADD

What you just said above - I could not have said it better myself.  It's nice to read it from someone else how exactly you feel.


"It's nice to read it from someone else how exactly you feel." That's the thing that has helped me the most. I always thought my weird, selfish, lazy, stupid, forgetful, impulsive, irresponsible... ways of thinking were my Exclusive Failures.

I'm sure we will talk more...

What worries me...

He drives hundreds of miles a week. He sometimes has psychotic clients in the car. That's his job. If he can't observe a child or a dog running out in the street chasing a ball, or a deer, or a downed power line, he shouldn't be driving, especially with clients in the car. But his job is what we live on, and he loves it, so I hate to ask him to stop driving. It would destroy him.

Or did he just filter out the cracked windshield because he'd seen it before and then forgot about it? He can't tell me. I'm worried about endangering people's lives here, especially his.


I can only speak for my driving habits, but when I am driving my focus is on the road. Communication with me in the car is not good because I'm focused on driving. Crazy people in the car could annoy me for sure, but it would really be background noise. Unless your husband has a history of car incidents, I would not worry too much about it.

I will say that as an ADDer as the day wears on I am more worried about falling asleep, than being distracted as my brain would be wore out the later in the day it became.


He had one accident....

on the way home from the interview for this job. He was lost (didn't bother to Mapquest his destination, or at least the reverse trip to get home). No one was hurt and the marriage counselor we were seeing at that time told him he had to fix my car, when he got the job (and he did). This was 3 years ago this month.

He had another while trying to park for an outdoor concert the summer before last. No one hurt in that one, of course. But our insurance is high at a result.

I guess I don't really think he'd dangerous. I do worry about him, though. I was just shocked that he hadn't realized it. I mean, the crack goes all the way across the driver's side of the windshield.

Thanks to everyone who weighed in. The only other ADHD driver I know well is my daughter and she has OCD as well as ADHD, and she is a superb driver. I value all the opinions I got.

sorry it worked for me

But if you google Russel Barkley and driving  you will find loads of stuff. I was just trying to make it easier.