So Someone You Love Has ADHD.

I hopped on Facebook the other day and saw an article titled “20 Things to Remember If You Love a Person with ADD.” As someone who was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult (not uncommon for women) , I’m always looking to learn new things about the way my brain functions and how to improve it so I opened the link. What I found falls in the category of “not helpful.”

Before I go into why, let’s clear up a couple of assumptions I have about this article. First of all, I’m assuming this is written for adults who love another adult with ADHD. There is a big difference between being an adult with ADHD and being a child with ADHD. There are minor differences, such as the hyperactivity being more of fidgety thing (which is why I love desk toys like BuckyBalls). But more importantly, it’s the awareness of our behavior and the ability to correct it. Which is really the reason anything is different as a child and an adult. Secondly, I’m assuming this is written for someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD. Not someone who says things like “I check Facebook all the time, I’m so ADHD lol.”

I also want to acknowledge my bias. I have problems thinking about my ADHD as a disorder anymore than I think about my nearsightedness and astigmatism as a disorder. Is it an issue that needs correcting? Absolutely. The medication I take is basically glasses for my brain. It makes everything clearer and more in focus. However, unlike glasses it doesn’t make everything 20/20. I still have to work at it.

That’s the big reason don’t like about this article. That it assumes that these are all things that happen to us that we are unable to work on. That we’re all broken. It says we are “unable to regulate our emotions” and “have social anxiety” and have “verbal outbursts.” Which is, in a word, bullshit. There are certainly people with ADHD who have these problems, just like there are people without ADHD who have these problems. And ADHD can certainly make these issues worse. But they aren’t one and the same.

Having ADHD is a pain in the ass, especially as we have more and more distractions in daily life that trigger symptoms (hello blinking light on my phone). But there are things that can help manage symptoms. And there are ways the non-ADHD person can help.

1) Make a schedule. People with ADHD work so much better on a schedule. My symptoms got worse when I was released from school into the “real world.” Some of my best work was done when I was in college taking 16+ credit hours a semester and working a minimum of 30 hours a week. It forced me to keep to a fairly strict schedule. So work with your partner and make a schedule that works with both of you. And stick with it. Once an ADHD person gets off the schedule it’s hard to get back on. For example, I used to keep my house pretty clean with Home Routines. And then I stopped using it. And now, I’m struggling to get back in the habit.

2) Help them stick to a sleep schedule. This is going to be a time I’m really happy my husband really doesn’t read the blog. A subset to the “make a schedule” thing above, a sleep schedule can be incredibly helpful. Part of ADHD is hyperfocus. And when I get into hyperfocus it can be hard to set something down and sleep. It can be a game, a book, working on the site, a technology loop, a stupid article on a site trying to be Lifehacker, a random thought that pops into my head. Anything. So telling your partner to go to bed (and not letting them play on the phone in bed) can be a way to break out of that. (Yes, I’m telling you to give your partner a bedtime.) And make them wake up at a decent hour too, it helps with that whole routine thing.

3) Get active. A while back, I noticed my symptoms were getting worse. When I went for my three month checkup with my doctor I told her so, and asked if there was anything I could do to make my symptoms better without upping my medication. Looking over her notes she said “Last time you were in you said you stopped skating, have you picked up any more activities?” And no, I hadn’t. She explained that movement helps get some of the energy out. So make an effort to be active with your partner. It’s hard to get up and do things when someone else isn’t. Ride bikes. Go on a walk. Just move. (It’s really probably best for both of you.) Going outdoors is even better, time in nature has been shown to help concentration.

4) Be understanding, not enabling. Sometimes, there are times that my ADHD kicks into hyperdrive. These are usually times, like weekends, that I’ve chosen not to take a full dose of medication. But sometimes, it’s just an off day (we all have them). There are times I’ve shown up late to Claire’s because I got distracted by posts on the internet, or something we talked about before. (For a minute we talked about decorating notebooks and selling them on Etsy. I was 30 minutes late to her place because I spent time pricing out comp books.) Or there are times my husband will just have to repeat things over and over. It’s Ok to be understanding, but don’t make excuses for them.

5) Don’t be accusatory.The quickest way for my husband to get on my bad side? To ask me if I’ve taken my medication on a particular day. I know (or at least hope) he doesn’t mean anything by it. And since he doesn’t have this problem, he can’t really know how crappy that makes me feel. But seriously, don’t do stuff like that. It’s belittling.

As I said in the beginning, ADHD can be a pain in the ass. But hopefully some of these ideas will help you. Next week, I’ll have some tips for people who have ADHD themselves. And as with anything we post on Pure Geekery, but especially with posts like this, experiences are our own and we just want to share them with you. These tips may or may not work for you in you situation, etc.

3 Responses to “So Someone You Love Has ADHD.”
  1. Esther Renee says:
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