Help! My Partner Has Been Diagnosed With ADHD

Oleh_Siobodeniak/E+/getty. Getty Images

When your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend is first diagnosed with ADHD, it is often an emotional time for both of you. It can feel like your world has been vigorously shaken, and you are trying to rebuild your life to incorporate this new information.

While ADHD isn’t life threatening, getting a diagnosis does have a way of shaking you to the core. To make matters worse, since the diagnosis isn’t yours, you can feel guilty or selfish for reacting so strongly.

Your emotions might range from sad, angry, resentful or lonely. 

The first thing to remember is that you aren’t alone. Your feelings are very common. However, people don’t talk about this topic much because they feel they aren’t being a supportive partner.

If you are struggling with your partner's ADHD diagnosis, here are the answers to three common questions. 

Will they use ADHD as an excuse?

Many people worry that when their partner will use ADHD as an excuse to avoid life's responsibilities. A tiny percentage might.   However, a more common reaction is to use ADHD as a way to explain their behavior rather than to excuse it. It is a small but important difference. For example, someone that uses ADHD as an excuse might shrug off being late and say, "Well I have ADHD." In contrast, someone who uses ADHD  to explain their behavior could say, "Sorry I am late. Time seems to travel differently for me, and I am learning some strategies to help."

In the first few months after a diagnosis, your partner will be learning about the subtleties of ADHD. They will discover that some of their eccentricities are actually ADHD characteristics, such as not being able to wake up in the morning or feeling anxious while grocery shopping. During this time you might frequently hear them say, ‘‘Oh that’s ADHD." It can be exciting for them.

However, if your heart keeps sinking, don’t worry! This is just a phase. Rather than using ADHD as an excuse, they are identifying how ADHD shows up in their life.  After the identification phase, they can implement strategies to help address these issues.

Will things ever get better?

Before your partner got an official ADHD diagnosis, you probably had a secret hope that one morning they would wake up and know exactly where they put their keys and take the trash out without the need to be reminded. When they get diagnosed with ADHD, that hope vanishes. You are left feeling that these problems will last forever. But the opposite is true. 

Now that you both know exactly why these problems are happening, you can get to the root cause. Your partner can treat and manage their ADHD and learn ADHD friendly solutions to these issues.

The changes might not happen as dramatically or as quickly as you would wish. However, slow and steady progress means that new habits are going to be long lasting.

Does this mean our children will have ADHD too? 

Not necessarily.  While there is a large genetic component to ADHD, just because a parent has ADHD it doesn’t automatically mean their child will inherit ADHD.


Remember knowledge is power. Learn as much as you can about ADHD without overwhelming yourself. ADHD can be successfully treated and managed, and there are many people with ADHD that are living successful, happy and productive lives.