How Do We Tell 'Normal' Anger from 'ADHD Anger'?

In a recent class I was asked this interesting question by a non-ADHD husband (who also happens to be a therapist) - "All couples experience anger - so how do you tell anger that is related to ADHD apart from normal anger?"  Great question!

He is right, some anger is normal for any relationship between two adults.  In fact, a relationship in which no anger at all is expressed is probably not healthy - it is an indicator that someone is stifling him or herself.  Creating a good relationship isn't about getting rid of anger, it's about learning how to fight productively.

But that doesn't answer the question about what constitutes anger around ADHD.  The answer to that is to be found at the Venn Diagram intersection of two things - first, ADHD symptoms and second, chronic or explosive anger.  (You remember Venn diagrams?  Those are the charts with the overlapping circles - the area of overlap is what we're interested in here!)  Note that I mention chronic anger here.  If the anger you are concerned about is a one-time thing, it's probably not ADHD-related anger.

ADHD symptoms are easy to identify, once you know what to look for:  distraction, poor memory, disorganization, hyperactivity (if you have the "H"), difficulty planning, etc.  You might not have all of these symptoms in your relationship, but you'll have some if ADHD is present.  Anger in these relationships comes from two areas:  biological and environmental (i.e. in response to what's going on around you).  Here are some examples of each type:


  • You've always had more emotional responses to events than others (not just around anger, but also around other emotions as well)
  • You have a long history of explosive anger that comes at unexpected times (some with ADHD have this, for example, leaving their spouses feeling as if they are walking on eggshells).  Your doctor suspects your anger may be part of your brain chemistry


  • You are more tired or stressed than normal, which limits your ability to inhibit negative responses (i.e. you lose your patience)
  • There is a chronic irritant in the environment around you that you are tired of dealing with over and over - so you anger easily around issues related to that irritant.  These "irritants" might include unmanaged ADHD symptoms or chronic anger or nagging from a partner

Anger in itself is not a symptom of ADHD.  However, it is often a response to the presence of unmanaged or under-managed ADHD in a relationship.  Take a look at the anger you are concerned about, and create that Venn Diagram in your head.  If anger intersects with ADHD symptoms, then that is the anger that does not need to be part of your relationship.  Lessen the symptoms, get better control of your lives, and the anger diminishes, too.

My answer to the man who asked the original question was a shorter version of this post.  "Every relationship has anger.  But much of the anger around ADHD doesn't NEED to be there.  Some good part of it is there only because ADHD - and responses to ADHD - are not yet optimally balanced."


Misunderstood Cause and Effect

I just had a conversation about this yesterday with my husband.  He doesn't want to increase the dosage of our son's medication because he feels people (i.e., me) become dependent on it.  Our little guy is going through a growth spurt, and I can see his meds are NOT working as well.  Now my husband takes only 1 medication and tries to avoid medication.  He doesn't drink coffee or anything with caffeine in it (I don't usually either because it gives me unfocused energy), but he is generally quite judgmental of such things.  I asked him why he feels I am dependent on it.  Apparently, it is because there are times when my meds are wearing off and I say, "Don't talk to me right now!  I have to get my meds!!!"

The reason for this is because we are not in a good spot, and I know we fight the most when my meds have worn off.  I try to shoo him away to circumvent this problem, and because they have worn off, I don't accomplish this in the most graceful manner.  When I remind him that for the past 3 medication appointments with my psychiatrist, I have made the appointments at the last second (not the approach of an eager addict) and that I sometimes forget to take my meds on time/fill my prescriptions on time, he says, "That's because you have ADHD."  HUH?  Someone dependent on a substance of any kind would not forget like I do.  When I told him this, he said that I wasn't an addict, but that I was dependent on my medication, whatever that means.  When I reiterated that my reaction to him off meds was part of my  pre-existing anger issue, and doesn't he see how quickly I snap, he essentially said it's BECAUSE of my dependence on the medication.  Apparently, he's forgotten what I was like before medication.  I've always been reactive, both good and bad.  Our son is the same, as is my mother.  We all have tempers, all react impulsively with our anger, and all get really hyper and excited about positive things.  We simply feel everything so acutely.

  • "You've always had more emotional responses to events than others (not just around anger, but also around other emotions as well)
  • You have a long history of explosive anger that comes at unexpected times (some with ADHD have this, for example, leaving their spouses feeling as if they are walking on eggshells)."
  • Yeah.  That's me.  I wish he "got me" better than this.

anger issues

ADHDMomof2 - Thanks for writing about your experience with anger, and how it is something that is inside you, essentially.  Your response, to control it with medication, is exactly right for you - it balances out the chemicals and helps you control your impulsivity.  Bravo!  Your husband, sadly, is uneducated on this subject and his unwillingness to learn more may hinder your son's ability to get full and adequate treatment.  There are "side effects" to being uncontrollably angry and responsive - it's not neutral to those around you, and they tend to judge you harshly if you impulsively unleash your anger towards them with any regularity.  Impulsive anger may cost your son friendships, status in school, respectful relationships with teachers, etc.

ADHD medication is NOT addictive.  For an interview on this topic with Dr. Hallowell, go to this link at Psychology Today.  This interview was in response to a New York Times article which advocated a point of view similar to that of your husband.

Great Recommendation

Hi Melissa,

I was reading an article on ADDitude online magazine about impulsive "blurts" and how they signal your true feelings on some level (this is NOT always true for me, but it still hit home).  I think this was the beginning of me realizing that it's not just my impulsivity and my current marital stress alone that were the source of my anger.  How I deal with anger is a major issue as well my "underlying attitude" toward my husband, and because I don't deal with it effectively, it resurfaces in unhealthy ways.  My natural tendency is to be aggressive, but I know that it isn't right, so then I try to be passive in the short-term, fail at that and go back to anger, followed by a bit of passive-aggression because I don't know how to express it right or even if I have the right to express it. 

Long story short, I went out and bought The Dance of Anger, and I wanted to thank you for the recommendation.  I am only 50 some-odd pages in, but it has been so illuminating already.  I am not afraid (or afraid enough to avoid the hard work and commitment, at least) to change my patterns.  I have seen before that, despite his protests to the contrary, my husband will balk when I try to disrupt the pattern.  The last paragraph on page 21 describes our overfunctioning/underfunctioning relationship, which persists in this fashion even as I address my symptoms.  This is really contributing to my anger toward him.  He has a really hard time forgiving people who have wronged him, and he continues to insist I listen to him on things that Lerner describes as "pseudo issues."  By his own admission, he enjoys playing the martyr, and if your spouse changes and you have less to complain about, where's the fun?  So now, it's almost like (no, it is exactly like) he's looking for things.  Stupid, ridiculous things.  I illustrated a typical such rant on "pseudo issues" on a recent comment ("He-he").  Another recent "issue" with him is how many times I have left the ceiling fan on in our bedroom recently.   By the way, he leaves TWO TV's on at a time regularly even when he's in a 3rd room and no one's watching them, and has left lights on in a number of rooms this week alone, but I refuse to nag him or even point out his hypocrisy.  I've also broken that new bad habit of leaving the ceiling fan on, so even though it's petty, I still listened.  THAT is a new skill for me.  But I don't want to be a nag, like him.  It just isn't that important, and frankly, I do not give a crap.  I know this is about his issues with letting go of the past, and it IS his issue.

On a lighter note, I finally convinced him that we needed to increase our son's Focalin dosage.  My sweet little boy is back :).


ADHD Anger

Hey ADHDMom,  I was looking for post specifically about anger this am , and what perfect timing, a new one.  Its so awesome that you recognize the tendency toward anger in yourself and son when meds are wearing off...and you are trying to counter it with being so diligent with meds. 

 Spouse walking on eggshells is how I have felt for years and years and have used that description to many a therapist, marriage counselors, Drs. I just would never know when I may say something-anything and a bomb would drop on me from nowhere, i thought i was going to have a nervous breakdown a year ago from this. My H would scream at me about every 3 days for nothing, this was compounded by his drinking I'm sure he was in a pattern of consuming a bottle of wine by himself every evening. he finally admitted he was drinking too much and cut back. i eventually told him I felt like a battered wife, he looked at me appalled, I don't hit you !..I know you don't but it FEELS like it. We had many discussion with his Dr about these outburst, and I said THIS was a deal breaker, i could handle all the other ADD stuff but the being yelled at all the time was killing me. His Dr upped his ADHD med, and he takes 2 anti-depressants... they help a lot but he doesn't take them every day, and he really truly seems to think that his outbursts are justified. I was angry because XYZ made me angry..yes but your REACTION to XYZ was over the top and unacceptable. I don't think I know anyone as UN-self aware as he is...even my children have better self-awareness than my H.   Since about 6 mo ago when i think i was one more outburst away from kicking him out (and he knew it) he hasn't exploded at me with such outright hostility, BUT now he does it toward one of our sons, who I am afraid is very much like him in the anger department.  This morning at 7am son and H where yelling at each other, H calling son a lazy bastard and son calling dad a Mother Fker... nice at 7am.... as I am packing backpacks, making breakfast, coffee, finding shoes, the basic running around trying to get everyone out the door on time.  son just had his meds about 10 min earlier and H had not taken his...this wonderful interaction also seems to repeat in the evening here on the funny farm.  I WISH my H was more like you with the meds ! I also wish he would take a second dose when he got home from work, like I have to give my son but getting him to take the morning dose is hard enough. Sometimes I feel I need to keep my son medicated At all times Just so he and my H can get along. Thank goodness my other son who also has ADD doesn't seem to have this anger issue, he is sweet and compassionate with or without meds, but he is a seriously absent minded professor. At times i feel this child is the only joy I have in my life.

I have been trying to really change myself lately and I feel I have the past week, I have been looking at him with different, more understanding, positive eyes,  yet this unpredictable anger from my H is just getting to me...and when it is directed toward my son I want to attack like a mother Lioness.  I am TRYING to concentrate on the positives my H has to offer, but when every word I say is taken as a criticism and he gets defensive, or just downright angry I just feel like its hopeless. No matter how nice I try to be, somehow it gets twisted into something ugly in his mind. UGH!!!!!!!!!!

Managing Anger


Hi Funny Farm,

The ADHD anger can be really hard to deal with and nonsensical to the outside observer.  One of the awful things about ADHD is the very thing necessary to help us learn from our mistakes (like not taking medication regularly or adding extra doses as necessary) is executive functioning skills.  And if your H isn't taking medication even daily (I don't even understand that; is he partially in denial, does he forget, or does he just not want to admit a weakness?), he is NOT going to be able to see what he is doing.  That his working memory is porous is a more important issue than I can possibly convey.  He doesn't see it the same, won't remember the chronology/cause-and-effect the same; it may seem like he was on Mars while he and your son were fighting were he to explain his version of events.  I know this is frustrating.  I deal with this when speaking to my son.  He has a really hard time seeing cause and effect, and not just because he's 7.  He's so damn smart it's scary.  But like his Mama (and my own mother), his working memory is even worse when he's stressed and emotional.  I have been working really hard on my anger issues with my son.  I remember my mom and I going head-to-head A LOT because we were/are so damn reactive.  My son and I can get heated as well.  But my meditation and exercise combined with an imposed bedtime (as I have the summer off) are helping me tame the beast within.  And that is REALLY helping me see it's time to up his dosage. 

I am sorry that you're husband had been self-medicating with alcohol. I guess I was lucky; I self-medicated with exercise, though I had no idea why I needed it so much at the time.  I'm glad to hear he's cut back.  But if he's not medicated half the time, he must be like an angry bear. 

Sadly, he's probably stimulated by the fighting, though he'd never recognize that.  I work with someone whom every teacher in the school feels should be medicated.  I watch him start off calmly with students, then something sets him off and he's on a tear.  It's so ADHD to watch.  I've seen him undereact to poor classroom behavior, which doesn't get his attention...intially.  Then, a student does something that reaches the radar screen and he totally OVERreacts.  It's like he needed a jolt to get going.  I've heard other teachers describe his lack of organization as a reason he needs meds, but to me that's classic ADHD anger that only someone like us could recognize. 

Oh, FunnyFarm, defensiveness is something I still need help managing.  I am often and usually unintentionally defensive with my DH.  I just EXPECT him to criticize, and still mount a counter-offensive when none is required.  Even with meds, and all my other coping mechanisms, this is a challenge to overcome.  If you could give me some insight into how to recognize when there is reason to defend, and when to shut up and hold my tongue, I would be eternally grateful.

It's funny.  I've told my therapist I'm a diplomatic genius at work with students, their parents, colleagues, and administrators, but I'm the village idiot in my own home.  She told me it's because I'm more emotionally invested, and I agree... Ugh back to you ;)! 

Hope you're having an O.K. summer despite the turmoil...


This is really helpful - thanks for posting it.

Thanks for your reply, I've

Thanks for your reply, I've read this 3 times during the day today.  Your assessment is so accurate of everything. I have such a hard time 'accepting' it, I don't want to accept it really I want it to change.   I understand all the ADHD and anger, yet it doesn't make it any easier to live with.

I do not know WHY he doesn't remember the meds daily...i think part is he forgets, because its not top on his priority, he has poor self-awareness too, part is also denial...he said once many years ago when he didn't want meds..i've been this way all my life and done just fine.   Its funny when asked by his Dr if he notices a difference when he takes meds he says no, but he will also say that work is easier for him...i think he is aware that its easier to focus at work, but he doesn't correlate the difference it makes at home. I have pointed out to him on the days he forgets his meds that he is reacting the way he was BECAUSE he didn't take his meds..but instead of stopping and saying 'oh yeah maybe your right',  he will get pissed and say no our son made me angry...that may be but if you had taken your meds it probably would not have made you angry. Sometimes it would be comical the things that he gets angry about if it weren't so sad.  He really doesn't ever seem to see HIS anger is due to ADD, but its because some event or person caused it. I can see it in his face when he simply walks in the door at the end of the day the days he remembered meds and when he didn't, he comes in and i swear there is a black cloud hanging over his head...and typically when he doesn't he also falls asleep on the couch immediately after coming right now....WHY do you think you are so damn tired, because work is so much harder. Its like living on a roller coaster sometimes...i'm sure because of the med inconsistancy.

he still self medicates with alcohol, but at least its limited now to the weekend (yeah when we see each other most), and vacations...ugh.  He cut back alot when at a dr appt I told his Dr I thought he had a drinking problem, so just to show me he could he stopped cold turkey for a month but went back to it...but at least not to the same degree. Excercise is a much better form of self-medication, I could live with that.

Defensiveness...wish i had some wonderful insight on mom is also very defensive used to puzzle me so much why she did what she did and reacted the way she did..HOW the hell did I end up marrying someone JUST like her ????  I got out of my house as fast as I could at 18 and ended up right back in the same environment at 30, so who is crazy - me.  I have noticed though that whenever I start a sentence with "Why"..its seems to automatically throw my H into defense mode.  I always used to say 'Am I not allowed to ask you a question'.  It seems to me that if I start off with Why, he reacts like I am accusing him of something when i am simply asking a question.    Why did you wash your car ?  Why did you put X there ?  Even if stated simply as a question, not snappish or accusing, it is taken that way. I have to say 'Hold on there I'm not saying what you did was wrong, i was JUST asking a question or making small talk.  Then he will say Oh I thought you were saying you didn't like what I did...maybe it comes from years of people telling him that he didn't do something right, I don't know he was defensive when I first met him,  he can't seem to tell the difference when there IS a 'tone' in my voice and when there isn' he always assumes there is

Love your comment about a genius vs village on spot.    Hope you are also having a nice summer before school starts again.

Sadly, he's probably

Sadly, he's probably stimulated by the fighting, though he'd never recognize that. 

I have read in many books and on this site how ADHD people get a charge out of fighting, and i never really understood this comment...until this week.  It dawned on me when every day this week my son would get off the bus from camp aggravated about some kids in the back of the bus picking on him. he has a very slight speech impediment, I hardly notice it, but kids do and tease him about it. This is unfortunately a very common occurance.. anyway I told him repeatedly, then DON'T sit at the back of the bus and stay away from them...does he listen, no he insists on sitting near the kids that tease and taunt him..  Now one could say he should be able to sit wherever he wants without getting picked on, and thats true, unfortunately thats just not how the world is, so the questions is, would you rather just remove yourself from the situation and sit somewhere else, or would you rather insist on sitting somewhere you know is going to be unpleasant and make you angry....he always seems to chose the road of - they can't tell me what to do.

In a small way I admire that, I have to admit I have a bit of that in me as well, but it has always worked to my advantage and gotten me ahead in my career, not letting anyone tell me I can't do something that just makes me work harder. However for him its sort of like I'm going to be in your face and then play the victim...'mom these kids pick on me all the time'... ugh !  The difference is knowing When standing up for yourself and not letting something slide is the appropriate and right thing to do, and when its not worth it or is the wrong thing to do. Seems my son and H lack knowing the difference.

My H does this sort of thing too, its easiest to see it in regards to driving but now that the light bulb went on in my head I see it everywhere with him.  He can't let anyone get away with anything he feels is wrong, if someone cuts him off he will speed up and do it back, if he even sees someone is about to pull in front of him he will close the gap so they can't, if someone is at an intersection and the front of the car is pulled out a tiny bit too far he will drive past as close to them as possible to let them know they are over the line. His anger in public has been inappropriate and has embarrassed me several times and I also think it has cost me and my children some friends.

last night he blew up at me over the utmost dumb small insignificant thing, and I think to myself this is insane...its making me insane...I know it was the ADHD and he hadn't taken his meds in 3 days, BUT how the hell do you live with this and just let it roll off your back ' oh its just the ADHD talking'...he of coarse thinks what he yelled at me for was totally appropriate and cannot see that it was ridiculous.


Hi funnyfarm, I can easily

Hi funnyfarm,

I can easily relate to the situation you are in, my H displays many of the same mannerisms and has as long as I have known him.  He was diagnosed with hyperactivity (as it used to be known) when he was a child, but his condition was never managed as his parents believed (as they were told) that he would grow out of it.  Obviously that doesn't happen as we now know, but my H is still in denial that treatment would help, and is completely against taking any meds.  Like your H mine doesn't realise that some behaviours are simply inappropriate, and we often have huge fights over stupid misunderstandings.  Only to him it wasn't a misunderstanding, his perspective tells him I was wrong and I'm the one overreacting.  He's even verbalised many times how I should just 'make allowances' for his condition and stop being so argumentative, irrespective of the severity or number of misguided and hurtful outbursts.  In other words I am supposed to just accept his bullying ways, and yes, all under the excuse of "But I don't hit you or the kids!! What's your problem?" I know very well how it feels to wonder exactly how many allowances we are supposed to make, particularly when it comes to parenting and communication with our teenage daughter.  H does not have the ability to 'see' the reality of teenage girls and their tumultuous reality, hasn't fully accepted that his little girl is growing up, and often forgets to be polite, or decides to dictate his opinion of the latest topic to her which inevitably provokes an outburst from her, which he then overreacts to.  Needless to say it goes from bad to worse to war within seconds, and any intervention on my part is more ammo against me later.  This cycle occurs daily in our household, amplifying an already stressful arena.  Its particularly bad once a month when pmt strikes - he doesn't understand that either and is convinced she is 'out of control'.  They are very similar and I believe this is why they clash so much.  He believes his poor relationship with her is my fault.  He believes I have brainwashed her to hate him, and doesn't realise that his impulsive, angry and controlling tendencies, his multiple episodes of depression and inability to listen for very long are just a few of the reasons they do not have a good relationship. She's really just very frustrated that her dad isn't there for her like she'd like.  I am once again encouraging him to seek proper assessment and treatment (mainly so he can begin to accept that he can improve things a bit) and at the same time educating our daughter on some facts about adhd.  Hopefully she will understand enough to realise that some of his behaviour is not his fault, and there is a better way to deal with it. I'm certainly not advocating the way he speaks to her, but I'm hoping that she will gain some understanding about her similarities to her father and perhaps curb her own tendencies upon realising the reflection. 


anger, is it ever normal?

I really wonder if anger is ever OK.

I don't think having ADHD is a reason to be angry and abusive.

I live with an ADHD partner who has become, over the years, abusive. Unfortunately we have both evolved into this and we had been having screaming yelling fights.

I have worked hard over the past two years to control myself and refuse to raise my voice anymore.

This morning, he yelled at me "Get the f**k out of my life" in front of our second grader.


patterning behavior

Unfortunately, your 2nd grader is learning how to behave, how to treat others,  by watching this.

My ADHD husband lived with a mother who had an explosive temper and a completely passive father.  She was a pot boiling over with negativity about everything; she cursed and shouted, and belittled and beat him with a belt (which he believes she would not have done if he did not deserve it ??)  He think that this is normal interaction with the world and others.  He believes that no matter what he says or does that it was justified and that I should "get over it."  "It's in the past.  I can't change it. Get over it."  He never apologizes.  Ever.  I used to want it, to ask for it.  Now - it's not necessary.  At least not today.  What he says is opinion, not fact.  He is entitled to his opinion - but it doesn't make it real.

Read the Learning to Like Yourself post.  I did, last night.  24 hours after I found this site.  7 years married to my ADHD spouse, and 4 days after a devastating, alcohol fueled, top of the lungs 6 hour rant which he mostly does not remember, but believes I must have deserved.  I found the switch in my head and have flipped it to the position it was in before he and I met.  And moment by moment, I am working to stay in that space, where my value and self image are not dependent on his opinion or behavior.  And where accepting him is part of my peacefulness.  And where removing myself from his presence when he is inappropriate is the same as what I would do with any other person who was threatening my calm or well being.  I would remove myself from the situation.  He has often suggested that I do this.  That I protect myself, since he will not.  Sound smart.  But, flip side - it's an abdication of responsibility, isn't it.  I have never been able to figure out how to leave the room, let alone the house, without it looking dismissive or aggressive.  But, today - I believe that how he responds is his issue - not mine.  Taking myself out of harms way.  If I don't hear it, I don't have to work to forget it.  Don't have to salve the wounds, turn off the video in my head, live through the fight or flight stress.  Worry that next time he grabs me or shoves me against a wall that it will be followed by a blow that will do damage.  Violence tends to escalate.  Verbal abuse is violence.  I will find a way to leave that is not aggressive and non-confrontational.  It used to make me sad, thinking that I would have to sleep in my car at a rest stop, or find the cheapest motel in town to stay in, because I was so worthless that I couldn't even be a home.  Now, I'm thinking it's an opportunity for a vacation - if I get out before fight or flight kicks in.  A night in a clean, quiet room.  Peaceful, safe and even indulgent.  No one but me to worry about or consider.  Dinner, if I wish it, wherever I want.  I can read, or listen to music I like, or watch a movie ... and don't have to wonder what's going to happen next.  Even now, as I sit here writing this in a reasonably quiet room with him 15 feet away sitting quietly at a computer alternately surfing the internet and playing solitaire I am aware that the other shoe could drop at any moment, and I just hate that feeling.  

We do not have young children, or indeed any children, at home - and that simplifies life.  But, negative patterning is powerful.  You have the power to change it by changing your own behavior.  And I have the power to change the dynamic by finding and holding on to the person that I was before we met, the person I still am - though she has been buried in a veil of hurt and sadness and fear.  Kindness and patience and validation.  And understanding that his brain just doesn't work like mine.  I used to think that he was damaged.  He is certainly dysfunctional - but perhaps he is just differently talented.  Would I chose this path again, knowing what I know now.  Not a chance.   But then, I read the article again and think I should give it a chance.  Today is not the day to throw this all away.

Read the post.  Your worth is not dependent on your marriage.  You deserve more, and you can give it to yourself.  Your marriage might even survive.  Might even thrive.  Let go, and focus on yourself and your kids.  Letting go is very powerful.  I know.  My previous marriage was to a wonderful man who became addicted to crack cocaine.  I stayed with him for 7 years.  He tried very hard, years of counselling, long periods of sobriety, and in the end, to save myself, I had to leave.  I had a job and the clothes on my back.  You would have thought I'd have learned to make better choices.  But, like so many of us in the throes of mating hormones, I did not see reality - my present spouse did not show me reality - until the ink had dried on the contract.

And that's what I'm going to think about tonight.  How much did I know, and just not acknowledge?  What is my part in all this and what can I change.


Yep, you should get your husband to have a talk with a doctor that really knows the stuff about ADHD and medicine.. The ONE reason for which stimulant medicine is calming down a ADHD brain is BECAUSE  the ADHD brain is not being triggered in the "feel good" Centre by stimulant drugs.

If we ADHD sufferers were stimulated in a way by these kind of drugs like a normal brain, we would get a buzz! And if we would get a buzz we could get hooked on it! But we get less "buzz" from the medicine... actually there is "less" party mood in our head because of the medicine.. This means that you cannot get addicted to your medicine, because you simple don't get any kick out of it! End of!

What your husband then mentions about you now being dependent on your medicine since you don't function properly when it wears off, is simply your brain having the same way of functioning like before you started your medicine, NOT a symptom of you feeling bad because you're now addicted. If a diabetes sufferer has his insulin levels running low and says hold on, I need to get my shot of insulin, cause I let it go too long without getting it and I don't feel good, no one would dream about saying: no don't take it, cause you'll get hooked!

where to start....

Im non Adhd, my boyfriend of a year is adhd. Im at the point of tears with no clear idea on how to handle him and our relationship going forward if there is to be a going forward. Im at a loss to what to do and how to deal with things and when do you say enough is enough to someone with adhd?

My boyfriends adhd is unmanaged and has been for a long time and things seem to be getting worse. When we started seeing each other his behavior was completely alien to me but he seems to have settled slightly until about three four weeks ago when he was ill unable to work, broke as a result, and unable train which burns of all his energy (hes a semi pro boxer) he turned into a monster anger irrational (which he is generally anyway but more so) and even flipped at his trainer and sponsor which as his bread and butter he would never do. He fell out with his mother and his focus have become very negative picking massive holes in me and others too the point of reducing me to tears as he blames me (without any grounds) for his behaviour, his attention span has depleted to next to nothing to the point where ive had to leave the room because im trying to discuss something important and he cant engage his sole focus is his dog and boxing, hes started to flit from one conversation to another very disjointedly more than he used too. And when something upset him his from 0- shouting in 0.2 seconds. 

He knows his behavior has been out of sorts and is trying to sort himself out and has applogised to everyone including me but then he still seems to be struggling alot and Im as the person he is closest to bearing the brunt of it. But on the other hand sometimes I might as well not exist, a feel like he has almost abandoned me, not engaging in conversation speaking at length without anything being given back- worse than he used to be, and i really take the time to listen. He wont call or text all day but goes mad if I dont contact him like ive ignored me, and then expects my constant attention every evening which can be very draining after working and studying. Ive toyed with the idea that there might be something more a miss than adhd and even managed to discuss it with him momentarily, but he insisted that theres nothing wrong with him. I love him dearly and want to help him come back to the fairly stable person he was a month ago, but hes so angry at me i fear he resents me and i cant seem to let him see me as he did before. 6 foot 7 of irrational boxer is hard work. What can i do? thanks

This doesn't sound like ADHD anger...

You describe a person with little impulse control, which is an ADHD symptom, true, but his anger seems quite extreme relative to the people with ADHD I've encountered.  I wonder if there is something else going on?  Has he ever talked with a doctor or therapist about his anger?

I just want to say this.

I just want to say this. Sounds like a faze most adhders have now and again if there not managing there adhd and life is. Busy and. Hectic life gets ontop and becomes overwhelming and. Prolonged exposure to this can't make them seem almost manic it sounds to me like he's having. A nervous breakdown I know. Because I went through. The same. Faze if that's what you want to call it over. The past year I quit my job because of it, I have adhd aswell it sounds like he's having. A really difficult time. Coping with unmanaged adhd while trying to pursue a career and. Steady girlfriend same thing happened with my adhd but. It was a real kick up the arse to really get the help I. Need so things never get that way again,

Please don't get pregnant

Please don't get pregnant with this man! His behavior would be really destructive for a child to witness.

ADHD and Anger

The explosive anger from my possibly-ADD spouse is really hard to deal with.  Life is annoying, and so are pets, owning a house, living with someone, etc.  I have always felt you have to tolerate a certain amount of irritation and things-gone-wrong in a normal day.  My husband feels any little thing that goes wrong justifies a blow up with yelling and swearing.  Example today:  dog pees on floor.  Expected, since it is raining out. Tantrum ensues.  Then tantrum turns from being focused on the dog, to blaming ME for owning the dog.  Things get out of control, I spend the rest of the day crying.  He moves on and forgets about it.

Possibly adhd? Has there been

Possibly adhd? Has there been any previous. Signs or are things. More hectic. And. Busy in your lives, although undiagnosed adhd can make the individual very angry about everything but is circumstantial of. Course. and something small can have a pile up effect, people with adhdgo through there. Entire life not being able to live up to there full potential and. Takingalot of. Heat through the course of time eventually. Anger builds up about why they have. Such. A difficult time meeting peoples needs and. Aquire a twisted. But justified view of themselves, some that don't know what adhd is think people are. Allways nagging them. And. Counteract with anger because from a young age they have behaved a. Certain way and havnt been able. To pay. Attention. And remember paying attention is differnt dimensional its not just payng attention to reading or something like that its attention. To what going on in ur life people in it how you move forward to were u want to be in life sorry getng back to behaving a certain way from a young age they have been critisised by parents teachers etc for something they couldn't quite understand why so most. Develop odd oppositional defiant disorder they don't do it on purpose its. Like a coping mechanism. For a high sensitivity. To critism over something. They can't change they donteven realise it because it started from a very young age and sometimes a small thing like that can have a over reaction in an individual with. Adhd depending on how they are feeling at the time maybe overly stressed, if he has adhd and this is the casehe should be made aware of it and how. It has effected. His life being undiagnosed and how his reactions. Are detrimental to his happiness with someone I'm sure. He loves , I know all this because I have adhd myself if. He does. Have adhd he. Should. Look into therapys to understand adhd. And control it not let it control him and. Or medication, obviously this would sound like another adhder excuse I'm sure there's a book on. Them, and he shouldn't of behaved that way to you, but sometimes we don't seem to see the gravity ofa situation there's a lot to it and realising the consequences of our actions aren't apparent straight away for which after we beat are selves. To death for I think you. Should talk to him. About how he really feels maybe the dog thing was a cry out of sort I'm sure hell end up. Apologising in that aura of. Conversation but obviously it isn't acceptable. Anyway but. Seems to be the. Misunderstandings adhd. Brings to the table hopefully its not adhd and he's just an. Asshole. That needs a kick up the bum

Lots and lots of indicators

Lots and lots of indicators he is ADHD from early childhood on, but he will not participate in an evaluation.   We had been having a very calm, peaceful day when the blow up happened, but we have blow ups like that (disproportionate to the incident) pretty much every day.  Usually it is in connection with trying to perform a task like changing batteries in a flashlight or something, and he gets frustrated very quickly, then blows up in an explosive tantrum.

If he is not aware he has.

If he is not aware he has. Adhd the core symptoms could be making him angry and subconsciously vents it into an outburst, adhd is were a part of the brain is under activating in moments were it should so trying to start a project simply isn't getting put into play due to executive functions such as short term memory motivation focus and behavior inhibition etc which suffer because of adhd but can be circumstantial to the enviroment like distractions etc, changing batteries sounds like a very insignificant thing to have an outburst but if continually told to do it whilst an under active. Part of his. Brainjust won't build up thhe motivation and focus time acordingly and dealing with stress of it it makes the adhder feel like what the hell iswrong with me am I lazy why can't I just get it. Together and do it we lose. Trackof time aswell. And can. Be mentally distracted, this is usually the case through time and he may react aggressivly towards someone. If they ask him to do something as he may already be struggling within himself to get up and go sometimes we don't even realise the whole process emerging its like. You drift through the day knowing you need to. Do something then being distracted and forgeting about it alltogether then remebering and forgetting again and nothing seems to get done the way u want it this constant process can make you very angry especially if you have goals but a battery thing seems very insignicant but its usually not just something small like the flashlight its usually a build up of issues through the day and then maybe he couldn't find batteries that worked and couldn't remember were he put ones that work then tripped. Over the dog and then someone asked him a question and his concentration was broke into remembering were the. Good batteries were just an example that's how it can be all day with an adhder if there very busy in there head but again if he isn't diagnosed he may not be aware that the problem is within his mind and not u if it may seem like u are nagging, but being diagnosed and really. Reading into. Why things happen a certain way and how not knowing has its own manifestation possibly anger we eventually realise are behaviour is not just and over time become more aware of how we may treat others from my diagnoses and research and. Understanding what makes me tick I have become. A lot more relaxed and am a lot more. Pleasant. To be around I used to be very angry with my family as a teenager. Because of. My undiagnosed. Adhd I. Don't take any meds. Or therapy but will do knowledge. Is the most. Powerful tool but it takes time, would suggest telling him. You don't like the way. He flys of the handle and u. Know. Someone with adhd who is exactly the same and you see this in him as most people unless under stress or something has happened previously in a relationship don't behave that way tell him if he was to get an evaluation it may be to his benefit and could possibly make his life easier ask him if he would prefer to. Maybe get help or would he prefer to be an angry man, can understand him not wantng an evaluation if he never did as a child because it may not be adhd. And it may make him feel weak and there is something wrong. With him but again if u really want him to get an evaluation he needs incentive because most people don't see what others see until it starts to break down barriers in themselves adhd. Behaviors are allways circumstantial but its because of the problems with memory and every other symptom related to adhd we feel more stress than most and react more strongly but being aware of this things can change

Jangled, If you haven't


If you haven't already, try getting hold of copies of 'Change your Brain, Change your Life' and 'Healing ADD' by Daniel Amen.  Cheap copies are available on Amazon etc or maybe you can get them through a library. Both are worthwhile for understanding what might be going on. Healing ADD has sections on each of the types of ADHD, see if any of them seem to fit - then you might have some clues how best to approach him to get evaluated.  He is probably afraid of an evaluation and a formal diagnosis, so it can be a long process to get him there but knowledge is power.  Talk therapy may not be helpful if this is really a neurochemistry issue - that has to be addressed first otherwise he may not be in a position to change his behavior (he cannot perceive it accurately). My husband also exhbited low frustration tolerance and angry outbursts and is taking meds for it, now he is much better able to handle 'life' (he also took some persuading to see a psychiatrist but now he is forever glad that he did, it lifted a huge weight off him).

I read all your comments and

I read all your comments and they all brought me to tears. The similarities are too much to ignore.  At least some of you have partners that acknowledge the ADHD. Even though my H was told by a therapist, he will not admit it or seek any treatment for it.  He drinks about 6 - 12 pack of beer a day, self medicating i guess.  Thank you all for your posting. It is really helpful to know I'm not alone.  

Fighting Is Never Productive

It says in this article that fighting is important for a healthy relationship, this defies logic as fighting is when two or more conflicting sides compete against each other to win. Fighting is antisocial and only destroys relationships. Nobody takes kindly to being treated with disrespect or aggression. Being assertive and communicating is what forms healthy relationships, not fighting. Whenever me and my friends have a conflict we simply explain each other's side of the story and respect each other's differences. It's very important not to judge someone if you want to have a good relationship with them, and more often than not when people are arguing one of them has judged the other. I hope this clarifies why I disagree with this article.

Explosive anger and defensiveness

I have been married for 14 years. I love my husband and I'm committed to our marriage. He agrees with his add diagnosis and takes medication. But he has uncontrolled explosive outbursts several times a week. He gets angry with me or our son several times a week. He is constantly on the defensive, and if I don't agree with everything he says, he feels disrespected and like I'm " taking the other person's side". I have tried to talk about this with him, it gets me nowhere. I  am constantly on eggshells and at this point I rarely speak up at all, no matter what I truly think. If I try to point out how difficult this is, or how I feel, he becomes even angrier. He throws things, breaks things, slams doors, etc. I don't know what to do...


If your spouse believes he has ADD is he educating himself(YOU cannot do this) how it effects/displays in himself? Meds do not work alone. He needs to understand ADD and where he needs to address his particular issues. His blowing up is inexcusable....ADD or not. 

You need to educate yourself including what to do and NOT do. YOU cannot help your spouse if he doesn't even begin to try himself. Your son does not deserve this, nor do you. ADD is not an excuse. 

Please reach out for help from competent people in the ADD area. You can find a lot of info on this site.  This is not going to stop until you take action.

Please know we are here for you. There are MANY people with good advice for you on this forum. Look out for you and your son....your spouse isn't with behavior like that.

He is constantly reading

He is constantly reading about adhd and trying to help himself. But he does not recognize the biggest area that we struggle with. He cannot accept blame, he feels that everyone is out to get him. He misinterprets almost everything my son and I say, because he is predisposed to defensive reactions. It's like he is always looking for offense, even if none is intended. He blames everyone else for driving him to these outbursts. It is so stressful and upsetting. I offend him without even knowing or realizing how. I know that insecurity and low self esteem are common in adhd. I often wonder if he would benefit from a mood stabilizer of some kind. But I'm afraid to even mention it, I don't think he would react well. 

Walking on Eggshells

Hi Dusty, I read your comment and my heart goes out to you. Big hugs to you, I know how hard it can be. I have been with my ADHD husband for 20 years - most of them miserable. He displays the same touch-of-a-button anger as you describe, seeming to look for it just to have another argument. What I have learned over the years is that many ADD/ADHD'ers have other 'differences' that complicate the management of their ADD/ADHD. My husband also is bipolar, has paranoid schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder. For my husband it is mainly the other  'differences' that cause the behaviour displays you speak of, and I know other beautiful souls on this forum have helped me to see that. ADD/ADHD does not necessarily cause irrational anger on a long term basis, but being paranoid and needing to be the centre of attention constantly can certainly. As has already been noted, it has to be his choice to undertake management of his 'differences'. As much as it seems the logical way to go, we cannot make them get help or help themselves. My therapist once told me that the right motivation can be all it takes to make the management changes, but I have yet to find anything that's more important to my husband than himself unfortunately. Having said that, it is also paramount for you to make good choices for yourself. I realised that after so many years of patience, tolerance, abuse and trying everything, that I'm fighting a lost cause. I'm currently making plans to leave so that I and our children (11 yrs boy 18yrs girl) can be happy and free without having to constantly look over our shoulders waiting for the next bomb to drop.

The bottom line is that this type of anger is not necessarily ADD/ADHD. It is usually something else, as many here have testified. Frustration yes. But irrational anger is not a standard ADD thing, and many ADD'ers are not angry at all.

Best wishes to you in whatever choices you make for yourself.

Both adhd

I have only just started reading this blog , but this post is one of the main reasons I am searching out for more info . My wife and I both have adhd . We dealt with hers for years as we worked through mood swings, impusivity and inattentive patterns. Meanwhile, I worked tirelessly to build my business, finding it difficult to ever break away from the intense focus it required of me. It was difficult not knowing what we were up against until one of our kids became diagnosed . Then the light bulb was on , and we realized how we both suffered from it , to differing levels . It helped to take some of the self blame and shame of our misgivings at first . But over time , it has become a point in arguments about how one is "incapable " due to the malady . Our arguments increase in tone as our kids age and frustration with all we have to deal with gets more difficult . We were horrible students , for example , so to guide our children in education (who have adhd and LD's) is often insurmountable, fueling more frustration, shame and pressure for us to keep up (which we are forced to realize is not possible ) . 


I have no reference and have been able to find nothing on dealing with two in a relationship with adhd , articles such as the above always talk about the "adhd spouse " . How do we cope better when we both suffer ? How do we progress when we both have comorbid disabilities that frustrate the other , and how do we care for our kids better when we have to work so hard to set good examples? (fortunately , we are very loving , especially my wife , that side of adhd where compassion is exuded as a benefit . ) 

Maybe it's possible to write more articles on this situation , granted we aren't the only ones so crazy and naiive to attempt a happy relationship faced with such constant obstacles ? Thanks