How Does Your ADHD Affect Your Family?


Husband, Carpool Driver: How Does Your AD/HD Affect Your Family?

Carol E. Watkins, M.D.

Baltimore, Maryland


Some adults say

that they have AD/HD, but others say they are AD/HD. Personally, 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. This is particularly

true when the adult marries and has children. The roles of parent and

spouse add new dimensions of complexity to daily life. 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. On the other hand, her generosity, spontaneity and energy may

make the household a Mecca for neighborhood children. 


marriage between a spouse with AD/HD and a non-AD/HD partner, may work

well. The wife may provide stability, structure and organizational skills.

At the same time, her husband’s creativity, and quest for novelty may

provide color to her life and help her 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. The wife has periods of spontaneity, and the husband then becomes

the stabilizer.

In other cases,

AD/HD can strain a marriage. The non-ADD spouse may misinterpret the

partner’s disorganization and procrastination as deliberate offences. If

the AD/HD spouse goes on an impulsive spending spree, it may damage family

finances. The urge for novel situations can lead individuals with AD/HD

into repeated job changes or extramarital affairs. 

Both partners

should have a thorough understanding of the psychiatric diagnoses and how

the behaviors associated with the diagnoses affect the entire family.

Often adults with AD/HD have other conditions such as anxiety, depression

or alcohol abuse. It is important to address these conditions too. 

Many couples feel

euphoric early in the treatment process when medication begins to have an

effect. They are lulled into the belief that the diagnosis and the

medication will be a panacea. A spouse may despair or even leave the

relationship when old patterns and behaviors re-emerge. Family or couples

therapy can be an important part of treatment for adults with AD/HD.

Remember, 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 neither spouse should use it as an excuse.

Instead, understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you develop

creative coping strategies.


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County Psychiatric Associates

Offices in Monkton and Lutherville, Maryland 

 Northern County Psychiatric


Our practice has experience in the treatment of Attention

Deficit disorder

(ADD or ADHD), Depression, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive

Disorder, and other

psychiatric conditions. We are located in Northern Baltimore County and serve the

Baltimore County, Carroll County and Harford County areas in Maryland. Since we are near

the Pennsylvania border, we also serve the York County area.   Our

services include psychotherapy, psychiatric evaluations, medication management, and

family therapy. We treat children, adults, and the elderly.

Awards for 

the NCPA site

Northern County Psychiatric Associates
Niacin Pills to Pass a Drug Test

Lutherville and Monkton

Baltimore County, Maryland

Phone: 410-329-2028

Web Site 

Copyright 2000

Carol E. Watkins, M.D.

Glenn Brynes, Ph.D., M.D.