The Symptom of Anger with People who have ADD

This site is such a double edge sword for me. It validates just how hard living with a person who has ADD really is. After 15 years of marriage I am left with the question at what point do I cut my losses.(I have asked for a separation.) If it was Brain cancer I would never think of leaving him. We have been to counseling he has been on Medication our entire married life. (HE was diagnosed with ADD during our engagement period) His meds have been tweaked as needed. He is also on depression meds. The anger that has been a constant part of our marriage life is not physical, it's just this overall negativity and lots of passive aggressive behavior towards me. Tone of voice yelling at times and lots of body language that says JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!! He definitely thinks I am the reason for his anger. ANY request I make is like walking on egg shells... It's his go to reaction to any thing he cannot controll. If I inturrept him as he sits in front of his usual places, ie TV or Computer, he is upset. He has always had a hard time dealing with the daily interactions that occur when raising kids. If he is in the middle of a conversation be it ever so informal he really has a hard time allowing anyone to interrupt him. If he is in the kitchen telling me some factoid about something and a kid might walk in asking when is dinner, he has a really hard time with that kind of interruption saying impatiently "Cant you see am speaking!" I understand people with ADD have a hard time being interrupted. Can't one learn to modify one's reaction? As far as working with different ways to get him to be accountable for what ever he has agreed to do or finish... I have run out of strategies. I have tried all the suggestions in these blogs. It comes down to him reacting to me as being overbearing. He does not enjoy tasks. I can't seem to get his to understand you do things not because they are fun or easy, you do it because it will positively affect the family. From bill paying to his laundry... As painful as it is I accept, I cannot have an intimate relationship with Him. I am not willing to keep increasing the edginess and riskiness to keep things interesting... So now it's about trying to co parent our children. But I cannot get around the Anger. I could really cope with the rest of the ADD lifestyle ( I still believe we should partner in doing household tasks, to model for our kids how this is suppose to work.) When we dated, this anger was not evident. When he mentioned he had anger issues I had no idea what he was talking about. Actually what is even more painful is the notion that the reason we even got together was that I was a new distraction for him...? ( I see too he was my project.) . Had I really understood what I was experiencing with my senses was not a reality, I would have NEVER committed to this relationship for the long term. At what point do people with ADD have peace? So much of life is monotonous and not fast and flashy...I know My husband is not at Peace. Yet he is willing to loose his family rather than get to the bottom of his anger... If I appear ignorant of my role in all this I know the truth. I do know that I have contributed to our ruined relationship. However I do know I am not responsible for all of it. I am still not sure what is ADD and what is him being immature by not dealing with his anger. Let me end by saying It is such a loss for me and the kids... My Husband has so much of offer. I have not addressed his shining moments because it is the non shining ones that set the tone of our family life. He is shackled by his anger and until now so was I.

I could have written this

I am printing this out to take to the counselors with me tonight. The past 3 weeks have been hell. My husband has been on meds for ADD for 5 years, recently he started drinking during business lunches and dinners. He spends his time off on the computer or mostly in front of the t.v. and his need to sleep has also increased. The other day I finally asked what was going on and he told me he was numb, it is like he has checked out and can no longer interact with anyone in our family. I love him and it hurts to watch him suffer like this. In past discussions he has been reisitent to take medication for anxiety or depression or mood disorders. His thoughts are this is who he is. What he doesn't see is that he doesn't like this person. Why is he so resistent to seek help for the depression/moods


My husband has severe ADHD since early childhood (ignored or misdiagnosed all his life). Several months ago he made an appt. with his GP for next week. Chronic lying, avoidance, wrathful outbursts are becoming more and more frequent as he gets closer to the appt. date. There are times when I am truly afraid it will turn physical. I freely admit there are times when his "button pushing" pushes me over the edge and I yell at him. I DO NOT feel heard AT ALL. He has admitted his wrathful, blaming reaction as opposed to responding to our pastor at a marriage meeting. However, 2 minutes later, several days, a month, doesn't matter, his escapism is getting more and more frequent. I can try to have a calm discussion with him about his out of control impulsive spending or lack of attention to things only he can take care of in our relationship, such as certain financial issues and I cannot anymore, at all. He'll explode at a conversational topic I bring up and then 5 seconds later be playing a love song on his quitar outside. Escapism has become and art form right before my eyes in only a couple weeks time. Any feed back from anyone on how to get through this until true help comes from his appt. is appreciated. Don't have trust at this point he'll even share truths with his Dr. though. 



Hi Anything,

Can you explain in more detail what happens during the anger outbursts? My ADHD wife has unbelievable outbursts, rage and total destruction when she explodes. A few days ago she exploded over nothing, I'm Italian, raised in an Italian family, the youngest of 4 boys and grew up in NJ & NYC...I hve never seen anything like it and it literally frightens me. It robs everyone of their normal emotions. When this happens we go days, weeks and now 2 months with disengagement. We have lost all forms of intimacy and can briefly talk. It's terrible and I don't get how my wife can maintain her silence and distance. I try to tippy toe around her defensiveness, her criticism which are daily and over the smallest things. I know she is under stress, long story with my step son, sh lost custody of him 2 years ago just as we were married and literally the day I moved in It hasn't been the same but we have had moments of incredible intimacy, the closeness, the affection etc. But after these tantrums, all is lost and I feel I have no leverage on getting things back on track. How do you cope?

This is why I don't leave kids with him for long anymore..

Funny you mentioned her outbursts. It has gotten to the point with my husband's short temper and my children's special needs (especially the oldest, who has Autism and an Autoimmune condition), I don't dare leave the kids alone with him for very long. At one point I worked two part time jobs just to be able to work around the kid's therapies, doctors appts and special needs, plus handle the stress of my medical issues which affected me cognitively. At first things went okay when I was gone on the weekends, then I started getting calls from either the kids or my husband during their arguments, or during my oldest son's meltdowns, I would tell my husband to give him his anti inflammatories (kid has a brain diseases and they calm him down) and he refused every single time. It got to the point they were getting in each other's face and I was afraid someone was going to get hurt. So I quit that job. Rarely with my kids and me does it get that escalated anymore, maybe once a year I might have to restrain the oldest and that's if he is seriously going to harm himself. Then my younger son started bringing over some kids who lived across the street to play. My husband was constantly about to flip his lid, yelling when kids left the doors open, made too much noise, got annoyed if they kicked a ball in the backyard and it hit his lemon tree, etc. That worried me too, so I tried to never leave him alone with my son's friends there. He gets working on these writing or other projects and needs complete silence, or feels the need to control everybody. Long story short, I had to take my other child to the urgent care because of a nasty cough and told him to send the neighborhood kids home. He did not. The kids were wrestling and it got out of control, the girl was pulling my son's hair and he lost control and hit her in the stomach. My husband sent them home after that but I am pretty sure it involved some yelling, which is typical for him. I doubt he tried to make sure the girl was okay and smoothed things over. The mother was really upset and told me they couldn't play anymore- I did apologize profusely. So now my younger son has no friends. :(   This is how my husband is, unbelievably like a volcano waiting to erupt. I do not feel comfortable letting any children in my house anymore. He has a quick temper and doesn't see the damage it's causing.

I know what you have to endure

I totally understand what you have to endure. It is not easy when your husband has anger issues. I am married for 14 years and we are separated right now. I just could not handle his anger outbursts about nothing. I was walking on eggshells, afrait when he would get angry again. He even started to try to persuate  me that I do have a mental problem - because I take antidepressants just to cope... It was hell and although I do miss him I rather let go instead of ending sick myself.

Anger isn't necessarily due to ADD

Hi. I read your post, and I just wanted to say that the things you wrote about your husband's anger sound very similar to the behavior my husband exhibits. However, I am the one with ADD. My husband has anger management issues, but he does not have ADD. While ADD and anger management problems can co-exist, I do not think that ADD is necessarily the reason for your husband's anger management issues. I just think it's important to keep the two separate. People with ADD have lots of things in common, but just because someone has ADD doesn't necessarily mean that he or she has anger management issues. Thanks, and best of luck with your husband and resolving your issues. Particularly because you have children together, I think it's great that you want to try to work things out if possible. Counseling with someone who understands ADD seems like a great idea!


That's true...I agree with you...anger and ADD don't go hand-in-hand. I have ADD and my husband doesn't, and I think that he's the one with anger management issues. In fact, he gets mad at me for not getting mad! For example, he's upset about something and I'm off in wonderland too much to get upset over it as well so then he thinks I'm not getting mad so I can irritate him! Anger and ADDers do not necessarily co-exist! On the other hand, when I am thinking, my thoughts are so intense and strong, that I can get mad if anybody interrupts me while I'm thinking.

This is so my life-someone please respond

My husband has had to come off of his medicine. We want nothing more than to have a child and the medicine was interfering with this.  Its hard making it work. He's been really ill lately and has found more positive ways to cope. For instance the other night he went flounder gigging which requires tons of exercise and he came home refreshed. He used to handle anxiety by going to the bar and drinking. We had an episode last night. As trivial as it sounds, we cannot cook in the kitchen together.  He turns into a total control freak and wants me out of his way. At one point he hurt my feelings and grabbed my arm and told me to get out of his kitchen. I admit that I know that he is aggravated by me being in there with him, but I get tired of walking on eggshells around his mood. I told him that this was an example of what we couldn't do when we have children. That must have hurt him b/c he automatically thinks that I am putting him down. Then he called me a name. I told him that name calling was not acceptable and he told me not to act that way. So, I told him that whenever he cooked a meal to not expect me to help. He agreed.  It is so hard to spend an entire day together without arguing.  How can I tell my husband that name calling is demeaning? I've even left our home before b/c of it and he still does it? 

Name Calling and Communication

You are right to stick up for yourself and not allow your husband to demean you.  It sounds as if the name calling is part of his trying to establish his power in some way.  It may also be that this is a communication pattern that he has seen much of growing up, and doesn't have too much exposure to other ways to communicate.

However, I would stay away from words like "not acceptable", which sound like you are a parent figure (i.e. authority figure) and may just throw fuel on his fire.  Also, try not to get into "scold mode".  "See, this is what you can't do when we have children" is, in fact, a criticism of his behavior (so he's right on this one).  He's had way too many people telling him all of his life what he can, can't or shouldn't do.  You don't want to become another one of them.  That's the road to a terrible marriage, lots of discord, lots of fights, and bad sex.  Next time you are feeling that you have an issue with his behavior, consider a different approach.  If you can find one that succeeds for you, you'll be much less likely to throw him into "auto shut down" mode (which is triggered by behavior that reminds him of bad stuff that has happened in his past).

Your marriage needs to be morphed from one where the two people are trying to figure out who is going to be in control to one in which the two of you are figuring out how to respect each other's needs and ways of being.  This can be really tough, particularly with someone who is as "touchy" as your husband sounds.  But it is also a very common pattern in the first few years of marriage.  You are together in courtship and it's one great exploration (fueled by all sorts of wonderful romance chemicals in your brains that help you overlook "reality"), then you get married and suddenly it changes to "who's in charge?"  You don't want it to be this way, or even think about it, it just happens.  You haven't changed as people, but your brains have changed (no more romance chemicals) and so the world seems very, very different.

There are a whole bunch of different ways to think about how to frame your lives and the work that you need to do in order to affect the change from competitors to partners.  Steven Stosny and Patricia Love, authors of "How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It" would suggest that you need to understand the male's tendency to experience crippling shame and the female's quick movement towards fear of being alone.  Their approach includes anticipating how things you say might trigger shame and fear responses in your partner, and having both partners sensitize themselves to how to be better together, even when they aren't talking.  It's an interesting concept, particularly in that many with ADD experience elevated levels of shame about what they've gone through with ADD that make them move into shame mode pretty quickly.  Or, there is Imago Marital Therapy, which tries to create a path of work that a couple does together to see change from competition through to a more mature love for who each person is.  You would need a therapist to embark upon this.  I'm a big fan of Stosny's earlier book "You Don't Have to TAke It Anymore" - where he talks a lot about getting out of the mode of walking on eggshells (a phrase I understand completely - been there, done that).

Whatever techniques you decide to explore, do pay attention to how he likes to communicate and "be".  Remember that men feel better when they "solve stuff" and women feel better when they "talk about stuff".  The two are very different, and often talking for talking's sake is like listening to a woman run her nails down a chalkboard for a guy.  (Conversely, having a guy say "you should do X" and walk off, assuming everything has been solved, is intensely irritating to a woman who wants to explore what she is feeling...)  So think about trying different modes of communication, times, places, duration...change things up and see what works, don't just assume that your way (or the woman's way) is the best way to communicate together (it's a two-way you have to experiment.  What works best for both of you together ulitmately creates what works best for you since you can't solve any of these issues by yourself.)

You also have a treatment/medicinal issue - I assume that the antidepressants he was using were interfering with your sex life - a not uncommon side effect.  But there are other options for treating ADHD and depression, so he should have a thorough talk with his doctor about his options on this one.  If he continues to not want the meds, he should try a very regular exercise routine.  This will a.) help his depression and b.) help his ADD and focus and c.) help his self image.  Because you are having so many issues together, you might actually approach exercise as not only fun but medicinal.  See if he would consider at least 30 minutes (or more) 5 days a week.  You might even consider linking exercise with hot in find him in the shower on a regular basis when he is done...a good motivator for all!  In all seriousness, exercise is a form of self-medication for people with ADD - it releases chemicals in the brain that are very calming and beneficial...drinking is another form of self-medication, but unlike exercise, has a large number of negatives, too.

My experience is that sometimes people with ADD do get into a control thing - trying to keep their lives organized can be hard, and so they "over organize".  However, there must be a way that you can help him, or share the cooking experience with him, without being in his way.  Is there a counter that you can sit at?  Could you do some chopping for him?  Hang out with a glass of wine or soda and just talk about whatever?  I assume that he isn't in the kitchen every single night, so take his forays there as a gift, and see if there is a way that you can be involved without being considered an interference.  If that doesn't work, take the time to go upstairs, hop into a warm bath and read a book or something...leaving him to do whatever he wants and getting pleasure from it while you also treat yourself to something special.



Hi Melissa

My wife who has ADHD, is on Vyvanse has major anger issues, we cant even talk. When I ask a question or want to talk about us and our lack of communication and lack of intimacy, just plain open up, she feels like I'm being offensive and she gets defensive. W have been off and on for 2 years, never really working on us. We try and talk just a little, in her case, as little about emotions as possible. It seems everything is more important and she brushes me away. Lately, my step sons father (she never married him) committed suicide. Our last discussion, or lack of, turned into me getting told to leave, not the first time. The issue is, I dont know what she;s going through. I'm shut out, she hates me, leave me alone mode, insults, threrats. My step son and I are fantastic together and before I left, going on 3 weeks, he and I were inseperable. What could be going on? Why would she do this? Not being rational, and she accuses me of being selfish. I cant imagine what my step son is thinking, first his dad and now me. My step son is 10 and he too is ADHD. How do I get through to her? I'm panicking that our lack of talking and seperation will drive this even further.


Anger for me was directed at my spouse because we had grown apart. We were becoming less intimate and denying me sexually / physically was the source of that. When I decided not to consider her a spouse, the anger quickly was reduced and again when I moved out of the bedroom. We've pulled back from the brink now.

I wouldn't say that ADD=anger for me.

Anger & ADD

I know a few of you have commented to clarify that ADD and Anger issues don't go hand-in-hand.  My partner discovered he had ADD after reading an article about anger management issues, which led him to read about ADD and everything just fell in place from there. 

I've never experienced his anger.  I've seen him angry, and I've seen how it escalates because he won't talk about it, so it builds and builds in his mind.  But it's never been a real problem.  However he's told me that it's a problem at work.  Before he went on meds (dexamphetamine 6+ mos ago) he thought he was 'scanning' for reasons to angry.  Any little thing he could take offense to, he would blow-up.  He thinks that he was addicted to the thrill of the adrenaline rush and the uncertainty of how the other people/person would react.  He sees himself as intimidating, though he doesn't want to be.  I think he used to use intimidation as a way to feel respected (mostly by other males.)

So... now I'm a bit worried that the anger will start to show in a few years!

What would your advise be to yourself at a younger age, during your engagement?  You hadn't yet experienced the anger first-hand, but you'd been told there was a problem.  When it first started to emerge how would you handle it differently, knowing what you now know?

P.S.  My partner doesn't like me to help him cook either - for some reason he wants to do it all himself!  I've chopped veggies for him a couple times, but usually before he gets in the kitchen and does "his thing."  Only ONCE did we work side-by-side and that was nice.  We chatted.  Most of the time it feels like he's a steamroller - he has no intuition about where I'm moving to and we bump into each other a lot.  So, I'd rather get out of his way - especially when we're holding knives!  Hehe I can see him: Puts his hands up (like he's explaining how big a fish is) looks at the stove/counter, takes a deep breath and says to me, "Ok.  You go sit down and I'll let you know when it's ready."

Not for us either.

I've been married to my ADHD (just recently diagnosed) husband for 13+ years and anger is not one of his problems either. He used to be extremely irritable, we had to walk around on eggshells to some degree, but this has gotten better since I told him (when we reconciled last December) that I couldn't live that way anymore and I didn't want our daughter to have to either. I told him "she cannot even be a kid without you ripping into her" and I can only conclude that he cared enough to see how hurtful it was because he's got far better control over this than ever. Of course our marriage is much happier and far less in general he's a much happier person and I suppose that makes all the difference in the world.

But anger, short fuse, screaming, yelling, name calling...none of these are part of my husband's personality.

If anything, I'm the one with anger

My guy hardly ever gets angry either, and he barely gets emotional unless I've gotten so irritated at something he's done/said that I snap in a mean way and hurt his feelings.  He is not irritable, angry, snappy or anything like that, ever.  So although many equate anger and ADD, it's not true for everyone.

I, however, have discovered a side of me I didn't know existed.  He manages to push some buttons of mine and I have SCREAMED at him on a handful of occasions (just absolutely could not control my temper, and it never ever happened to me before) and also called him and idiot or stupid, which is something I never did with anyone before.  So, apparently even previously calm and courteous people can become crazy when living with ADD.


Yes, yes we can become angry living with these problems.  I am almost never not angry after 14 years with my husband.  I get that I shouldn't be angry or use condescending tones or speak to him as a child.  I understand that.  But... and this is a big but, do I really believe he would shape up and become more competent if I didn't do those things?  No, I do not.  Maybe this is the wrong way to look at it, but if I put in tremendous work (and it would take a lot) to work through the anger I feel toward him and competely change the way I interact, I believe two things would happen.  First, I would expend a huge amount of time and energy that I could be using else for (2) no positive effect.  I believe the surface interactions would be much better but I don't think it would correct any of his behavior.  He stopped going to therapy and still makes almost no effort to use strategies to help himself. 

So, yes, a previously calm and courteous person can become a raging lunatic when living with ADHD.

I have ADD and I do have a

I have ADD and I do have a lot of anger from that, I'm passive aggressive and I get frustrated freakishly easily. Epically when someone close to me uses a parental tone or a superior tone when they tell me that I'm wrong on something. I've been on the meds and had to go off because the medication was intensifying my anger that I already have from having ADD. So in my experience anger and ADD do go hand in hand, it's just what will set an ADD person off to light the fuse...