Some women say that they have attention
deficit disorder (AD/HD), but others say they are AD/HD. I prefer to see
the AD/HD as just one aspect of a unique individual. Nevertheless, it is easy to
understand why one might say, “I am ADD.” For better or worse, AD/HD can
affect many areas of one’s life.
Women are more likely to internalize:
to blame themselves and to become depressed. Inattentive or impulsive girls
often feel that “something” is wrong with them. Feelings of shame and guilt
can layer themselves in to a young woman’s personality as she grows up. When a
woman is first diagnosed with AD/HD, she may feel relief and a temporary
euphoria. She now has a name for her guilty secret. But a diagnosis does not
change an ingrained personality style. After the diagnosis comes the real work.
She must gain an in-depth understanding of how the AD/HD affects her own unique
strengths and weaknesses.
The roles of wife and mother add new
dimensions of complexity to daily life of a woman with AD/HD. In our society,
women often bear more of the responsibility for maintaining the household and
raising the children. We expect the homemaker to provide organization and
structure for the rest of the family members. Office jobs often have specific
schedules and clear job descriptions. The home is much less structured. Tasks
may not have a clear beginning or end.
Some women may feel overwhelmed at the
sheer number of tasks in the home. It may be difficult to break down and
prioritize tasks. A woman with difficulty maintaining divided attention may blow
up when her children start asking for things while she is trying to fix dinner.
She may have difficulty providing the structure her children need to help
contain their own ADD. A woman prone to impulsive temper outbursts may have
difficulty disciplining her children. Occasionally this impulsivity can lead to
excessive punishment and even child abuse. If she has insight into her impulsive
tendencies, she and her family can plan to have “time out” periods when
arguments become heated.
Women may discover that AD/HD has its
positive side. Her generosity,
spontaneity and energy may make the household a Mecca for neighborhood children.
Her high energy may enable her to keep up with a demanding job and a busy family
Sometimes, marriage between a spouse
with AD/HD and a non-AD/HD partner, may work well. The husband may provide
stability, structure and organizational skills. At the same time, the wife’s
creativity, and quest for novelty may provide color to her husband’s life and
help him explore new horizons. This complementary type of relationship works
best when each partner has insight into his or her unique strengths and
weaknesses. They learn from each other in a dynamic way, and do not allow their
roles to become too rigid. Eventually the husband may have periods of
spontaneity, and the AD/HD wife then becomes the stabilizer.
Sometimes individuals with AD/HD marry
each other. The couple may enjoy each other’s spontaneity and energy. The
woman may feel as if she has finally found someone on her own wavelength.
However, when the couple encounters complex family demands, they may need
outside help to stabilizing their lives.
Sometimes, AD/HD can strain a marriage.
The non-ADD husband may misinterpret his wife’s disorganization and
procrastination as deliberate offences. If the wife goes on an impulsive
spending spree, it may damage family finances. The urge for novel situations can
lead some women into repeated job changes or promiscuity. The dual-AD/HD couple
may have difficulty deciding who will manage the more mundane aspects of family
Both partners should have a thorough
understanding of the psychiatric diagnoses and how the behaviors associated with
the diagnoses affect the entire family. Often women with AD/HD have other
conditions such as anxiety, depression or alcohol abuse. It is important to
address these conditions too. They may hide these difficulties just as they hid
their AD/HD for so long.
The woman’s partner may also feel
euphoric early in the treatment process when medication begins to have an
effect. Both members of the couple are lulled into the belief that the diagnosis
and the medication will be a panacea. Her husband may despair or even leave the
relationship when old patterns and behaviors re-emerge. Family or group therapy
can be an important part of treatment for women with AD/HD. It took a long time
for each family member to learn their behavior patterns and it may take time to
make lasting changes. The AD/HD may be an explanation, but no one should use it
as an excuse. Instead, understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you
develop creative coping strategies.
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