One of the telltale signs of ADHD is that your symptoms cause you problems in multiple aspects of your life. It’s one thing to have inattention strike in specific situations like when you’re nearing the end of a long workday. But when inattention causes problems at work, at home and in your interpersonal relationships, there might be something going on.
It’s that last part – the interpersonal relationships – that I want to talk about today. There’s a lot to be said about how ADHD can affect the way we interact with our friends, family, romantic partners and even our casual acquaintances.
For now, I want to focus (ha!) on some patterns I’ve noticed in how ADHD can cause problems dealing with other people. Of course, different people are affected by their symptoms in different ways, but if you have ADHD, I bet some of these will sound familiar.
- Not listening: Listening is, for obvious reasons, an important part of interpersonal relationships. And we ADHDers know this in theory. But that necessarily doesn’t stop us from having our attention wander when we should be concentrating on what other people are saying to us, or spontaneously interrupting people with whatever just popped into our head. Sometimes being inattentive means being inattentive to other people, which can give the impression that we just don’t care.
- Losing your temper easily: Part of being able to keep interpersonal relationships running smoothly is knowing when to bite your tongue, when to take a step back from the heat of the moment, and when to just let things go because they’re not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, all these skills are fundamentally about impulse control – something people with ADHD aren’t always the best at, which means we can end up saying or doing things we regret.
- Talking without thinking: Speaking of saying things we regret… People with ADHD have a tendency to act without thinking and to speak without thinking. Our “filter” can be very porous indeed.
- Creating stress: There’s a certain chaotic quality to life you get when you add up the disorganization, the missed deadlines, the impulsive actions and the inconsistency of ADHD. This can create stress not just for us, but for the people we’re close to. It takes a certain kind of person to put up with the ADHD way of being in the world and everything that MO entails. And if some people would rather not be part of all that, can you blame them? If I had the choice, I’m not sure I would either!
So, in typical ADHD fashion, I just listed the first four things that came to mind. But no doubt there are plenty of other ways ADHD can mess with your relationships. If you think of some others, please list them below!
Image: Flickr/Brian Ford