ADHD a challenge for spouses

December 22, 2008|By SAM McMANIS / Sacramento Bee

Life is not easy for a spouse of an adult with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

John Capel, a California psychologist with practices in Sacramento and Davis, would seem better equipped than many to deal with the ADHD of his wife, Cass.

But he says it's still a challenge. He deals with it with patients in his practice and deals with his own issues.

"It's like being a caregiver for an elderly person, but you don't get the credit for it," he says. "There are co-morbid conditions, like depression, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive. Those add to it and make it harder to cope.


"The spouses of people with ADD can be the angriest, sourest people I've ever met. The comment I hear most is, 'They've turned me into a (witch). All of a sudden, I'm complaining because they're forgetful, the house is a mess and I have to spend my time finding their glasses and car keys.' It's just constant tensions."

Journalist Gina Pera, author of "Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?" (1201 Alarm Press), says that perhaps the condition in adults should be renamed "intention-inhibition disorder" because of a spouse's inattentiveness and absentmindedness.

Her husband, a scientist in the Silicon Valley, baffled her for the longest time.

"How could someone educated and smart enough to decode the human genome habitually miss the freeway exit and tailgate at top speed?" she wrote. "... How could he 'mis-hear' and 'mis-remember' so often and so significantly?"

Marriages have ended because the partner of an ADHD sufferer can't live with the distractions.

Cass and John Capel have developed a system and certain code words to modify Cass' behavior.

John: "I don't say anymore, 'Did you take your medicine?'"

Cass: "When he did, it made me feel like the psychotic one. We needed to negotiate a different way of dealing with it."

John: "I'll say to her, 'I've noticed you coming in and out of the room three times. Is there a problem?' And she'll say, 'Oh, right, my medicine wore off.'"

But John Capel says there are numerous "positives" about being married to someone with ADHD.

"She's a stimulus seeker," he says. "So there's constantly new (adventures) to do."

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