View Full Version : Why didn't anyone else notice?

06-26-14, 10:36 AM
My BF has been married twice, and during his dating life has had several girlfriends. Sometimes I wonder why no one else noticed his ADHD. (He has been diagnosed with ADHD comorbid anxiety and is on Vyvanse).

I don't know - maybe because I am a teacher and notice this "condition" in my students. I'm just really surprised that he made it to 48 years old, and no one noticed that he was extremely disorganized, loses things all the time, very forgetful of conversations that he has had, etc. etc. - and felt that something was not quite right. I asked him about it, and he said, "If anyone did notice anything, nothing was ever said."

Maybe there is really no answer to this question. I was just thinking about this the other day, and wondered what my Forum friends thought.....

06-26-14, 11:30 AM
ADHD is easy to miss and unless you know someone intimately. The simplest explanation for the symptoms is laziness and apathy which is how most people with the disorder have learned to understand and explain their shortcomings themselves. When someone tells you explicitly that they are unmotivated, uncaring and lazy, why should you question them? You may both be wrong but how would that ever occur to you?

It doesn't surprise me that most people see the symptoms of ADHD and never consider the possibility of relating them to a disorder.

06-26-14, 11:55 AM
I have a friend in his mid thirties and he is very ADD. I can't believe he was never diagnosed. It is totally messing up his life. This guy is beyond a textbook example. Some people just slip under the radar so to speak.

06-26-14, 12:18 PM
Many spouses/partners see their relationship through the lens of their own experience and the stories they have grown up with.

Adult ADHD does not usually feature in these stories so there is no context for relating observed behaviour to a possible mental health issue..... quite the contrary... there will be numerous experiences of people exhibiting ADDery behaviours being labelled feckless, lazy, forgetful etc.... so these are the examples that are pulled from memory and used.

It's only once knowledge of ADHD and mental health diagnoses permeates through the culture that people will be able to understand their spouses and help them obtain the mental health support they need....

this applies to many mental health issues, not just ADHD.... it is also worth remembering that many NT spouses will have mental helath isues oftheir own during their lives.... and suffer accordingly when those around them don't identify the issue and encourage them to seek help.

06-26-14, 02:01 PM
kilted scotsman, I think you are right. "Feckless" LOL. Good word! When I noticed something in my BF, I encouraged him to go and get evaluated. For a short time, he put it off, saying that he played lots of football in high school, and he was "this way" because of all of his concussions. I told him that the concussions probably didn't help, but what was going on in his brain went far beyond just having lots of concussions.

So, that's what he told himself, and that's what he told other people, I'm sure.

Although he is happy that he finally has an answer to what has been going on all his life, he is upset that no one - not his parents, not his significant others, none of his teachers, etc. - ever clued him in on this. I told him that when he was young, ADHD wasn't really well known. And the only reason I know about it is that I teach.

Thanks for your insights!

06-26-14, 03:27 PM
The vast majority of people have no idea that adults can have ADHD.
Most still think it means hyperactive boys who are bouncing off the walls.

06-27-14, 04:19 AM
Jende2.... if your bf played lots of American football then there IS a possibility that the concussions play a role in his ADDery behaviours.

The key is to accept that the behaviours are problematic and negatively impact his wellbeing, as this is the first step towards tryign to sort the problems out.... once the desire to change is there, the search is on for what helps improve quality of life for the individual and those they care about/for.

Ultimately it doesn't matter what the cause is..... with neurological issues most doctors and psych's are just fumbling in the dark.... so a process of trial and error is often involved in finding the right combination of lifestyle changes and medication that delivers sustainable improvement in wellbeing.

when one is diagnosed late (as I was) it's often difficult to determine if ADDery symptoms were present in childhood/adolescence..... people memories aren't good enough to give nuanced information that far back, particularly if the behaviours weren't regarded as problematic.

This means he'll probably never know if the issues are ADD or concussive.... I am in a similar situation. I was in a car crash in my late teens... but was not diagnosed until my mid 40's.... the diagnosis/label doesn't matter much now.... what is important is the increased self awareness of my differences that's allowed me to make huge progress in improving my function in relational situations.

06-27-14, 04:36 AM
I'm 45 and had to diagnose myself, only by chance. Seeing a psychiatrist next month to start things off on official diagnosis.

I did think ADD was hyper bouncy kids too......

06-30-14, 06:20 PM
You're right: being a teacher probably gave you an advantage.

I have been deeply involved in mental healthcare since going away to college and immediately getting seriously depressed. I have been to therapy multiple times, even been on medication for depression. I read widely on depression and other disorders, but ADHD was completely off my radar.

Only by accident did I see it in myself and then ask for a diagnosis. I was 46 when I saw it and spent more than 5 minutes thinking about ADHD.

I'm a teacher as well and now I notice it all the time in my students ... I have a favorite student who I'm about to write a note to right now (I teach college) politely asking him if anyone has ever mentioned ADHD to him.

BF is 48, you say ... I would bet that if he were 28, others might have noticed the condition and said something to him. But I'm 52, and I can count on one finger (not one hand!) the number of conversations I had before age 46 about ADHD with friends and even with mental health care providers. I was chronically late getting to one of my therapists 20 years ago and she never raised the possibility of ADHD--not that I would have been open to it.

Good luck.


07-01-14, 05:04 AM
Adhd is so hard to miss, especially if you are older and grew up in a time where kids were labeled "behavior" problems and when parents had no education or help in figuring out what to do for their child I am 39 and was diagnosed in second grade and I was one of the lucjy few.

07-01-14, 05:49 AM
I think many ADHD kids were seen as outgoing and 'just kids' when hyper. Also, I think, that when people with ADHD/ADD grow older, they become symbiotic with it. A bit like Spiderman and Venom, if you mind the geeky example.

Having ADD makes you do or don't do certain things. When that happens for years you come to terms with it and see them as a part of who you really are. For example: I have a hard time keeping in touch with people that are important to me. My dad died a few years back and his parents (my grandparents) are still alive. Visiting them means the world to them. Still I often forget to go there for weeks. Just writing this down, makes me feel like an ***hole, btw. But that's exactly what happens. I started to see myself like a selfish, anti-social person. But I am not. I started to adjust who I am to what ADD makes me do. That's what I mean with a symbiose.
So, if someone is undiagnosed for a long time, it's very well possible that he has become quite the artist. By adding things ADD makes him do to his natural repetoire, it's very hard to differentiate between his true personality and what's caused by ADD. The 50 year old ADHD'er might look like 'the light of the party' or 'the outgoing, talkative guy' and the 30 year old ADD'er might look like 'that self-absorped loner' or 'that vague, absentminded dude'. And for people not really close to them, it might look like 'that's just how they are and that fine/I respect that', missing the tremendous struggle that can be beneath the surface of those people's ADD/ADHD.

07-01-14, 10:47 AM
Very well put, itspeter. I know I flew under radar for a long time. I did well enough in school, though it was a real struggle in college and by then it didn't matter to anyone but me if I did well or not. My struggles were my own and being introverted and a bit of a loner, they stayed that way.

I like the symbiotic analogy, and I certainly felt like my symptoms were just my personality and way of doing things. But when you're way of doing things means you're continuously not finishing things, struggling, noticing that you seem to be missing out and the anxiety gets out of control, the symbiosis becomes parasitic, or at least not beneficial.

07-01-14, 10:59 AM
It's super easy to miss unless you know what to look for and you know that you should be looking for it. Most people just wouldn't make the connection between ADHD & ADHD symptoms, mainly I guess, because everyone experiences the symptoms to an extent. It took me more than 3 decades to just start suspecting that maybe I'm not just lazy, crazy and stupid or that maybe the problem was not that I just asn't trying hard enough.

Even health professionals miss it. I remember when I went for counselling, I kept going on and on about how I just couldn't focus on anything, couldn't control my impulses, restlessness, stimulation seeking, extreme mood swings, etc. and my counselor never suggested neither ADHD nor bipolar disorder. I was there for depression and I guess apart from telling her for hours about what I know now are ADHD symptoms, there was never a reason to suspect ADHD. The same thing happened when I got CBT.

Also, in the general population ADHD is rare and I think, that's another reason why it's often missed. Again, unless they know what to look for, your near and dear ones are unlikely to suspect that you suffer from a rare and difficult disorder when it's so much easier and apparently more likely to label someone as "lazy".

07-01-14, 12:12 PM
I'm always stuned by the lack of diagnostic awareness amongst counsellors /therapist/psychotherapist types.

It's become my informal lifework to introduce the ones I meet to ADHD and it's co-morbids in the (possibly forlorn) hope that when and ADDer walks into their treatment room they won't take their money for year but will send them off to a specialist for a diagnosis and thereby allow option of meds.

07-01-14, 04:28 PM
@itsPeter and GRbiker: I have to add that my BF also told me about all kinds of things he used to do to "compensate" or "cover up" his ADD symptoms. I guess if that's going on as well, it's difficult for people to notice that he might have ADD......

07-01-14, 05:31 PM
Jende, yes, I worked overtime trying to appear normal and compensate, without knowing why I just didn't seem to be able to do what others could. I wasn't diagnosed until I was 46, so I had years of playing the part of a competent adult with no troubles. The anxiety was ripping me apart, because I couldn't keep it up. I had to find out what the real problem was before it spun completely out of control.

Life is still stressful, and there have been few improvements in my lifestyle. I'm not really any better at doing things, but I can make a list most days and get most of it done, I'm sleeping better and feeling better about myself. I know that it will take more than two years of treatment for this to change the conditions that decades of struggle have caused, so we keep trying.

07-01-14, 06:23 PM
My nephew is younger than the OP's boyfriend, but as a child he was dx with ADD and given Ritalin. Back then, that was just about the only med given. It didn't work for him, zombified him as it does some. He might have been great with Adderall. I bet there are lots of other kids whose parents took them off Ritalin and decided they didn't have ADD after all when Ritalin didn't work well.

07-02-14, 08:51 PM
My nephew is younger than the OP's boyfriend, but as a child he was dx with ADD and given Ritalin. Back then, that was just about the only med given. It didn't work for him, zombified him as it does some. He might have been great with Adderall. I bet there are lots of other kids whose parents took them off Ritalin and decided they didn't have ADD after all when Ritalin didn't work well.

I bet you're right about that.

08-13-14, 06:32 PM
Unfortunately most people only identify ADD/ADHD with intense hyperactivity, which is halfway true, but there are countless others who don't show any signs of it which can be confusing for both the person with ADD and anyone close to them.

Personally, I went through and graduated high school without ever even being suspected of having ADD and my dad wasn't even diagnosed until his mid fifties. Up until recently I had been angry with my teachers for always becoming frustrated with me because I couldn't seem to get my act together instead of trying to consider the possibility that I may have ADD.

While I'm still unpleased with their lack of competence on the issue, I have to admit that it is so often overlooked because it is viewed as either a personality quirk/flaw or laziness/rebellion/irresponsibility/poor organizational skills. Everyone always thought that I chose to be this way, and I sort of came to believe it myself, and strangely enough I never even considered myself to have ADD. I just thought everyone was like that. I knew I was different, I just couldn't put my finger on it. I was also really uneducated about the subject growing up.

I think it also has to do with the social stigmas surrounding ADD as a whole; it is widely thought of as "taboo" or just a simple excuse to be irresponsible. Additionally, the popular trend of people without ADD claiming they are ADD completely devalue those who truly do have it.

However, while there are a lot of factors related to the obscurity of this disorder, I think it's inexcusable to deem people who struggle with this debilitating condition on a daily basis as individuals looking for some kind of an excuse. I believe that with a thorough education of ADD, people will more easily accept its credibility and ultimately accept ADDers for who they are.

08-14-14, 05:32 PM
I think that associated personality traits have always been recognized, it's just that some people don't connect the dots to consider the overall picture. I know that my husband has been referred to as a dreamer, a procrastinator, lazy, a night-owl, likely to go "down the rabbit hole," etc. I certainly referred to him in some of those ways, before he was diagnosed. And ADHD isn't always like the stereotypical kid bouncing off the walls, unable to stay still, unable to stop talking, etc. My husband can sit in a chair, barely moving, while he bounces from Wikipedia page to Wikipedia page, clicking on link after link (having started by looking up how F17s fly, and ending by reading a biography of a man who raised tigers in captivity, but no one would really know that - they just know that he's sitting quietly, intently focused, for hours - and that doesn't "sound" like ADHD behavior to most). He has held a steady job ever since moving to this country more than a decade ago, steadily getting raises and promotions. He works quickly and accurately. He's quiet until he feels like he needs to share something, then I can't make him stop talking. But at the same time, if I ask him to help me clean the house, he'll "help" by sweeping the garage for 5 minutes before starting in on an exhaustive reorganization of the tools by purpose, size, and color.

I'm sure that things like Asperger's Syndrome get overlooked or written off as just personality quirks - but as we gain knowledge about ASDs, we learn to recognize what to look for. I think as people learn more about what ADHD is and isn't, and how it might look different between kids and adults, or from person to person, it will be less likely to get "missed".