Why is my partner always angry?

I've read so many comments on the Forum recently about ADHD partners/spouses who seem to have problems with anger, and in some cases..rage.  I can certainly appreciate how difficult it is to live with someone who seems to get triggered into this kind of reaction without a substantial reason.  Melissa recently wrote an article on just this topic in EMax Health.  Research done in Feb. seems to suggest that those with ADHD may be genetically predisposed to what is called "emotional lability."  This is just a fancy term for moodiness, ie. irritability, or a short fuse...anger responses.  These responses happen most frequently when the individual is under stress.  Those with ADHD, particularly if it is undiagnosed, unmedicated, or if medication has worn off at the end of the day, tend to find themselves easily stressed and overwhelmed.  Thus...in some cases this may lead to angry ADHDers.  Please note, I said in some cases.

What can be happening, as well, is that in addition to the ADHD, there could be other undiagnosed conditions going on, such as anxiety and depression, or bi-polar disorder.  None of these things may seem like a good excuse for what you are experiencing as the non-ADHD partner who has to live with the explosions.  I can appreciate that.  What do you do about it?  Well, first of all, do your best to stay out of the line of fire.  Take time-outs away from the anger.  A simple statement like "I really can't be around when you are in this state," can give you a chance for some space from it all.  If your partner is conscious that they have an anger problem, you may be able to establish a verbal cue that de-escalates the anger.

However, the other possibility is that your partner may not be on the right medication, or enough medication.  Some stimulant medications have been shown to create aggressive responses in some individuals. Is it possible that the anger issues started when the medication was first prescribed? It would be valuable to track back to determine if this has been the case with your partner.

Sometimes, besides the ADHD, the other co-existing conditions mentioned above may need to be treated as well.  Some doctors prescribe Wellbutrin, as an example, to accompany ADHD medication to fill in for other symptoms the ADHD meds do not handle. Of course, it is very important to confer with your partner's doctor, with the permission of your partner, if you think one of these other conditions exists. This kind of supplemental medication can be very helpful in calming the often stressed ADHD mind.

In the extreme, if the anger becomes abusive, or violent, it is important to be sure you are taking care of your safety and the safety of your children.  In these cases, a safety plan, knowing where you would go and what you would do is really important.  Hopefully, you will never need to use it, but it is critical to have it if you need it.

In addition to all of this, I support you to order a copy of our book, The Couples Guide to Thriving with ADHD, which has a whole chapter on anger, including a section about Anger Busters. And, as with all relationship issues, it can be beneficial to seek the help of a professional.

My best to all of you,

Nancie