Undiagnosed ADHD Can Make You Angry!

(by Zoe Kessler - see bio at end.  This post is a "must read" for anyone dealing with an angry ADHD spouse!)  I was diagnosed with ADHD at 46. After my diagnosis, I had a long talk with my sister (who does not have ADHD). One of the most startling things she told me was when we were kids, we’d be happily playing, when – POW! –I’d have an angry outburst. She said this scared her.

All these years later, her childhood memories made me cry. I was filled with shame and remorse. I’d had no idea how my moods had affected her.

When we were kids, I also had no idea what ADHD was, or why I couldn’t control my impulsive anger.

Today, I understand that like other ADHD symptoms, effort and willpower are no match for undiagnosed ADHD.

It begins at the beginning

Sudden, hot tempers are common amongst many of us with (untreated) ADHD. The reasons are not as straightforward one might think, but I’m pretty sure impulsivity and mood swings don’t help. If I felt anxious or worried, these sudden bursts of anger were much more frequent.

As a kid, being punished for angry outbursts only increased my anxiety; I couldn’t control or predict them, and constantly worried that I might explode. A vicious cycle began: angry outburst – punishment – anxiety and worry, leading to inability to control angry outburst… and so on.

My self-trust plummeted. Worse, my mom didn’t trust me either. She was convinced I could stop this behavior if I wanted to, and repeatedly said so. So now, I not only had anger problems, but was deemed willfully belligerent.

This led to profound identity confusion. I knew I was a kind and loving person. I knew I was trying my best, but how could I convince my mom of that? Not knowing about ADHD, we were both perplexed (albeit for different reasons).

As a child who was repeatedly criticized, I became an adult with a heightened sensitivity to criticism. I’d become defensive if I even thought I’d been criticized. As a young adult, this only led to more angry lashing out. The vicious cycle continued.

An angry snowball rolling downhill into adulthood

As an adult with untreated ADHD, I had no idea why this was happening in spite of my efforts to “control” it. Now I know that my brain and physiology were not allowing me to do that, in spite of sheer will power, various kinds of therapy, reading about anger management and psychology, etc., all of which I tried.

It was frustrating (and baffling), knowing myself to be loving, but having this knowledge and my actions contradict each other. How could I convince anyone else that I was not this angry beast if I was acting like one? After all, they could control their anger. What was wrong with me? It was like being a puppet, with my behavior at the whim of some invisible, malevolent puppeteer.

My new understanding does not mean I have excuses. What I have, finally, is an explanation. I’ve had to work to let go of crushing regret after a lifetime of broken relationships. Finally, I know the reasons why I couldn’t control my anger, and these reasons have led to understanding, which is the starting place toward change.

Much as it’s difficult for the person on the receiving end of the anger, believe me, it’s also hard to be the one dishing out the anger.

As an adult, another vicious circle is added to the first: angry outbursts can repel others; this leads to being alone. If you try again, and hurt someone else, it can lead to self-isolation; either way, you’re alone. Acting in a way that’s not congruent with your values and beliefs can lead to a lack of self-esteem, grief, self-defeat, even depression. No wonder you become convinced that you just weren’t cut out for relationships.

And how sad is that?

Giving up is not the answer…ADHD treatment is!

Thanks to my sis and others, I can see how living with someone with impulsive and seemingly irrational anger would make someone a nervous wreck!

The happy ending is, with treatment for my ADHD, I’m handling anger in a much healthier way.

A lot of people with ADHD are incredibly passionate and sensitive; as such, I’m ok with (and don’t actually think I can change) the kind of anger borne of witnessing, for example, social injustice of any kind. This kind of (managed) anger can be channeled into working for positive change.

Yoga, meditation, spending time relaxing and having fun with friends, a healthy diet, ADHD medication (key for me), and so on have all but eliminated the sudden, angry outbursts I used to have.

If I can do it, and others have done it, I know these angry outbursts CAN be understood and managed. They can even disappear with the right treatment. It takes conscious effort and willingness – but it CAN be done! (but of course you’re the one who’ll have to do it; if you’re in a relationship, hopefully you’ll have the support, understanding, and love of your partner). Hang in there!

About the author, Zoe Kessler

Zoë Kessler is an author, journalist and speaker living with and exploring adult ADHD, especially in women. Diagnosed at 46, she's currently working on a memoir about being a woman with ADHD for New Harbinger Publications.

In addition to her blog, ADHD: from A to Zoë, at Psych Central.com, Zoë has written about ADHD for print and radio, including feature articles for ADDitude Magazine, MORE Magazine, and radio documentary for CBC Radio One. She's currently working on a documentary about women and ADHD with Rick Green, producer and director of A.D.D. & loving it?!

Zoë has been a popular guest on radio talk shows; has been featured in documentaries and books on women and ADHD, and offers lively, informative presentations on all aspects of ADHD, especially from a woman's perspective.


anger, irritability

you are right on with some good strategies for anger; there are some others, such as the oldest, counting to 10

my anger is now much less than it used to be, but i still struggle with being irritable.  i think one key is that as we learn to cope better with our ADD, our self esteem goes up and then our anger and irritability goes down, some anyway.

thanks for the good blog

Zoe Kessler's picture

ADHD and Anger, Zoë Kessler's Guest Blog Post


Hi Doug.

Thanks for reading my guest post on ADHD and anger, I’m glad you liked it. Thank you also for adding some of your own experience, I’m glad you’re having some success also in managing your anger.

There are so many other tips I wanted to share, but of course in a blog post format, you can’t say everything, which is why readers’ comments are so important! They add so much to the conversation.

I agree with you that self-esteem goes up when one has success in managing one’s ADHD symptoms. It’s truly life-altering when one is diagnosed late in life, to finally have it confirmed that their anger, impulsivity, and other ADHD traits are NOT due to an inherent moral flaw or unwillingness to be reasonable. It’s so validating, and contributes to the (re-)establishment of healthy self-esteem.

Learning to love and accept ourselves, and not be so worried about the judgments of others, real or perceived, can help tremendously in lowering defensiveness, and ultimately in dissipating angry responses. Again, I found my diagnosis was key. It’s hard to love yourself when you’re being criticized and misinterpreted at every turn. It’s impossible to change the behaviors that lead to these misjudgments if your self-awareness is limited, which of course is another notorious symptom of ADHD. Again, diagnosis, education, support, and treatment of ADHD are essential.

Change, especially late in life, takes time. I’d like to urge those with ADHD working to overcome their anger to be gentle with themselves, and I’d like to encourage those who love them to give them the benefit of the doubt as that person you fell in love with; enjoyed as a friend or family member; or appreciated as a work colleague emerges like a Phoenix from the ashes. Trust me, it will be worth the wait!

All the best to everyone struggling with this. I do hope we hear from more people, both ADHD and non-ADHD, with their perspectives, support, and any tips they might have.

Zoë Kessler, B.A., B.Ed. (Adult Education)
Author, Journalist, Speaker and Blogger, <i>ADHD from A to Zoë</i> (PsychCentral.com)

I guess I didn't realize

I guess I didn't realize anger was a part of adhd. maybe it explains why my husband gets so angry sometimes. He also doesn't see how hurtful his anger is. He is to start his meds today so maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Anger and ADHD

It's certainly very re-assuring to hear words of Zoe as it conveys hopes to others who deal with anger and ADHD on a daily basis- one of the most difficult traits in an adult with ADHD. Yes, I agree and I can see that most adults with ADHD are very kind and warm people. However, the irritability and anger hurts the partner and family so much and I know that I don't say that it creates deeper wounds as well. 

My partner also has the issue of anger and it was surprising to see how he had changed when he was started on Vyvanse an year ago. He had become the person who I always wanted to be with and it appeared too good to be true. Sure enough, he developed tolerance to each dosage and it was so frustrating to see how he was changing from being nice to the 'mean' one. Although I know he is a good person in his heart, it's so hurting to listen to him when he is angry! He doesn't even realize he sounds so mean and keeps arguing with me that he was just being logical and truthful! He became a totally different person for a month when he went up on Vyvanse and later the medicine had very little effect. This continued up to 70mg and now the doctor has started him on Strattera and going up very slowly in the dosage. Unfortunately I haven't seen much change with this medication, although the frequent explosive anger has diminished. However, nothing like the emotional change he has had when he was started on Vyvanse in the beginning. He continues to be quite irritable and distracted and yes, appears non-caring (of course-not intentional (pun intended)) especially during conflict and retreats to his own world leaving me alone to deal with the emotional turmoil. I will be totally exhausted emotionally by the time he comes around after few days...I know it's my need to speak and process the fight, not his! I am being patient at present thinking and hoping that things will improve when we find the right medication (which I am pretty sure, not Strattera for him). It doesn't make it any easier to deal with it though! We are also attending Melissa's seminar and ironically I am a therapist too. But none of it helps at times..

Hats off to you Zoe, for the insight you have learned and the courage you have shown to deal with your anger and ADHD. I guess, the gender difference make a huge difference as women are reportedly more aware of emotional stuff. Do you agree? I am just wondering..



Strattera has one of the lower rates of effectiveness...be forewarned you may need to move on to something else.  The med that helped my husband so dramatically with his anger was Wellbutrin - this is an anti-depressant.  Caveat - just because it worked for him, doesn't mean it will work for your husband.  Takes 2-3 weeks to get fully up to dose and see if it has an impact.


Agreed!  My psychiatrist told me that it continues to increase levels in the bloodstream for about 2 months.  At first, it was working.  Then, as the levels continued to increase, and as my dosage was increase, I started to experience auditory hallucinations!  I have my issues, to be sure, but "crazy" is not amongst them.  It was absolutely terrifying!  My resting pulse, which is normally  60, shot up to 100.  Even though the blood levels remain elevated for about 8 weeks, within a week of stopping it, my heart rate was normal, and the auditory hallucinations completely disappeared.  

The other thing about Strattera is that since it's a long-term medication, if you start to miss doses, it's efficacy decreases over time.  If you miss a short-term stimulant, a) you will likely feel it, and b) you've lost 1 day, and that's it.

And one more *embarrassing* side-effect:  It gave me what I can only describe as a female version of premature ejaculation.  Couldn't hold a muscle contraction for more than a few seconds.  Horrible.  This too, abated after I discontinued usage of Strattera.  God, if these side effects don't steer people away from it, I don't know what will.

Make that two more side effects.  I almost forgot:  I felt like I had a dark cloud over my head while on Strattera.  I felt dead inside; flat.  No other ADHD medication has given me the side effects above.  A patient might inaccurately attribute it to other things, since these side effects appear gradually. It took about 4 months for these things to start happening, but they are pretty significant side effects!

WebMd has an area where users can register comments about medication side effects and rate the medication out of 4 or 5 stairs.  Read through the comments...they are illuminating.  

That said, I had a student on Strattera, and he was a high-functioning A student.  

Concerta, Vyvanse, and the

Concerta, Vyvanse, and the like did not help my husband...only made him angry and irritable. MEAN. He started Straterra about 2 months ago and was having some side effects (problems urinating, sexual issues..different from yours, obviously, and feeling physically bad in the evenings) and his doctor divided his 80mg dosage into two 40 mgs dosages and his side effects have improved some. I haven't seen any of the horrible anger issues he had with the other meds. He has only been on the split dosage for about 4 weeks, so I guess time will tell. He really hasn't said if it is helping (or hurting) him where work is concerned, but I have noticed that he rarely ever talks about work and he has only once complained about a work related issue in 6+ weeks on the job...so that is different.

Wellbutrin made my typically

Wellbutrin made my typically laid back husband VERY angry and irritable. As a matter of fact, any anti-depressant he has ever tried does him that way. I guess maybe since anger isn't an issue with him and his ADHD, it affects him differently. 

Sherry, did he try any of them while not also self-medicating?

I can't remember the story exactly....sorry....but I remember how baffling it was that every single med he tried seemed to make him hostile.  Once it came out that he was self-medicating with alcohol and also with other meds, it made more sense to me.   I bet the interaction of the ADD meds would be very very different if a person was only taking them and not other things besides.  I hope that there is eventually a med that works for your husband because I think that would enable him to see much more clearly what his role is in the issues in your marriage.

Years ago, before the

Years ago, before the drinking and other stuff, he took Wellbutrin. So, yes, he took that without the effects of the other stuff...and it made him very irritable. He was DEFINITELY sweet and caring back then...so the change was very noticeable.

When he started spiraling out of control after learning his mother was dying, he took Effexor...but had moved out and was drinking at the time. It, coupled with the massive amounts of alcohol (??) made him a MONSTER. From that point on, for the next 2 years, he was on 'something' (alcohol, pills, etc) in addition to the ADHD meds he tried from Oct 10-Feb 11. So, the stimulant meds (Vyanse and Concerta) were taken at a time when he was self-medicating. His psychiatrist mentioned that might have had some effect on the way the meds worked/affected him...but I don't think he's willing to prescribe narcotics with his history. 

We cannot get our insurance to cover the Straterra...it will cost $380/mo..just found out yesterday. So he will be weaning off of it and stopping it. He says he cannot tell any difference and that it makes him feel bad physically. He isn't very happy about the sexual side effects (decreased libido, decreased functionality) either.

So, for now he takes a non-narcotic anti-anxiety medication and very low dosage of an anti-depressant to help him sleep...and he is still seeing his counselor and his psychiatrist. I personally feel if he stays away from alcohol (almost 3 months since he's self-medicated in any form) that he will be OK. He still gets angry, still says things that I know he doesn't mean, but he is willing to take responsibility for his words and actions and say he's sorry. I'll take that over the past 2+ years of nothing but hatred, anger, and self-destruction...and ZERO accountability. 

Wellbutrin saved our relationship

Some people do get more irritable on Wellbutrin, but it made such a huge difference in my husband's irritability that I can honestly say it saved our relationship. Not out marriage, because divorce wasn't an option. But he'd become so consistently mean that my heart was closing to him. Wellbutrin was an amazing aid.
cegowin's picture

Look beyond the anger

This is a great post that highlights the need to look beyond the anger.  The need to gain an understanding of the reasons/pressures that are causing the anger.

ADHD is not always the reason for anger but this post does point out the need to gain a real understanding of your anger.


"I couldn’t control or

"I couldn’t control or predict them, and constantly worried that I might explode. A vicious cycle began: angry outburst – punishment – anxiety and worry, leading to inability to control angry outburst… and so on."

"It was frustrating (and baffling), knowing myself to be loving, but having this knowledge and my actions contradict each other."

"It was like being a puppet, with my behavior at the whim of some invisible, malevolent puppeteer."

I do find with medication I can control my anger (mostly husband-directed) better with medication and therapy, but I am wondering how to control anger on the spot when the meds have worn off.  I CAN predict that is at least significantly more likely without my medication.  

I have never fully (until reading this post) appreciated the degree to which my ANXIETY contributes to FUTURE angry outbursts.  It really does.  My husband and I have been in a marriage crisis for the past two years due in large part to my under-treated ADHD as well as his own issues.  Meds, therapy, and this website have been my saving grace during this difficult time.

This feeling of insecurity within our relationship causes me a LOT of anxiety.  I have meditated in the past, and I have been thinking for a while I need to return to it, because I do snap when the meds wear off fairly frequently, and even when they are still in effect. 

My question is, what can I do IN REAL TIME to stop myself from running at the mouth when I feel anxious, or from making mindless snide remarks (this is an attention thing..as in I'm not paying attention to the fact I am making a snide comment, it feels like it "falls out," if that makes sense... I wish I had a remote with a mute button, so I could literally stop myself more effectively.  THANK YOU SO MUCH for this perceptive article.   


Stopping Anger in Real Time

Since you don't have that much control over your anger when you are unmedicated, you will need the help of your partner.  The two of you should set up a verbal cue with the meaning of "we've agreed that (one of us) is getting too angry and things are about to get out of control.  It's time to disengage from this conversation."  The cue might be something like "let's walk away right now and come back to this" or something.  Your AGREEMENT when you use the cue is that you each have permission to walk away (no, a DUTY to walk away) from the fight.  Then, the two of you will return to the topic when you are less likely to explode.  If you have trouble with memory, write the topic down on a sheet of paper and leaves it somewhere obvious.  Then you can circle back later. 

It is in no one's best interest to let the anger eruptions go on.  You've done a good job getting it under control, it seems, except when you don't have the meds to help.  That's fine - it sounds like a chemical issue.  As such, your spouse will likely understand that you need some help sometimes and be happy to participate in this.  It's clearly in both of your best interests.

I'm working with one couple right now that has trouble recovering from bad fights.  They are trying to interrupt them, but sometimes they can't.  So they have added something to this - they are about to record a message together reminding themselves how much they love each other so they can listen to it if their fights get out of control.  The expect that hearing themselves when they are more "sane" will help each of them recover, instead of staying mad for a week.  I think this is also a great idea and look forward to hearing how it works for them.  Ability to recover, if things do get out of hand, is critical...and might allay some of your anxiety, as well.

On Anger, Medication, Meditation, and Validation

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for the suggestions.  Those are really good ideas.  I also appreciate your acknowledgement that the anger does have a chemical component.  I've literally had to stagger my dose so my ADHD son and I aren't unmedicated at the same time.  Mornings have been so much easier since I figured this out :).  My son has the same issue.  Fortunately, he is a lot like me in other ways.  He shares my fascination with how things work, knows he has ADHD, understands some of the issues he has, and so yesterday, I decided to talk to him about meditation.  I had done it a few years ago, but decided it was imperative to return to it, for the good of my family and me.  I explained to him  it's known to help with ADHD symptoms (showed him on my smartphone), and talked to him about how we both have tempers.  He understood this, and when I asked him, "Do you feel more anger and rage when your meds have worn off?"  His reaction was immediate and definitive, "Oh yeah, absolutely."  I told him I can feel the rage building when they wear off, and so could he.  I told him meditation could help, and he seemed interested.  I have heard that kids in India meditate, and that kids can be taught, so tonight, we meditated together on his bed.  His meds had long since worn off.  He had been running around, stealing his sister's toys for the simple joy of provoking her.  He couldn't stay still.  He was agitated when we first started, but ended by falling asleep before he was finished.  This was well before his appointed bedtime (he reads in bed every night).  I am lucky to have such an intuitive ADHD kid who is willing to learn more about himself and try new things. 

Also, thanks for telling me I wasn't being validating to my husband a few months ago.  I have been working hard on this.  I think this is one of the reasons our fights haven't been lasting as long...he feels heard more than he used to...  He hasn't articulated this to me, but I know him well enough to know he used to literally follow me all over the house and just perseverate endlessly while I tried to escape (which can I tell you, ADHDers LOVE ;), by the way).  Shorter fighting time does help lower stress, but there are still pockets of stress...I am also working on planning in detail (just put up a post on that the other day), so I can reduce my husband's stress.  

Thanks for your time, dedication, and help, the other day.  

Oh, my God, my title sounds like a Red Hot Chili Peppers song ;).  Silly, but it stays!


Great story

Thanks for sharing this.  I always found that my ADHD daughter was open to new ideas about how to manage ADHD symptoms, too.  And I like how you're adjusting so that the two of you are less likely to be angry/unmedicated at the same time.  This shows creativity and thoughtfulness.  Keep it up!

A Few More Things...

My son is only 7, by the way.  If a 7 year old boy with ADHD can meditate, ANYONE can.  If the frontal lobes of adults with ADHD are 10% smaller than those without, his prefrontal cortex has to be the size of...a raisin ;) ?  

To Anyone Else Reading this Comment:  

I highly recommend 8 Minute Meditation for those who would like to know more about meditation but find the prospect too intimidating, cerebral, or those who think they don't have the concentration, or the time.  The author dispels a myth I must admit I thought true...that you have to try to empty your mind of thought.  Instead, he teaches the reader to acknowledge thoughts, and let them pass through.  It does get easier, and it seems to be like muscle memory:  I hadn't done it in a while when I re-started a few days ago, but it was a lot easier than if I had never done it before.  I like breathing meditation  (focusing on my breathing) there are 7 or 8 types that his book covers.  Each type is given a week's practice before moving on to the next. At the end of the 7 or 8 week period, the reader is encouraged to pick the type they prefer...  The book is an easy read and the author is not out of teach with the mindsets of people who have an aversion toward meditation.

Finally, fish oil, which I have been taking for 2 years and vitamin D3 seem to take the edge off my moodiness as well.  It's a lot of work to control my moods, but worth the effort! Don't forget to exercise!





I have added a 3rd

I have added a 3rd dose of medication to my regimen, and so far it is helping.   I take Focalin XR (Extended Release) twice a day, in the evening because it ironically helps me sleep better (science backs me up here...I posted about Sleep Issues a few months back).  The 3rd dose is to cover that in between time when my a.m. dose has worn off and it's not time for my p.m. dose.  My psychiatrist was hesitant to do this, but I told him how I had had some extra short-acting Focalin, and had been adding that to cover the 3-4 hour gap where I didn't have any medication in my system.  Since I had run out, my temper flares during this gap were causing issues between my husband and me.  I am going to add a daily self-monitoring sheet to see how I am doing.  It will include hours of sleep, whether I've meditated, exercised, took my meds on time, and when symptoms are appearing.  He does NOT get that we get into the majority of our fights when my meds wear off. If I can get my DH to fill out the daily checklist too, that could prove helpful.  I suspect he will probably view it as one more thing he has to do to accommodate my issues, but I'll ask anyway.  I'll have to find a way to keep it simple for him so it's not too annoying, which is never an easy task for me.  I tend to overcomplicate things in my ADHD brain.  If not, I'll have to rely on my own assessment, which is fine.

Holy crap, it's a lot of work to keep my symptoms under control.  Only my fellow ADHDers will fully appreciate that sentiment.  But if the consistent combination of meditation, exercise, medication, fish oil, vitamin D3, therapy, reading, this website, and a self-monitoring checklist will help me help myself, I'm all in.  I've been trying to solve the issue of my anxiety and my temper my entire life.  And being calm will help me manage my other symptoms (distractibility, disorganization, impulsivity, etc...).  And if that happens I'll get more done.  And if ALL these things happen, I'll log more hours of sleep.  And that will also help my symptoms.  IT'S ALL CONNECTED. 

I hope this works.  I have tears in my eyes as I type this.  I've been trying to manage my ADHD since before I knew I had it; since I was a kid, really.  I really hope this works.  I'm fully committed to do the work, if it helps.  I get so frustrated with myself and the daily struggles I have.  I spend so much time thinking about how to solve my issues.  I have found that turning to you guys really helps.  Those of you who have advised, well, you know who you are, and I am so very grateful for your most kind help.  I am thankful to have this website to vent and more importantly, for us to all help each other.  Keeping my fingers crossed that my plan will work.

Managing Symptoms Across Your Life

I'm really enjoying reading about your efforts to get your ADHD symptoms under control - it is a ton of work, and takes lots of experimentation and observation a la the "I am easily angered when my meds wear off" observation.  But the good news is that once you get it, you do have it in your power to manage it.  It's a pain sometimes, but the reward is the upward swing - and move to better times.  You mention that your fights are shorter, which sounds like a real move in the right direction.  Have more of those, start to figure out how to "pause" and pretty soon you'll find they are both shorter and fewer...I had a couple say to me lately how pleased they were that they had just spent the last week bickering...because what they had been doing before was knock down drag out fights that lasted several days.  So bickering is one step that showed they were starting to be able to think before speaking, disagree, and then move on...(loved this story when they told me!)

Celebrate your successes and your efforts and keep it up!

Thank you for the encouragement.

Hi Melissa,

I've been thinking about what you've written here since I first read it.  I like what you say about progress A LOT.  I think that is one of the differences between my husband and I in terms of defining it.  He doesn't call it progress even if I've made it to the ADHD Olympic Trials.  It's only progress if I've won the gold medal-every time, especially because I'm supposed to be an "adult" already.  I am starting to be more aware of my progress, even if I'm not where either of us would like me to be.  Comparing myself to how I used to be is validating for me.  It's giving me the strength to move forward instead of back sliding briefly because I feel so discouraged by his commentary.  I think part of it is probably the fact I have done this so often; to him it feels like I've never moved forward at all.  But the fact is, even with the difficulty that I have with being consistent (mostly ADHD-related with some low morale thrown in), I HAVE made progress.  I have actually made some consistent changes, some of which are ADHD-related, and some of which are not, but I'm too ADHD to have realized it sooner...;)  I was responding to Aspen today and mentioned how my unmedicated mother deals with time and as I was writing, I realized how far I've come.  My husband's idea of being on time is being early.  So when I am on time, he tells me I am lucky that nothing happened to derail me.  He's right, and I recognize this.  However, when your ADHD wife is ON TIME, and you tell her she's not REALLY on time, well, if that's not discouragement, I don't know what is...  That is a BIG deal.  Today, I got my daughter to a lesson on time, and was even on time by my husband's standards. We waited for 6 minutes for her lesson to begin.  

Now I have to keep going...and not let anger and sadness at where my marriage is derail my progress.  I marvel at your ability to have done that when you were at a low point in your marriage and how you just eased back into the person you used to be before.  I could say that not having ADHD must make it easier to be consistent, and that would be accurate.  However, you have experienced some things in your marriage that I have not, and not only recovered, but are thriving-together.  I hope one day to be thriving with my husband, but if not, I will find a way to do it for myself and my kids.


ADHDMomof2 - If I could hug ya' right now, I would. ::BIG HUG::

My guy and I LOVE to fight in the evening. Actually, *I* love it. That's the way I grew up. During the day, no one was home. Stress happened at night. Fighting was attention for me. Fold in meds wearing off, and WOW - what an insight when I read it like this. 

In trying to stay focused on myself and what I'm in control of, I am realizing just how much of my own baggage needs worked through. And, just how exhausting it is. I can only imagine how much work it is to keep ADHD symptoms at bay. If things were different (i.e. I was straight and wanted children & you weren't married) I'd so take ya' on a date! :)  

One of the most important lessons I've learned is this is all about PROGRESS - not perfection. As Melissa's comment below shows, progress in the right direction needs to be recognized and celebrated for it. Too many times I've wondered if I could get federal funding for our battles, but instead I'm hopeful that we'll be able to come to some sort of agreement on how to measure progress. (Non-ADHD Spouses Controlling Moment Drone Strikes! I think we're on to something here!)

Thanks so much for sharing your stories about hard work and your progress! It's really an inspiration to me as a non that there's a better (albeit different that what I pictured) tomorrow. :) 


thank you for posting!!!

thank you so much!!! i needed to hear about another grown women that just got undiagnosed. I'm 51 and just found out. started the meds 16 days ago and hope to be thinking better soon!! its like someone has pulled the blind-fold off my eyes. everything i have read about adult-ADHD is my life!! from birth until know. i am married, for 28 years but its not me that kept us together.It's God grace and my husbands stubborn will.  as i read the ADHD books i realize that my mom and older brother had it too. and the things they did to me wasn't out of evil, they just didn't know better.  I feel more peace in my life than ever before. i have been a [email protected] mom for 30 years and would love to find my calling. peace out 


I am new to this site, my first post, so here goes...Undiagnosed ADHD and Anger - what if your spouse has been diagnosed, 6 years ago, see's a Dr regularly yet doesn't admit to his temper and other issues, takes his medications so erratically that he might as well not take them at all. Drinks excessively yet doesn't think its a problem, is always irritable, does what he wants to do not what he needs to do..you know all the typical traits. I have been on the verge of tears for a week, i just feel like I can't cope anymore. Our 2 children have ADHD also, keeping them on track in school, my full time job, all the chores, i feel so burnt out, so trapped. How do you get a spouse who knows he has ADHD to take his meds, he does not want me to remind him that just causes more anger, reminder notes, pill boxes, etc. doesn't seem to help. I have read just about every book I could find on ADHD to help everyone in my family. many of the tips I've learned, Omega-3, neurofeedback, coaching, have helped my kids, but not my husband. Can you not teach an old dog new tricks if he doesn't want to learn them ?  Short of finally calling it quits I just don't know what to do anymore. Boy I sound pathetic even to myself.

Not Pathetic

Funny - I'm not sure if you're not appears elsewhere (in some way shape or form), but I did want to at least chime in and say that I don't think it sounds pathetic at all. I think you'll find a lot of us on this board have been in the same if not similar situations (or still are!). 

Have you read Melissa's book? Great tips in there, of course. Also, I've found some relief in Al-Anon myself, and these boards have been a my best source of community and safety for working thorough my concerns with regard to my ADHD partner. 

It sounds as though you've educated yourself and have taken care of you and your kids. Congrats! Is the doc your hubby is seeing a medical doc, or a mental health guy? 

The hardest part for me to get my head around is that my DP is not going to make any changes based on my recommendations. He's currently out of meds and doesn't want to save the $$ to buy more. SO frustrating because I saw such a great improvement and progress when he was. :( Hard to watch someone you care about appear to be screwing up their lives, but it's not our call to make - it's theirs. Partner, hubby, friend or whatever. 

More to the point, though, stay here and keep posting/responding! The situation for you will clear up whether it's through your work or his, and the folks here are wonderful supporters and brilliant minds! :)  

Thanks Haps,   I have been on

Thanks Haps,   I have been on here almost daily since this first post, i find it very therapeutic to chat with people who understand. I'm sure I've stated the above in some manner in other posts, same story different day.  My H see's a psychiatrist for his meds, yet I know he doesn't discuss the things he needs to improve on, not sure he realizes or will admit that there is anything he needs to change. I've come to the realization that he Will Not change, I can't make him change, he doesn't want to change....so I have been trying to just get thru day by day, trying not to let everything bother me, very hard,  but its either just live with it or move on, and I just don't have it in me (yet) to break the family up.  I know when the kids are grown and living their lives more independently this will be over, it saddens me that i will have spent half my life living unhappily in a relationship I did not 'agree' to. Had I known I would have been the 'parent' to a grown man i never would have married him.

another suggestion - the course

I hope you don't think this is self-serving because it's not meant to be, but one option for you and your husband would be to talk with him about whether he might be willing to take my recorded couples course with you (or the live version, but the next one of those isn't until Jan/Feb '13)...The course was designed with people like your husband in mind - it is specifically meant to help people who don't really understand the full impact of their ADHD (and for the spouses, their responses to the ADHD).  The course gets people thinking about ADHD differently and helps couples make it more of a priority.  Many of the "resistant" ADHD folks end up FINALLY pursuing full treatment, while many of the "resistant" angry/frustrated non-ADHD partners end up taking control of their anger.  A good outcome in both cases.

Anyway, compared to many other options, it's inexpensive and it has helped many couples move away from just the type of "feeling hopeless" situation you describe.  The trick, of course, is getting your partner on board.  Some sort of conversation along these lines may help - "I am feeling pretty down about our relationship and really struggling to hold things together.  You see how much ADHD impacts our children...I've been reading quite a bit that suggests that it may be impacting our relationship in ways that we don't fully understand, as well.  It's not just the ADHD, but also my responses to it, that are creating problems, so it's not that I'm trying to blame you or the ADHD - we both contribute and I realize that.  There is a couples course available that addresses a lot of these issues that many couples say has really changed their relationship for the better.  It's recorded, so we don't even have to leave the house.  I know you have lots of things to do, but I'm wondering if you might be willing to commit a couple of hours a week for seven weeks to doing this course with me?  I would be most grateful for your participation..."

The course includes worksheets,notes pages, Q&As and reading in The ADHD Effect on Marriage that all go together if you want to do it full out - or you/he can just listen to the lectures and you'll get a lot of it that way, too.

Information on the course is at this link.

Again, please don't think I'm pushing this for the sake of selling you something.  I created the course because couples need it and I can't keep up with the requests I get for counseling - and I've now recorded it so it's even easier for them to take (and, yes, I admit it...all those late nights lecturing were starting to take their toll!!)

Thanks Melissa,  No I don't

Thanks Melissa,  No I don't think your suggestion was self serving, its clear thru your book and this site you are trying to help people and I thank You for that.  This is something I will have to consider, not sure how it will go over with my H, seems like we are beyond anger and just don't even like each other anymore. I stay for my kids, and I really think he is only staying because he is afraid of being alone.  I've read your book 3 times in the past 2 years each time it helps me see MY part in this dysfunction, I try and change my response, but when he does something like lose his temper and throw something all the old feeling of anger just come spilling out. If I step away from these feelings I have to say he does have his temper under much better control than say a year ago...i think that is just because I have been doing 100% of the child care, the kids ADHD really gets under his skin and he has no patience for their behavior when the meds wear off.. or when they don't to what they are told, like pick up your room they go in their room but end up playing with everything on the floor instead of picking it up....which has always blown my mind..how can you get down right furious at your kids when you have almost all the same behaviors...I just don't get that.  I don't know HOW to let go of my anger honestly, i have read the Dance of Anger and other books, and while i can seem to 'let go' for a while it raises its ugly head and all the resentment is still there when something happens that got me to this point to begin with. Anyway thank you for the suggestion I'll have to consider this.


I am also new to this site, just signed on last night.  The feelings of being burnt out and trapped seem so much a part of life living with a partner with adhd.  My spouse was diagnosed as a child, but the condition never managed.  So now after nearly 17 years together and two children (who also show the signs) and a seemingly never-ending war, we are battling to get him diagnosed again - unfortunately the paperwork from his childhood was not kept on file so we have no record of the original diagnosis.  As well as dealing with the daily frustrations and outbursts, the misunderstandings, the depression, we are finding that the medical system is completely inadequate and it is taking a lot of time to get to the right people for assessment and treatment options. Meanwhile the family relations are breaking down.  I've tried the "I'm walking away, postponing this conversation etc" tactic but it seems to infuriate him more and he then says I'm not listening to him, (a phrase that gets used a lot) that I'm some sort of control freak that needs to dictate to him..... He gets angry at me for forgetting all the things he has asked me to remember for him, so I started to write lists for him to look at.  That just became another thing I had to remember to ask him to do.  I think this is one of the coping adjustments that he got used to over the years.  Displacing any responsibility onto others, then using that as an outlet for anger and frustration if we don't happen to get it right on his behalf.  He also accuses me of treating him like one of the children whenever I need to remind him about important things he's forgotten to do, leaving me stuck in a catch 22 situation of no-win either way. 

Our marriage has been rocky for many years because of his condition, I'm often too emotionally wounded to be understanding and attracted to him.  Also it often happens that his adhd is clashing with my a.s.d. We've tried counselling a few times - he ends up walking out or insisting that the therapist "has no idea".  He seems to not be able to connect his feelings and actions with his condition, instead blaming everyone else for the blow-up.  Like I said, he is well aware of his condition but has the mindset that it's just the way he is and cannot be changed, and the world should just make allowances.  It's a bit like living with a schizophrenic sometimes.  I have terminated the relationship many times over the years, but he wouldn't leave and I didn't feel it would be right to uproot the kids from everything so we're still here, still in the firing line of this amazing person who is trapped inside himself and attacking those who love him.  Many well-meaning friends have told me that I should just bite the bullet and get out, and why do I keep allowing the family to be treated this way, that I deserve so much better.  They don't understand that I know he is a beautiful, talented, creative and caring person on the inside but does not know how to relate that to us out here.  Although I know this, it's hard to remember when being emotionally bullied day in day out.

Like many others I would love to be able to change the situation, feeling rather ripped off that the wonderful man I married turned into a monster. Knowing that the children don't always understand why their dad doesn't listen to them or even seem to hear them till they're shouting, or why he forgets to play whatever game he promised and gets involved in some other activity instead.  They feel ignored.  It's very hard to really feel the support of friends who now hate him. I often get depressed myself and feel that its just not fair. 

Thank you to everyone who posts here, and thank you to the creators of this site.  I now no longer feel so alone in this, and have a little spark of hope that one day I might see more of the man I love and married.  Does anyone know of any natural alternatives to the meds?  He has flatly refused to consider them.


I'm new to this site (thank you new York Times), and it's incredible to see myself in so many stories, both through the eyes of people like me & from the outside perspective of the people living with people like me.

i was diagnosed about 7 years ago, put on medication, but was never told how important therapy or coaching would be in managing my condition. The medication helps, but it's never been enough. I've always known I had a temper, but recently I've started to notice just how irrational and out of control it can be. When my anger is inflamed, the way I see the world becomes totally distorted. But I have no perspective on how warped my perceptions have become. It's scary. Like a mild form of possession.

i have been with my partner

i have been with my partner for 3 years and our daughter is 1, he is very angry most of the time and was self madicating with illegal drugs to control his anger. he stopped this a while back and is now even angrier more often and cannot control himself at all. even in the middle of town etc. he has been trying to get help for a long time but he is passed from one person to the next... british nhs for you. his appointment for diagnosis is a month away and i feel like i can no longer cope. everyday i want to give up but i dont because i love him and see the fantastic person he is behind the adhd. i just wish i knew how things can change and he feels so hopeless and wants things to be different! i would love support and tips on an adhd life

barneyarff's picture

Hi Lee   Sorry to sound mean

Hi Lee


Sorry to sound mean here, but why is it your job to stick by him?  Maybe  "everyone" turns away because he won't go get himself fixed.   Why would you put yourself through so much for a person who won't find a doctor and work on this?   Your friend can choose to get some help and have relationships or he can keep going as he is and have no relationships.  You need to take care of you.  If you take care of him, he will have even less reason to get this fixed because you are compensating for him.

Been there.  Done that.

Searching for Answers -- Is My Anger Related to My ADHD

Hi everyone,

I am a 40 year old male that was diagnosed with ADHD while in law school at age 27.  A week and half ago my wife announced that she wanted a divorce.  We have two young kids.  I am crushed.  A significant factor leading to the divorce announcement was my temper; I had really ugly outbursts of anger that were not only directed at my wife but also my kids.  I have been searching for answers of why I felt so angry all the time and why the sudden outbursts.  I work alot (14-16 hours a day), don't sleep much, wasn't working out, and drank coffee like it was an I.V. hooked to my body; I also became depressed a few years go after falling short on my first job as a lawyer. 

After reading alot on the Internet, I thought I found at least a part of the answer to my anger.  That individuals with ADHD are more prone to anger outburts/tempers and I have left it untreated for over 10 years.  I was genuinely excited for finding the information, as I was heart broken to think that I was the ugly person that I have been to my wife and the hurt that I have caused her.  My wife, however, deflated my excitement by informing me that she had spoken with her sister, a child psychologist for just a few years, who informed my wife that anger is not a symptom or related to ADHD.  Can someone please point me to sound medical studies or evidence that shows the linkage to ADHD and anger.  There were other things I did to hurt my wife emotionally, such as working too much and not paying attention to her, and putting her down.  This is not me; I believe I am loving, caring, and compassionate person.  I feel trapped in someone else's mind and body.   


you sound just like my partner, he punches doors, always explodes with anger over the simplest of things and cannot control these outburst. i have never understood it and he says he cannot help being this way.he also says some terrible things , almost daily. I was reading some information today as I am always scouring on adhd websites... it said that some individuals with adhd subconciously self medicate using anger, arguments to provide adrenaline. just one second i will try to find the info and post on here as a comment

Yes it is related

Yes anger can be related to ADHD, but that may not matter to your wife any longer.  It still needs to matter to you, however.  The descriptions of ADHD folks engaging in "stimulating" behaviors can run the gamut from "teasing" that is too intense for the recipient, oppositionality, poking and prodding for argument, being irritable all the way up to red-faced shouting, and even God forbid, physical assault.  I believe it can be a mixture of stimulation seeking behavior and defensive behavior..... I know I did wrong, but if I can make it look like you did wrong, then it won't be my fault, so I'll attack you first... you get the idea. 

My guy has a naturally easy-going, low-conflict temperament.  He rarely gets "angry" in shouting, arm-waving sense.  Instead, he disagrees with most of what I say, then has to walk it back.  He loves to "give me crap" his phrase for teasing, because "I'm cute when I'm mad".  No I ain't, but I now recognize this is his way of seeking a stimulating way for us to relate to one another.  When I'm feeling strong and sassy, I'll give him a little treat, and "give him crap" right back.  I have to be the one to know when to call a halt though. 

After two years since I suggested to him he has ADHD (he still has no diagnosis), a little more every month, he'll sort of apologize for a particular behavior, and hint that he realizes that is his ADHD popping up.  I appreciate those gestures, and subtly acknowledge his awareness.  We're doing better now than in years, but I'm still trying to decide if I can get back to happy with someone who places far less value than I do on emotional connection, conversation, and having some shared goals.  

Anyway, get your ADHD managed, and your anger under control, for yourself.  And if your marriage can be saved, that effort will help.  Honest effort without the expectation of praise or "credit" will go a lot further in healing relationships damaged by ADHD than anything else you can do.  Best wishes. 

If you're still around

.. try buying a cheap copy of Daniel Amen's books Healing ADD.. and Change your Brain.., you should find them on Amazon. They are really revealing about the types of ADHD and possible drug treatment combinations. My H has angry outbursts. He is now taking Adderall (Ritalin was a really bad experience), and is much better but still depressed about the wasted time and whether he will ever learn how to make up for that or learn new behaviors. The real point is, the psychiatrist recently prescribed an SSRI and that made the anger and aggression much worse just within 2 weeks. Stopping the SSRI (I insisted he did it before his next appt) got him back in better control and without the explosions.  It turns out that SSRIs might be a bad idea with temporal lobe issues (I think my H has them). He will discuss this with his dr at the next appt.  My point really is that yes, ADHD can be associated with anger (brain functioning) or through frustration (inadequate coping mechanisms) but it does not have to stay that way. Find a psychiatrist who will work with you, they are out there. The child psychologist you mentioned does not seem familiar with uncontrolled ADHD in adults - there is more for you to try and I hope you will, good luck.

living misdiagnosed, ADHD not treated properly.

It's been a 20 long year's....... The only thing I can control myself is therapy. So living with severe adhd has me running circles for almost all my life, all day, every day. It's a Tough life, always struggling, always in search Of a doctor who knows adhd in and out. A doctor who concentrates on On patients that have lived most of their life being told I have severe adhd (based upon a conversation Wit a doctor for 5 minutes). My entire life I hoped I can find a Dr that can diagnose me And structure treatment based upon the diagnoses. I honestly feel clueless all day every day. Although I'm seeing 2 different pshycologist (one my wife comes). The most horrible feeling is the feeling that There is no help for me.although I'm confident I will find a Dr that actually wants his pt to life in a decent quality of life. Any ideas? I'm open to new ideas and willing to try any advice from a professional. I blogged looking for help in the past. This describes my daily life a lil better:

I could have written this myself! UNBELIEVABLE!

This is an amazing day. I read this post early afternoon TODAY, called the doctor whom I have ONLY seen once, went to his office 2 hours later, went to pharmacy and am back at my office an have taken my first dose of Adderall 2 hours ago. Therefore, it's time to go home and there are 20 things in my head of what I need to do and get done, so I am not ready to sit and type the response I want to! But I will soon. I showed your post to my daughter and my husband and EACH thought I wrote it!  THIS IS ME and I thank GOD for you, having described your symptoms and feelings so effectivly, that I would recognize and immediately try to get what I need as opposed to what they THINK I need.  I am way MORE ADHD than I am depressed. In fact, the depression sets in when the ADHD get to an exhaustive level. So again, your post made SOOOO Much sense!   Thank you for sharing,  MelissaOrlov!!!

Finally Accepting

I have been aware of my ADHD most of my life. When I was in middle school I was diagnosed and  prescribed adderall. After 5 years I stopped taking my prescription and went off to college. After 10 years I could not understand why I was constantly angry and on edge. It has been taking its tole on my fiance and me. I never knew my anger and ADHD were related in such a way. It is a massive relief to finally have a better understanding of what is going on and why. I am able to now go see my doctor and finally start to work on making tings better. This article was eye opening and informative.

positively moving forward

Hi dmitch861302,

Big ups and hugs to you for being so pro-active, being honest with yourself, and caring enough to make a difference. If all folk with ADD/ADHD or any other 'disorder' were making as much effort our households would all become much more harmonious places to be. Thank you for sharing your realisation and actions with us all, it is very encouraging.