My experience, as a friend of one with ADHD

I joined this forum because my girlfriend has ADHD, and I’m pretty confused about aspects of our experience together.  As we grew close, I have encountered a level of emotional intensity I have never experienced before. Whenever she “acts out”, she attributes it to her ADHD, and expects me to understand all her behavior for it. The problem I have…her behavior has become extremely intense, directed at me negatively, and puts me in a state of fear, worrying how I will offend her next. Whenever these explosive scenes occur, I try to explain to her how her behavior makes me feel, but this only creates more conflict and explosive anger.  Well, I’m simply writing this to try to understand her behavior because I cannot tell what is due to ADHD, and beyond her conscious control, and what is due to her own choices. Here is a brief list of my experiences:

  • Explosive tirades, containing expletives, towards situations whenever I "err."  In one case, I picked her up from school and bought her some sushi as a snack to eat as she drove home. Then she said she was finished, and asked if I wanted what was left?  I said sure…and then she threw the box at me, screaming and swearing that I was a "greedy ****".
  • She picks up on very subtle physical cues, such as slight facial expressions, drumming fingers, or even breathing—as signifying something very negative about my character. It makes no sense to me, and I cannot change her mind about it.
  • Giving me a gift, then accusing me of being a “parasite” and “manipulative” because I accepted it from her.
  • She considers every female friend I have—which I am completely platonic with—as proof I’m cheating on her. Even momentary eye contact with any woman arouses intense feelings of jealousy in her and often, a expletive-laced tirade.
  • She is very possessive of my time, and often expects hours-long conversations during the middle of the day, when I have work to do.
  • She monitors everything I say, down to the minutest detail. When I say something slightly differently, she assumes I am lying, and another tirade begins.

Well, after number of these tirades, I could no longer “laugh them off”. Trying to be supportive, I would ask her how exactly I offended her, and then I expressed how I felt in the situation. Then, she became this “different person”, and started a non-stop onslaught of my character, using every personal weakness I shared in confidence as a weapon against me. Needless to say, I left her to reclaim my self-respect and peace of mind.  I’m not suggesting this is typical ADHD behavior; I’m just confused, trying to understand.

Nothing about that story mirrors my experience

I've been married 10 years to my ADD husband (we found out about 4 years ago) and from my study of the Disorder, you were dealing with a pretty serious co-morbid or co-morbids on top of the ADHD--the tirades definitely make it sound like she has the hyperactive type.  I'd strongly suspect a personality issue, but the only thing I can say as far as helping you understand is that you were dating a very sick individual who was either incorrectly treated or under treated for her very serious issues. 


Little to none of what you posted sounds anything like my experience with an ADD husband--no co morbids with him so far.  As a matter of fact the attacks on you as her partner sound like the exact opposite of my husband's dealings with me, though of course basic personality will affect that and I am married to a conflict avoider big time while your ex sounds very much like a conflict starter.   The only thing ADD about that is that I've read (and a tiny bit experience) that the ADD person will sometimes pick fights in order to stimulate the chemicals that their brains lack naturally.


Best wishes to you!!

Yes, once she started

Yes, once she started targeting me, by using every vulnerable spot I shared in confidence, as a weapon against me, I began to seriously doubt that ADHD was the sole cause. At some point, she has made a clear, conscious choice throw away love, empathy, and understanding and go on the offensive. She began spinning these incredible tales of me as an “expert manipulator,” “criminal mind,” “psychotic,” “ sociopath,” “ liar,” “drug abuser”—I kid you not! After her tirades, and in my emotionally shaken moments, when I would try to express how I felt, she would pull out one of these incredible stories about me, I suspect as a way to deflect any sense of personal responsibility for her scenes.

As she hasn't let up, and will not listen to anything "negative" about how her behavior affected me, I have broken off all contact with her. I need to do what's best for me--thanks again for your insight! :-)

second opinion?

Hm.  I agree that this sounds like something else is going on.  I am an ADHD woman and I have definitely misunderstood my husband's facial expressions and conversations we've had, but usually I feel like I have done something stupid as opposed to lashing out angrily at him.  Even when I do get angry at him, I NEVER raise my voice or call him names/use expletives.  

She needs to get a second opinion!

Actually there is some

Actually there is some uncomfortable similarities, particularly the subtle physical cues, breathing, sighing unconsciously, gesturing w my hands when * speaking... Are reasons for anger. Tirades yes. Discounting behavior: yes. Possible comorbidites could be odd, anger management, bipolar..

So does anyone (w adhd or

So does anyone (w adhd or else a diff diagnosis) experience the anger trigger if the other person gestures w their hands during "intense" conversations?
summerwine's picture

"So does anyone (w adhd or

"So does anyone (w adhd or else a diff diagnosis) experience the anger trigger if the other person gestures w their hands during "intense" conversations?"


I don't but it can be distracting which is frustrating. And sometimes it startles me because I startle really easily. My son and my nephew both have sensory problem s and they can get frustrated and angry when people do a lot of hand talking or put their finger in their face and stuff. That's pretty typical for people with sensory disorders because it's hard to process all the stimulus and they have more problems with personal space being invaded. We have to go easy on bright lights, bright colours and no fast movements around here.

You know that makes sense but

You know that makes sense but it was new- his sensitivity appears to have been really ramped up. If it had been explained to me that way, instead of the scary way it was (menacingly look, why are you doing that? Doing what??)- I could have dealt w it better. Instead, he was just frightening and he did not get that. Or care enough to stop. I think I get what he appears to be doing. He "gets" he has adhd but expects me to completely be responsible for dealing with what irritates him without his affecting his behavior or acknowledging them in a compassionate way towards me. Speak short succinct sentences. No? Then Ill walk away after a mean comment or hang up on you. Dont talk with your hands, dont raise your voice, cry, sound upset- too confrontational. Send me texts or emails but do it "right" and tough luck if I dont see them or respond to them. It is no longer about our relationship, it is about his finally getting "peace of mind" after all these years of my "abuse". And I am still feeling crushed, low self esteem, and the major (pathetic) feeling of "wth just happened?) and "where is my husband?". I miss him, would do what i can to address his issues if he was so not willing to do the same. Blame, push, shove me, try to kick me, be absent, drink, get new friends, tell me he has been out w other women (but makes it clear later he has not), threaten, demeaning comments, shut me off because of my "actions"... And I feel I have no course of action that can bring him back from angry aggressor to my husband again. At best, I get stranger, or divorcing ex talking about the kids. No accountability- no concern for my feelings or what he has done to me over these past years...He doesnt claim how he has really affected the kids- only "us" and then, "me". I am still trying to deal. Sorry if this is coming across as whining but MY GOD what am I supposed to do? He is out of the house now (TG) but I am really having my own great difficulty coping.
summerwine's picture

We have been working really

We have been working really hard with the boys to teach them to react differently. They are supposed to say "Please stop that" or something. It's tough their first reaction is usually to slap your hand away and yell. It's all instinct. But they are little boys and they are learning. There's no excuse for your husband. Sure you should learn the things that trigger his sensory issues but you are NOT responsible for his reactions. If he can't help but react strongly then he at least owes you an apology.

Have you tried ducking? If he is out of the house now especially, why do you take it?