Verbal abuse and ADD: Do they always go together?

I think that my ADHD spouse verbally abuses me at least once a week. I know that people with ADHD have a really hard time with managing anger, and my husband has the trifecta: speech problems (hard to communicate, causes frustration), inattention (ADHD), and probably a mild form of autism (very sensitive to the environment and even the smallest stressors). On top of all this, he's lacking in the empathy department, which makes it very easy to objectify others and take out his anger and frustration on me. But I don't know how to differentiate between what's really abuse and what are his neurological issues.

It hurts so much to be called "b---h," "f----r," "s---h--d," and "a-----e." Sometimes all within the same sentence.  He will apologize half-heartedly, with a lot of coaching, then quickly turn around and do it again. Each time, I did something to cause him to lose control. I talk too much. I want to talk to him during the wrong part of the day. I'm a nag. I'm needy. I deserve it. I interrupted him. I'm "crazy." I'm a "wacko." I make things up. It never happened. I'm exaggerating.

Today, which just happens to be my birthday, he threatened to leave me if I ever used the word "verbal abuse" in his presence ever again. Of course I'm uncomfortable with that, because how can we fix the yelling and name-calling by censoring ourselves (or silencing the victim)? So he hit the road and left me here, devastated and alone on my birthday. (I live far away from friends and family and pretty much spent the day alone.)

The bad behavior started a long time ago, but he was going through so many interpersonal crises that it was hard to tell what was stress, what was ADHD/speech/neuro, and what was really verbal abuse.

But this became a little clearer to me three weeks ago, while we were on our way to work. We had an argument about his child. The kid is having a lot of serious attendance and behavior issues. When I tried to share my concerns, I think he mistook my worry for criticism, because he just exploded at me without warning. His anger was so horrible that I was in the fetal position in the passenger seat of our car, crying and begging for him to stop yelling. "Please stop, please stop, please, please . . . " He kept going, bellowing at me, "you deserve to get f-----g s--t!" followed by "go f--k yourself! go f--k yourself! go f--k yourself!" over and over. Other times, he throws his phone at me. He has (once) threatened to hurt my cat.

After an outburst, I feel obliterated. But he's sweet as pie to me. He may be cheery and want to make dinner plans, catch a movie, or go for a walk. He'll call me "honey" and offer to carry my bag or groceries for me. Does this not describe an abuser, par excellence? As soon as he gains control, he feels happy, calm and soothed? When he feels out of control, he yells, screams, and bullies?

This has been happening on a regular basis, and sometimes, I don't even know what I did wrong or why he's angry. I worry because it feels like it's getting more frequent and intense. So I gave my husband an ultimatum. Deal with this or be out of my life. He left the apartment, took some things, and went to a friend's house to think things over. Three weeks passed and I hadn't really heard from him. I finally caught up with him, and he admitted that we needed to talk. We were scheduled to talk yesterday, but he postponed until today.

Of course he would wait until MY BIRTHDAY to have this conversation. He pretty much admitted to everything that's stressing the relationship, but refused to acknowledge the name-calling, yelling, swearing and insults. I just know that I can't put up with it, anymore, and unless he's penitent and really, truly sorry for the hurt he's caused me. I'm sobbing as I write this post, because I just don't ever, ever want to be called a "b---h," again.

I feel so low and unloved. Worst. Birthday. Ever.

Abuse is Abuse! No Excuses...

First off... I am so sorry that you have been treated like this for a long time, AND on your Birthday too!

I'm an ADDer and when I hear stories like this it makes my blood boil. Everything you described about him and his actions/reactions, then oblivious to what has just happened and not remembering a past event accurately. Totally ADD behaviors/traits. If you read up on ADD you will find that that overs years of not knowing why you act the way you do, coping mechanisms are developed to protect yourself from your symptoms. I don't have much time right now, but unless HE wants to get help and #1 Apologize for the hurt he has caused You, get diagnosed, counseled, find the right meds and most importantly work on removing his coping mechanisms which have caused so much hurt. 

ADD is a neurological brain disorder and he probably does not realize how bad he is, so if you want to go through the recovery process, think long and hard about it. You cannot change him, only HE can. There are so many people here on this site who can help you, NonADDers and ADDers... Perspective from both sides really helps the learning process.

I'm sure you will hear from me again if you continue to post. I wish you well... Oh... Happy Birthday! (I know it sucked, but I thought you deserved to hear it :)



I too have been on the

I too have been on the receiving end of the name calling and the "you're crazy" "you're psych" "you're a bitch" "you're a nag" BS. They are just words. Yes, they hurt coming out of the mouth of the one who promised to love and cherish us til death do us part, but they are just words. They are not who you are. Today alone I was told that I have never been there for him, that he has never been able to depend on me for anything, that I haven't even come close to loving him the way some others have (guess that was a jab saying that the whore he cheated with was more loving and accepting of him than I am...yes, 2 months wasn't long enough for her to see the 'real' him), that I don't do anything around the house, and...wait for it...I am a "cold, calculating mean person"

I am proud of myself and how hard I  have fought for this marriage. I am angry...I am angry and it is fueled 100% by fear. Fear that he'll never get help. Fear that he insists that he doesn't have anything 'wrong' with him thus things will never change and if I stay I am just asking to be treated like shit and cheated on over and over again. This fear is real and comes from past behaviors that have proven that history does repeat itself. We have a diagnosis, something to work with, and he still acts as though it's like being diagnosed with eczema or something 'benign'.

It is abuse and you do not deserve it. It will never change as long as you let it be a part of the 'norm' in your marriage. It is a pattern and you will have to be the one to demand it be broken. It is SOOO hard when you see the kind, loving version of them to put the ugly parts into the right perspective and see them for what they are...hurtful, destructive patterns that will NOT change until they hold themselves fully accountable (not just to you and I, but to professionals who can help them). Believe me, I am being smacked in the face with this reality as I type...but it isn't my birthday.

I am so sorry that your birthday was marred by his horrible behavior...make it up to yourself tomorrow and do something special..just for you. (((HUGS))

you are being verbally abused.

get the book: the verbally abusive relationship by patricia evans. a life saver. explains exactly what you are experiencing and also how verbal abusers do not 'co-create' a relationship but rather see one person as dominant and the other as submissive. when the woman tries to offer help, tries to show support, tries to connect..any real attempt at co creating the relaitonship is interpretted as a power over tactic by the other and then verbal abuse ensues to regain control or to wipe the spirit right out of you. i pull the rug out from under you and i put you back on it=there fore i am in control and see how i love you and offer crumbs of m affection after ive done it? i am training you to be confused and i may not even be conscious of my behavior or the vacuous empty place inside myself that it comes from.

verbal abuse is insideous, often never seen by anyone but you and has no logical underpinnings. trying to analyze it so you can do 'better' next time or avoid it is like trying to analyze a rapists actions so you can invite him to dinner. it is just two mututally exclusive things. understanding what abuse is, exactly, and what kind of person uses it, will help you arm yourself with the loving guidance to side step his cherry bombs. he is intentionally causing distress and you, loving him, and assuming he is also loving you, are searching for a context where is there no other context than verbal abuse. please, get the book, it is invaluable at this time.

I wish I could hear from the moderators

Do other ADHD relationships usually involve verbal abuse? I suppose that it's moot, at this point, but it is so confusing to deal with -- especially when you are walking that difficult tightrope of trying to be assertive and mindful of boundaries, but sensitive and understanding of what your partner is dealing with at the same time. (Especially since my spouse has multiple issues that interact with each other and conflate the problem.)

Also, his therapists have been telling me to "be patient," and "of course he's angry and frustrated," while they go on to explain how taxed his brain is from everyday interactions. I know, respect and appreciate these differences. But I also can't stand the name-calling and painful blow-ups.

I did actually see Patricia Evans' books. They strike me as a little outdated (dare I say sexist?) but still helpful and a very good resource. Although, Evans says that men abuse for power and I think that ADD-ers abuse because of insecurity, frustration, etc.

Anyway, thanks to all who responded. I need lots of support as I try and decipher this very messy territory of trying to break up, move on, and put my life together. I deeply appreciate any and all insights during this difficult time.

It's okay to take care of yourself!

I am so sorry to read about your pain and your worry. I know from my own experience it is such a difficult experience to want something to work so badly and to be putting so much of myself into my relationship to try and make things "better." The things that I can relate to in your post make me worried for you:

"I don't even know what I did wrong or why he's angry" I spent SO much time over the last dozen years or so wondering what I was doing wrong, how I was contributing to my husband's struggles, moods, anger, unhappiness, distance, etc. For a time I actually stopped living because of that worry. I went through the motions of life and tried so hard to make everything "ok" and got nothing but shame and guilt in spades in return, with occasional but rare moments of delusion where I believed that "everything really was going to be spectacular!" These moments were triggered by my husband "coming around" and suddenly focusing all of his "loving" attention on me - I reacted to these bursts of attention by, I don't know, allowing myself to think that my perseverance had paid off and that I had somehow won the battle again... until the next time. It smacks of martyrdom to me now in hindsight. And, in reality, I was not only hurting myself immeasurably but was also interfering with my husband's ability to improve himself and his own life. Gradually I've been learning to "let go" - a process I've been working on for the last 6 years and still have a long way to go. Only when I did begin to let go did he hit his own personal bottom and begin the long and challenging process of climbing out of the hole he dug for himself. But first I had to get out of the way by taking care of myself. This was beyond hard. I had been raised to find the phrase "taking care of myself" to be abhorrent, the absolute epitome of selfishness. That was a mistake. My husband's behaviour toward me was also abusive at times and so I needed to love myself enough to say no more! I have never stopped loving him but had stopped loving myself, right up until the day that I said to him: "You have continued to behave in the way that I said I was unwilling to live with, therefore you must leave. Your bags are by the door." It wasn't an ultimatum or a threat, it was a loving gesture toward myself. He moved out and into a house half a block away from a church which he has been attending ever since. Last week the minister there told a story of a person who observed a butterfly struggling to break out of a chrysalis. The person cut open a piece of the chrysalis because he felt sorry for the butterfly. The butterfly emerged quickly and easily but died soon after because it wasn't strong enough to survive. The struggle of beating its wings to break free had begin required to build up enough strength for survival. Each of us has to fight our own struggles and take care of ourselves and we have to find ways to support our loved ones without trying to take on their struggles for them

When I read your words, "I finally caught up with him, and he admitted that we needed to talk," I worry that you haven't left him with enough space to "beat his own wings" or fight his own battles. If you can instead say, "I love you but I am not willing to live with this verbal abuse in my life, especially when I don't see you taking responsibility for it and acknowledging how it hurts me," then maybe you'll be heading on the path to healing. All I know is, if you are so focused on him that you can't protect yourself from such regular verbal cruelty, then healing will remain out of reach. Please don't get me wrong - I sympathize with you and am not trying to put the blame on you! Not at all! I only understand how easily I myself can become stuck in the role of victim and how much damage it caused until I started to learn to climb out of it. But any behaviour that makes you feel unsafe is abuse - and bottom line is that you do not deserve that! And as much as you are powerless to change your husband and his behaviour (only he can do that) you have already made steps toward caring for yourself by reaching out here and by saying you don't ever want to be called those names again.

Good luck and hugs to you.

It's ok to take care of yourself


Loved the butterfly story!  It hit home, in my case, for sure.  I, too, fell into the trap of manipulation and mental, emotional and verbal abuse.  I was totally guilty of taking on my husband's struggles for him and he let me.  Boy, what a big mistake, on my part!  He lived in his perfect world.  No real struggles, no consequences, no real responsibilities and someone to blame anything and everything on.  Sadly, all of this had happened over a period of about 25 years, before his ADHD diagnosis and finding out the many reasons why our relationship has been so horrible.  We have now been living under the influence of ADHD for about 5 years and I took Melissa's advice a long time ago about taking care of myself and reminding myself that I am only responsible for me.  I am not responsible for my husband's thoughts, decisions, choices, struggles or happiness.  I DID LET GO!!!!!  It was truly life changing for me.  I could feel the weight of the world being lifted off of my shoulders and the built up stress leaving my body.  We are still together but I remain supportive from afar as my husband continues to struggle with "real life" in general.   

the answer to your question is NO.

Not all ADDers are verbally abusive. 

I CANNOT BELIEVE what you are putting up with.  I have NEVER spoken to my husband that way, and if I did, i'm sure he'd walk out on the spot, as I would if he ever spoke to me that way.

I hope, hope, hope you can get help.  If he can get help and recover - great.  But you have put up with enough, frankly.  It is damaging your self worth.  If he won't get help, you need to get counseling for yourself and move somewhere safe.

Again, the answer is no, but does it matter?

My guy is not verbally abusive, in the shouting, name-calling kind of way.  He does say some astonishingly painful things, insensitive things, but they are so outside of what is thought of as verbally abusive that for years I thought I was just paranoid, oversensitive or incapable of interpreting human communication.  Okay, he told me that.  I think he has only shouted at me a couple of times in more than 35 years, and he was angry at someone else.  He has never called me names.  So not all ADDers are "verbally abusive".

But so what if they all were?  There is behavior that each of us cannot tolerate, no matter the cause or condition.  I know what my three intolerables are, and my guy has never done them.  He probably knows what they are, too.   You are not required to take anything and everything in support of your mate.  And you get to choose what's over the line.  I'm thinking of adding a couple to my list, actually.  best wishes.

I am a victim of verbal abuse

I am a victim of verbal abuse on multiple fronts. At home and growing up at school. Growing up I was unaware of it, but personally I believe that is what caused my ADD. I still live at home and I plan on moving out soon because I no longer think it is responsible for me to live in a home where im verbally hurt. I failed third grade back when I was young and I was verbally abused for that. That combined with my dads short temper caused a lot of hurt. I believe my brother to be even more effected than me. He has become very cold and angry. I don't now how to tell him. Through therapy now im learning to cope with the add and depression from the abuse.