View Full Version : Struggling with anger and imagined anger


SimonJohn
06-01-17, 04:07 PM
Hi. This is my first post.

My partner (woman) has ADHD and mild depression and I (man) have mild depression and anxiety. We love each other but the anger, the arguments, and the crazy arguments about how the other person is the most angry, are killing us.

Is it common that ADHD partners who have anger can 'see' anger in their non-ADHD partner when it isn't really there? Is this a form of defensive reflection?

Last night we had a classic argument. I was feeling low, approach her about it, and she said "I think you are angry". I didn't feel angry but I felt anxious. So being told I was angry made me defensive. This made her more convinced that I was angry, and even that I was trying to threaten her. The calmer I tried to be the more she was convinced I was playing games and being passive aggressive, etc. It was hopeless. Now she believes that I need to seek help for my anger, ie that is it all my problem.

Recently she hasn't been taking any medication for ADHD and only occasionally for depression. I know I am not perfect. But now I am totally lost as to what to do and how to discuss it with her (she walked out again). Help!

someothertime
06-01-17, 08:12 PM
i could be wrong......

i have an aversion to falsity...... to sugar coating..... to condescension....... to any and all communication that is not natural......

i walk away from most long and medium term and heaps of short term connections, i get angry and in my mind it all has to do with deception and untruth. many with ADHD share this sixth sense to some degree though most have higher levels of thinking or mechanisms to not jump to negative reactions.....

behind this behavior...... ( mine ) is a life of not being understood, being underexpressed, abandonment perhaps, no it's more neglect.......

if this is similar to what's happening here, you won't get far try to address this head on yourself...... for you it's about communicating honestly, but always being up front and being sensitive to her underlying emotions behind these reactions..... ( knowing yourself what part inside her that drives them..... not necissarily addressing ), outside counselling will help......

it's a trust / truth thing.....

at the end of the day you need to learn to diffuse these situations so they don't escalate....... work on carrot's and not sticks...... do stuff that empowers her or encourage her to do stuff that empowers her.... it would definitely mean stepping back alot too....

i think alot of the posts in this section are related to this.... i don't think it's about *fixing* ...... but with wise steps...... it would be possible for her in the near term to turn around to you and say;

"i'm feeling frustrated now" ( anxiety is triggering a preemptive aggression strike )


etc. etc.


good luck with it..... it's a long road..... but it is doable......

dvdnvwls
06-02-17, 12:53 AM
someothertime has hit a big part of this, the sort of allergy to fake-ness and untruth that many with ADHD share.

Another possible part is alexithymia, an inability to sense and/or describe the nature of my own emotions. So sometimes I can read your emotions (accurately, or not) while at the same time having no idea what my own emotions are, or not even being sure I have any.

peripatetic
06-02-17, 01:03 AM
Hi. This is my first post.

Is it common that ADHD partners who have anger can 'see' anger in their non-ADHD partner when it isn't really there? Is this a form of defensive reflection?



hi, and welcome to the forums!

if you were sincere, which i believe you were, then what i think was happening sounds like she was projecting her anger and then maybe fears and rejection onto you.

that's not so much an adhd thing...but a human who's not well enough versed in her own feelings and how to communicate them whilst letting the other person speak for him/herself-thing.

a lot of people have done this to me in the past, though surprisingly not other people with adhd. and i (diagnosed with adhd, among other things) do not tell people what they're "really feeling" as that is incredibly presumptuous and quite easily wrong (i am not a mind reader). and if someone were to tell me how i'm feeling without just *asking* me...i'd be upset.

i agree wholeheartedly with someothertime: counseling from a neutral third party is key. the communication pathways have gotten too deeply worn in unproductive, destructive grooves. BUT i think you could turn this around if you're both willing to work on trust/intimacy and committed to the relationship.

best wishes to you,
-peri

dvdnvwls
06-02-17, 01:33 AM
In its worst form, telling someone what their own emotions are is an example of gaslighting. I'm not saying anyone has been doing that, just for everyone to be very skeptical about their own ability to judge others' emotions.

acdc01
06-02-17, 07:19 PM
I agree with dvdkwls and someothertime. Telling someone else what there emotions are is gaslighting and you guys really need a third party counselor.

That said, tbh I'm not sure if its just your wofe or if your anxiety does actually make you sound angry or not. Not saying you are angry, just wondering if the tone of your voice may be interpreted as such.

My mom has anxiety and when she's stressed, she always sounds angry even though I know it's just her anxiety. And it's not just me the adhders that thinks this. My whole family notices this.

She got anti anxiety meds and it was a 180 degree change instantly. Unfortunately, side effects made the dr cut her dosage in half so now she's still better than before but not as great as when her dosage was higher.

In addition to counseling, I do wonder if meds might help both of you. That said, I'm not familiar with antidepressants but I do believe their side effects are serious so should be taken into consideration.

dvdnvwls
06-02-17, 07:27 PM
I've had the experience of having my own emotions patiently and lovingly identified to me when for myself I couldn't really tell. It was really nice.

But much more often, I've had my emotions grossly misrepresented by someone, and the misrepresentations then being used to manipulate me.

So... It depends... But if it feels wrong, it probably is wrong.

acdc01
06-02-17, 10:19 PM
I didn't feel angry but I felt anxious.

Like I said, it's wrong that your wife is telling you how YOU feel. But I suspect there is something in your tone of voice when your anxious that is frustrating to her. Youve said you were anxious. And she is pretty much telling you that your tone of voice is affecting her even though she's saying it in a poor way. I suspect you need to work on your tone of voice regardless of whether the cause of it is anger or anxiety. People, not just adhders can hear and be bothered by stressed out people's voices. It's why people who sound chill and calm can do the opposite and be soothing to others.

It's possible I'm projecting my mom onto you so I admit I could be wrong but that's what I'm suspecting is happening.

dvdnvwls
06-03-17, 04:08 PM
There are times when I don't have a choice about my tone.

Communication is not a performance, and trying to turn it into one by presuming to direct the speaker as if he were an actor on a stage is something I find pretty offensive.

(I don't have a list of words I want to say to you and then dress it up in this tone or that tone, unless I really am acting on a stage from a printed script. In real-life situations, my words and my tone are often an inseparable unit.)

sarahsweets
06-04-17, 06:04 AM
No matter how in tune we can be, or think we are, and no matter how well we think we know someone, we simply can not say we know what they are feeling or how they should feel. Believe me when I tell you I feel "right" alot of times with gauging the emotions of my loved ones, and even if three out of 4 times I am right, there are still those times when I am not. There is not much thats more infuritating then being told how to feel, how I am supposed to feel or how I should feel. Its equally annoying to be told that someone knows how I feel. It can be patronizing even if its not intended to be that way.

girlthroughtime
06-18-17, 11:34 PM
Hi. This is my first post.

My partner (woman) has ADHD and mild depression and I (man) have mild depression and anxiety. We love each other but the anger, the arguments, and the crazy arguments about how the other person is the most angry, are killing us.

Is it common that ADHD partners who have anger can 'see' anger in their non-ADHD partner when it isn't really there? Is this a form of defensive reflection?

Last night we had a classic argument. I was feeling low, approach her about it, and she said "I think you are angry". I didn't feel angry but I felt anxious. So being told I was angry made me defensive. This made her more convinced that I was angry, and even that I was trying to threaten her. The calmer I tried to be the more she was convinced I was playing games and being passive aggressive, etc. It was hopeless. Now she believes that I need to seek help for my anger, ie that is it all my problem.

Recently she hasn't been taking any medication for ADHD and only occasionally for depression. I know I am not perfect. But now I am totally lost as to what to do and how to discuss it with her (she walked out again). Help!

I am familiar with this. I was talking to a friend who said to me "Don't people usually reflect themselves onto you, especially in their criticisms?" Whenever I would approach my ADHD husband about MY feelings or insecurities, he would accuse me of wanting to start drama. And he would get irriationally angry. And yes, even if I was calm, or tried to hug him - the angrier he'd get. The awful thing about it all is I am totally the sort to make a joke to just lighten it up and say this is silly - but he could never laugh it himself, not the same way I could.

I wish I knew how to discuss without creating a nuclear explosion. Just wanted you to know you aren't the only one :-/

dvdnvwls
06-19-17, 02:46 AM
girlthroughtime: Discussing your own emotions without explosions from your ADHD husband often involves taking extra care to label the emotions as yours, and staying away from making them sound like general statements. Emotional dysregulation is one of the well-known ADHD symptoms, and alexithymia (blindness to one's own moods and emotions and/or being unable to identify and name emotions) is also common with ADHD. Therefore, when you discuss your intense emotions with an ADHDer, sometimes it's as if you're demanding more and more complex repair jobs from a blind mechanic who has no tools.

girlthroughtime
06-19-17, 04:46 PM
girlthroughtime: Discussing your own emotions without explosions from your ADHD husband often involves taking extra care to label the emotions as yours, and staying away from making them sound like general statements. Emotional dysregulation is one of the well-known ADHD symptoms, and alexithymia (blindness to one's own moods and emotions and/or being unable to identify and name emotions) is also common with ADHD. Therefore, when you discuss your intense emotions with an ADHDer, sometimes it's as if you're demanding more and more complex repair jobs from a blind mechanic who has no tools.

I do make sure to claim the feelings as my own - but of course a lot of my feelings stem from my interactions with him or lack of - so in turn he will feel criticized or attacked. I don't know how to have a conversation with him where I can clearly state how his attitude or personality is making me uncomfortable lately. Or how can I just ask, what's wrong? And get a real answer. To him - "nothing" is wrong, but I can sense there's an attitude shift.
Does your answer mean that those with ADHD have a difficult time recognizing their own emotions? For instance, not recognizing depression? Anxiety? Obviously I always felt he was just acting extra manly - even though I know he is very gentle and sensitive, he has never had an easy time discussing "negative" feelings..

dvdnvwls
06-19-17, 07:25 PM
Not all with ADHD, but a significant number of us, also have alexithymia - a defect in the ability to recognize and/or describe our own emotions. (And perhaps those of others)

It can make us seem unemotional or distant, when in fact we can be highly emotional but can't express it.

Some with alexithymia experience emotions mainly as physical sensations, for example the punched-in-the-stomach feeling of devastation. Less intense emotions might just go unnoticed.

girlthroughtime
06-19-17, 07:54 PM
Not all with ADHD, but a significant number of us, also have alexithymia - a defect in the ability to recognize and/or describe our own emotions. (And perhaps those of others)

It can make us seem unemotional or distant, when in fact we can be highly emotional but can't express it.

Some with alexithymia experience emotions mainly as physical sensations, for example the punched-in-the-stomach feeling of devastation. Less intense emotions might just go unnoticed.

That's really interesting. Thanks for the insight. Particularly the emotion = physical sensation. I can imagine that might feel like anxiety for some.

dvdnvwls
06-19-17, 08:02 PM
...Or real anxiety, at knowing there's something but having no way to talk about it.

Real anxiety can certainly have its own physical manifestation.

Cyllya
06-19-17, 11:47 PM
Now, when she said, "I think you are angry," did she mean that literally? (You'd have to go from the tone of voice, conversation context, or maybe ask for clarification.) Like, if she's asserting that you are angry, that's pretty unreasonable of her, but if she's saying, "I'm perceiving you to be angry," that makes sense. That wouldn't be "telling you how you feel" or any kind of statement about you at all, but rather giving you input on her perspective. That kind of verbal clarification of emotions is beneficial in long term relationships, probably even highly necessary in situations like yours where you can't read each other's emotions well.

ADHD doesn't entail perceptions of non-existing anger. In fact, I remember reading about research on sleep deprivation (similar symptoms) often missing milder emotions like anger. Possibly she has an issue not perceiving anger and is overcompensating, or it could be from the depression (which often entails extra pessimism), or it could be a natural personality quirk of hers, or maybe your "anxiety" body language is something a lot of people would perceive as anger. Consider that last option. It's often frowned upon for men to show so-called "weak" emotions like fear or anxiety, so substituting expression of anger is a common instinct.

These are some principles or rules of engagement that have worked well for me in talking about feelings. (These work a lot better if your discussion partner will follow the same rules. You may need to spell it out if you want that to happen; this isn't how people normally talk.)

-No one should be blamed for their emotions. Actions can be controlled, but emotions mostly can't. So, even if you actually WERE angry, that's no reason to criticize you or derail an otherwise productive conversation.

-Likewise, no one should be blamed for someone else's emotions. It's true we have feelings about other people's actions, and our loved ones should keep that in mind when choosing actions, but "I'm angry" should not automatically imply "it's your fault and you need to fix it."

-When one person feels a negative emotion, it's generally going to make your partner feel more negative somehow (not necessarily the same emotion). It's just inevitable. This goes largely by gut feeling, so if your anger makes her scared, she will feel scared if she "feels like" you are angry, even if she believes you when you say you aren't angry, even if she's trying to follow the first rule above.

-I generally try to forgive others' not verbal communication (e.g. they are grumpy when grumpiness is not warrented, I will proceed as if they were not acting grumpy). However, you should still avoid any scary actions like raised voice, etc.

-You have to know how the other feels to meet the mutual goal of having both parties happy, but communicating emotions is obnoxiously difficult. To obtain clarification as much as possible, I recommend:
Trying to understand someone's feelings without being told is good, but never confidently assume what someone is feeling.
Be willing to verbally state your emotion.
If your partner verbally states their emotion, believe what they say.
Asking for clarification on someone's emotion is often a good idea (what emotion, what are you feeling that emotion about, etc.)
Supressing nonverbal emotional displays is understandable and sometimes beneficial, but don't verbally lie about your emotion. If you are going to lie, expect them to believe you!
If you can't identify or figure out how to articulate an emotion, or you don't feel comfortable talking about it right now, etc, feel free to say so (as opposed to answering "what's wrong?" with "nothing."). Just keep in mind that this might put your partner in some uncomfortable limbo of knowing you're having a feeling but not knowing what, wanting to do something about in regards to your feeling but can't. So reassurance could be appreciated.
If your partner asks about an emotion that you don't feel like talking about and you consider it none of their business, find a polite way to say so. ("Eh, I'm just annoyed by something that happened at work, but how was your day?")

-Be aware that emotions affect perception and interpretation, as much as we'd like to think our perception of reality is objective. So it can be helpful to stop and think "is this necessarily true? Is there any other possible interpretation?"

-Sometimes mental disorders, medications, hormones, etc can mess with emotions (and there for interpretation). However, no one likes having their emotions disregarded as temporary insanity! There might be some cases where you'll want to gently suggest your partner's mood disorder maybe needs some better treatment, but think twice, and try to save it for later when emotions aren't running high.

-It may take some practice to have discussions like this. If someone feels like they'll be criticized for having an emotion, or it'll start a fight, they of course won't want to state that they are feeling that emotion. So it might feel uncomfortable until trust builds up.

This all assumes neither party has a major case of alexithymia, which would throw a wrench in this whole idea. (Well, this might still be a good way to discuss, but the alexithymia is an extra obstacle.) However, almost everyone will have SOME trouble discussing feelings.