What is the difference between narcism and ADHD?

How can indifference, lack of emotion, and pretty much ignoring someone (until bedtime) be at all construed as love? Does the ADHD mind really believe this? Or does this describe a narcissistic person? What is the difference between narcissism and ADHD?

I think there are some differences

I just copied this from the wikipedia entry on narcissism and want to comment on what I feel is different from ADHD.

"Positive: Narcissists think they are better than others.
Inflated: Narcissists' views tend to be contrary to reality. In measures that compare self-report to objective measures, narcissists' self-views tend to be greatly exaggerated.
Agentic: Narcissists’ views tend to be most exaggerated in the agentic domain, relative to the communion domain.
Special: Narcissists perceive themselves to be unique and special people.
Selfish: Research upon narcissists’ behaviour in resource dilemmas supports the case for narcissists as being selfish.
Oriented toward success: Narcissists are oriented towards success by being, for example, approach oriented."

Although there can be some similarities in behavior, such as not seeming to think about others, always putting oneself first and such, I would think a big difference is the ego part.  Narcissists believe they are better than others, superior, and mostly think of themselves and how to further their goal/agenda.  Many people with ADHD have low self-esteem, continued feelings of failure and often feel hopeless and worthless.  This can make them withdrawn and focused inward rather than outward (note that these are my observations and not an expert analysis).  The ADHD of course means that they live in the "now", so they might not realize that you don't want to cuddle at bedtime if they were sitting at the computer for the last 6 hours.  

In my understanding you could say the main difference would be that narcissists don't care about others whereas ADHD people sometimes/often forget to think about others, but do care.


The two are very different,

The two are very different, though of course it is possible for an ADHD person to ALSO be a narcissist.

The threshold it takes for an ADHD person to notice something is much higher.  They care, they just... don't notice.  It's like asking someone to see something when blinders prevent them from seeing.

As the other poster noted ADHD does not have that high self esteem, thinking they are better than everything else.  They aren't selfish per se, they just don't always notice the needs/messages of others.    Sometimes this comes across as indifference, because they aren't really present in the conversation.

Lack of emotion strikes me as not really ADHD - except I do that, too!  I'm not sure why, but when I get in a fight with my girlfriend, I tend to shut down emotionally and become a hyper-rational robot.

Jon put it so much better

Jon put it so much better than me - cool :)
This is actually a source of much friction between me and my BF, him not noticing (and I'm not talking subtle messages from me) that I need something.  I'm thinking that maybe I need posters and a bullhorn...

One of the questions I

One of the questions I haven't really answered is, how do I get the ADHD spouse to notice?   She says, if she doesn't start a big fight with me, half the time I don't notice/it doesn't go through.  If she sticks to gentle reminders, I don't seem to care, what other solution is there?

The book does a good job of laying out why that's not the best solution (it builds resentment).  The solution half of the equation is a little less clear.

But this can play into the unemotional side of the equaiton.  When your spouse is always yelling at you to get you to notice, what do you do?  You have to start tune these things out to keep your sanity.  Which just makes things worse.

how can the ADHD spouse take notice?

Yeah, my BF can't help me with that either - that is he can't tell me how I'm supposed to get his attention.  

I just hate that every request I make (anything from "come, dinner's on the table" to "can you please help me with X right now") is followed with a "sure, I'm coming" and nothing happens until I ask 3 more times and finally resort to a *tone*.

Bigger issues can rarely be resolved with me being logical, reasonable and even-tempered - nothing seems to happen until he goes so far over the line that it ends up with me crying for a week, then he finally notices (sheesh, otherwise he'd be made of stone).

I'd love to hear from anybody who's figured this out - how to get the ADHD spouse's attention without yelling, crying or resorting to some sort of manipulation or blackmail.  And by figuring out, I don't mean just not trying anymore, not caring whether he/she notices or not, just doing things without him/her and so on.

ADHD spouse take notice

I've used a few different approaches with some success.  

 Due to comments on this forum I have been making a conscious effort to verbally acknowledge when he's making an effort especially if it's for something I've said is important to me.  Previously I might have just said, "thanks" and let it go at that.  I've come to realize for him it's just not  enough.  Now I specifically state, for example,  "I noticed you did __ and I really appreciate the effort".   Or, "I love that you do that for us".  He absolutely beams and the more I acknowledge the better things get!!!!! And why not comment...I do appreciate the things he does.  It also makes him much much more receptive when I ask for his attention for other reasons.

I know he is not a lazy or unwilling man.  If I need him to do something right away I make sure I have his attention before I make a request.  If he's in another room I will just call his name.  I will keep upping the ante (nicely or with humour) until he responds.  When he does and I know he's broken attention from whatever he was doing I will then ask for what I need.   Your BF may still actually be focussed on what he's doing and your request or his response falls into the background noise category.

If I need it right away I specifically say, "can I interrupt you to do ___.  He knows I mean now.  If he doesn't get it I give a reason, i.e. "sorry but I kind of need it now.  Dinner is ready in two minutes".  If I give a reason and ask nicely he responds very well.  If I'm snarky or impatient it goes south.  Opting to loose the battle but win the war ... instead of sniping at your BF for not getting right on it, try letting it slide but make darn sure to overtly thank him and let him know you appreciate it when he does get right on it. 

We've acknowledged that we don't always work well together and do better with a my turn your turn, or my chore your chore method.  Going back to meals for example, if I'm making it I do it all..prepare, cook, set the table.  If it's his turn he does the same.  For us it works better than trying to fit into each other's time line or way of doing things. 

If I really need him to digest or remember important information I am more firm, ie. "look at me, I need you to get this" and I don't speak until we are looking each other right in the eye.  Sometimes I'll joking point two fingers at my eyes then his and back again and he'll smile and pay direct attention.  I do try to be respectful of what he's doing at the time.

I'm curious to hear what has worked for others.

Rate how important it is to you

I am married to an ADHD man.  We have been in counseling for about 2 months.  I have been through a lot of frustration in trying to get his attention.  I have learned that he is not ignoring me or being mean.  He truly has a difficult time focusing. 

I agree with you on the positive reinforcement - works wonders and getting eye contact really helps.  One thing that we learned from our counselor is that when I need his attention I tell him how important it is to me by giving it a rating from 1 to 10.  He of course knew about this system before the first time I used it.  He told me that he always hears me but if he is focused on something else he can't shift his focus very easily.  Once he realized that I was not telling him something just because I didn't want him to be focused on whatever it was he was doing at the time communication has gotten better. 

A word of caution here is to not abuse the system.  If everything is a 10 then you will be right back where you started.  There are times when I just want to share something small and then there are times I need him to pay full attention.  He acknowledges a 3 and we have a short discussion about when we will talk about whatever it is and the few times I have used an 8 he has had a short moment of processing then given me his full attention.  Overall general communication has gotten better and I haven't had to use the system more then a handful of times.  I think that once he made the connection that I needed to have short conversations with him because that is something that I need from the relationship he has become aware of how ADHD can influence our relationship.


If you and your spouse decide to try this please let me know how it works for you.




care or not to care

Yeah, that's correct. ADHDers do care but have a hard time to notice, while narcissists do notice but don't care.

And it is also correct that ADHDers usually do not have a hidden agenda behind their needs (and if they do, it is quite obvious), while narcissists do.