Living with an ADHD Spouse

Melissa Dawn By Melissa Dawn, 2nd Apr 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>ADHD & ADD

Living with someone with ADHD is not easy. The effects of this neurological order can complicate relationships and turn one spouse into the caretaker of another. Here's my story.

My second husband

Tommy had a neurological disorder called ADHD. I have often wondered when I reflect back on my life with him, whether or not ADHD should be categorized as a mental disorder with all the pain and confusion it brings. Perhaps for people living with this disorder it might be easier; then again the stigma of mental illness may make it wose to have ADHD characterized as just that.

When I met Tommy I thought he was the kindest most gentle funny individual I had ever met. Lord knows he could make me laugh I can't ever say that Tommy was never anything but upfront about his ADHD he told me on our third date. The real problem was that even eleven years back in 2000, not enough was known or said about the effects of ADHD. In Tommy's case the main problem was that this was just one of several disorders he had. Along with a brain injury acquired at the age of 12 that left him categorized as a 'slow learner', he also suffered from Schizoid Affective Disorder and Sex Addiction.

Which came first the chicken or the egg?

There are numerous theories as the creation of ADHD, but none proven. The full name is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and there is still a psychological movement that says the disorder does not exist. Until the last couple of years, there were two disorders; ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder which was thought to be the milder of the two and characterized as an inability to focus or complete sequenced tasks on time. Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD was thought to be the more serious of the two with the extreme hyper aspects often leading to trouble with the law, relationships, and leading to addiction. Therapists and experts now agree that all variants of this neurological disorder now fall under one broad spectrum and one label; ADHD.

I often wonder what Tommy was like before the brain injury. Being raised by his grandmother and great grandmother who had to work, Tommy was often left alone with babysitters in-not-so-great-place-to-live. Both grandmothers adored him and the younger brother they were raising but being poor they often had to contend with rats and one day Tommy ate some of the wharfrin or rat killer, went into a two week coma (this was 1972) and was left 'slow'. I don't know if this was a possible trigger for the ADHD or not but I do wonder if it could have contributed to it.

Another aspect to ADHD is that they say it runs in families. Tommy's brother has a milder version of it, primarily hyper, interrupting and jumping from one task to another it took him until he was 40 (nine years ago) to find out how to hold both a long term relationship and a job. In the case of these brothers, the maternal grandmother who worked as a gifted seamstress was a diagnosed Paranoid Schizophrenic which made parenting very difficult.

The link between Schizophrenia and ADHD

Schizophrenia is a horrible uncurable disease. Until the 1950's little could be done for people suffering from this disorder except to lock them up in the insane asylum. The 1950's saw the first onset of anti-psychotic medications and rather gruesome electric shock therapy. In the case of Tommy, his grandmother's Schizophrenia became full blown after the birth of five children in 7.5 years. Her husband, suffering from severe war time PTSD was a full blown alcoholic and 'Jenna' couldn't cope. She spent nine years in what was then termed the County Home, given medication and long term electric shock therapy. All five children were taken away, some raised by a sister and some never heard from again.

In 1960 when Tommy was an infant the County Home released Jenna to her mother in order to raise Tommy (the younger brother would arrive eleven months later from their teenage mother). While Jenna certainly worked, loved and cared for her grandchildren she was prone to delusions of someone 'out to get her', someone 'spying on her' and constant government and media conspiracies.

Schizophrenics are prone to delusions, but a new school of psychological thought shows that there may be a direct link between Schizophrenia and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Schizophrenics appear to have distorted thought patterns, as do those in the middle of an ADHD meltdown. More and more families are finding that a Schizophrenic in the family blood line shows a direct lineage to someone with ADHD. Some Scientists are going a bit further and calling ADHD the 'diluted Schizophrenia'.

The link between Schizoid Affective Disorder and ADHD

After living with a spouse with this disorder, I'm on the fence as to whether or not I agree it's real. A large number of the Psychiatric community are now spouting the belief that Schizoid Affective Disorder is not a real disorder, never was, and depending on the severity of the symptoms is actually either Schizophrenia (mild) or ADHD.

Schizoid Affective Disorder is characterized by extreme changes in mood (anyone ever see someone spazz out from ADHD!!! much the same thing), hallucinations, persecutory feelings, isolating oneself and losing interest in grooming and appearance. Tommy would experience these things periodically: he would hear noises that weren't there; feel the neighbours and the world itself was spying on him; wouldn't want to talk to anyone, and wear the same clothes for a week or more if I let him. When I commented to the Doctor that these symptoms seemed to appear after what I termed an ADHD spazz out, the Doctor would tell me there was no medical link.

I began researching the various types of Schizophrenia and found much to my suprise the symptoms of disordered schizophrenia are closely related to those of severe ADHD, the Doctors of course continue with 'no direct link'.

What I have noticed

When Tommy would have an ADHD moment visible changes would come over him. He would start out the week dressed to the nine's, have a confrontation at work over usually his inability to focus or complete tasks, start to wear the same clothes over and over again and develop the belief for about a week at a time that someone was out to 'get' him.

After a few years in his late forties these cycles became more frequent but a new twist was added, the sexual addiction. To begin with, it is a myth that all sex addicts want and have sex constantly. By the time this addiction developed our marriage was dead (turned out later on we were never legally married) and Tommy slept in the spare room. His sexual addiction came through long hours of Internet porn and even worse an Internet porn webcam site where Tommy spent 100's of dollars a month 'talking' to a woman who could have passed for my sister.

The 'expert's say that sex addiction can be a direct offshoot of Schizoid Affective Disorder, but risky sexual behaviour is often a direct symptom of ADHD disorder! While some argue Internet porn isn't risky, spending in excess of $300 a month and foregoing utility bills is just that! Again it makes me wonder, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

An ex-spouses point of view

When Tommy was what I deemed 'normal' he was a really funny, sweet, caring guy. In a heartbeat however; he could change and become cold, calculated and just plain devious. Funnily enough both experts I consulted at the time said that the change in behaviour could be either the Schizoid Affective Disorder or the ADHD!!!!

As Tommy got older it got worse, probably due to shrinking job prospects ( he could no longer do the construction work he had done due to a knee injury) and what the 'expert's called a decline in mental capability. His primary care Physician said it is not uncommon for ADHD to contribute to the early onset of Dementia (although again no medical proof is available). I did get him into a steady, menial repetititve job he could do, one he still holds that will provide a union pension at the end of it.What I couldn't do, was live with being screamed at, lied to over finances and be replaced by an Internet woman.

Verbal and emotional abuse are common within an ADHD spousal relationship. The one with ADHD gets frustrated and screams at their partner, especially when they don't have any problems themselves. Had I had any support groups during this marriage I might have coped better, but in the end I just had to go.

We don't have all the answers.....

The link between Schizophrenia, Schizoid Affective Disorder and ADHD are not proven. I searched online and couldn't find one study currently being conducted. From my experiences I find myself through my volunteer work continuously meeting with anxious parents and spouses who don't know 'Where this ADHD has come from in my family', routine. I once told a woman half heartedly to go back two or three generations and see who the Schizophrenic was and to my amazement she came back and said, 'Yep, great grandfather was institutionalized for Schizophrenia'. Really makes me wonder...when and if the link will be found....and just what we can do about it.


Adhd, Adhd In Adults, Adhd In Children, Adhd Learning Disorder, Adhd Misdiagnoses, Depression, Link Between Schizophrenia And Adhd, Mental Disorder, Mental Illness, Mood Swings, Paranoia, Paranoid Schizophrenia, Schizoid Affective Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizophrenic Disorder

Meet the author

author avatar Melissa Dawn
I have been writing ever since I can remember, and currently focus my attention on articles, how to guides and e-books. Check out my group e-book at

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author avatar christopheranton
3rd Apr 2011 (#)

I hope medical research will find
some solutions for this distressing condition.
You are a brave person, Melissa, for baring your life in this way.
I hope things work out for you, long term.

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author avatar Denise O
3rd Apr 2011 (#)

Meliisa what a awful time you went through. It is so frustrating being a caretaker of a mentally challenged person. Even worse is doctors that dismiss the knowledge you have tried to share with them. I mean, if they don't know the answers you would think they would listen to all the info they could get. Sadly this is not the case. Ditto on what Chris wrote also, Bless you hon. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Rathnashikamani
3rd Apr 2011 (#)

Commendable story. Wish you all the best.
Have determination and faith.
Blessings to you.

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author avatar Songbird B
4th Apr 2011 (#)

Thank you for sharing this difficult time of your life, Mel. Too many doctors dismiss off hand speculation about what causes these conditions. They must remember that they are mortal, not Gods, and like everyone else, should be open to possibilities. It is pure arrogance to dismiss just because it is not in a medical text book.

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author avatar foxpete88
7th Apr 2011 (#)

I hope you can pass with patience. thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Naran
9th Apr 2011 (#)

Good article. As an applied Psychologist, it useful to me to know about peoples experiences on mental illness. thank you for sharing. for more write to

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author avatar Delicia Powers
13th Apr 2011 (#)

Thanks for this heart felt article.

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