It’s all too easy to misinterpret ADHD symptoms and choices. For those who don’t understand the neurological underpinnings of adult ADHD, interruptions can be seen as rude or an indication that an ADHD partner doesn’t care about your opinion. Chronic distraction – when your partner pays little or not attention to you - can be interpreted as a lack of love. Difficulty following through on promised tasks can be seen as being untrustworthy.
If you understand ADHD, you know that interruptions can be an indicator that an ADHD partner is eager to contribute, but fears forgetting information. Or that the symptom ‘impulsivity’ is inadequately managed. That chronic distraction – the number one symptom of ADHD – often leads to feelings of loneliness in partners and that this is not related to how much one is loved. Further, it can be addressed.
Those who understand ADHD also understand how hard it is to set up the reminder systems to follow through. This is not laziness, but neurology – and there are ADHD-friendly ways to become more reliable.
Therapists are human, just like the rest of us, and they can misinterpret ADHD symptoms…and when they do, they may end up taking the ‘side’ of non-ADHD partners – trying to get ADHD partners to stop interrupting; pay more attention; and be more reliable in ways that work for neurotypical adults but not those with ADHD – specifically by ‘trying harder.’ Unwittingly, they also may reinforce the storyline that a non-ADHD partner has been harboring – that there is something ‘wrong’ with the ADHD partner, rather than that his or her mind works differently.
This is not to say that a great therapist has to have ‘ADHD Specialist’ pinned to their wall. Therapists who don’t specialize in ADHD can still understand it well enough to be of great assistance. But if you or your partner start hearing statements from your therapist that sound a lot like ‘try harder’ or feel as if that therapist is ganging up on the ADHD partner, it may be time to consider finding a new therapist.