Couples Counseling: undiagnosed ADHD affects relationships

Troubled relationships are all too common among adults with unmanaged ADHD. Although ADHD afflicts millions of adults, it remains under-diagnosed – only about 10 percent of adults who met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD had been diagnosed and treated for it. While hyperactivity component of ADHD often declines with age, executive functions symptoms, such as difficulty with time management, organization, motivation, concentration, self-discipline, planning and follow-through, can linger into adulthood. Barkley and Murphy reported in the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment that 89 percent to 98 percent of adults with ADHD are impaired in all executive functions. “There’s no domain of your life that this disorder does not interfere with. It produces more significant impairment in more areas of life than other outpatient disorders,” including anxiety and depression, Barkley says. “School, occupation, money, credit, sex, work life, raising children—it hits them all.”

Unfortunately, traditional marriage counseling often isn’t very helpful unless ADHD is diagnosed and treated. “Many people have tried going to therapists and marriage counselors who are not trained in ADHD and may overlook it as a source of potential problems in the marriage,” Murphy says. “Consequently, these well-meaning therapists may miss the boat, which is a major reason why many ADHD couples report prior attempts at traditional couples counseling to be unhelpful.”