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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Manic? or Hyperfocus?

Husband just entering what it appears to me another “episode.”  This would be the 4th distinct episode
involving rapid change of plans, grandiose and impractical schemes,and very big outlays of money.
Beasue they have been so distinct (they feel like nightmares to me, and I definitely have PSTD-like reactions.  In the past, when I’ve tried to waylay a particularly costly impulse, it has only served to strengthen his position…my reflections to him act his behavior ends in threats of divorce, and complete shutdown of information (secrets).  Does this fit hyper focus? Anyone else with similar experiences?

Should I get out of the way and take cover?  Is there anything I can/should do as a partner in the ADHD challenge?

THanks in advance.


Has he been diagnosed ADHD?  sounds much more like bipolar. If you can get him (after the episode) to get a diagnosis then do it. Otherwise you don’t know what you’re dealing with. For now run for cover… And open a separate checking account.  Save yourself. You can’t save anyone else.

Posted by YellaRyan on Dec 23, 2013 at 7:08am

Sounds bipolar to me too

Posted by Christmas on Dec 23, 2013 at 10:37am

He was diagnosed 2 years ago with ADHD/Depression following an “episode”.  He prevented me from giving input to his doctor. Has been taking Wellbutrin for the ADHD but I still observe what I think are mini-manic breakthroughs (and am on edge waiting to see if they develop into full blown mania). After joining this site and learning about hyper focus, I questioned my perceptions about mania.  My gut tells me that it is more than hyper focus.  THe symptom overlap (mood shifts, impulsively, defensiveness) have me confused.

Posted by stillhere on Dec 23, 2013 at 7:14pm

Yeah, hyperfocus is usually pretty self-contained. My favorite example is from “Driven to Distraction,” where they ask if you set out to clean your living room and, four hours later, your living room is still a mess, but all your family photographs that you came across are now completely organized. This really resonated with me.

ADD can cause us to jump from one interest to another and to impulsively drop money on things that we quickly lose interest in, but the key is the impulsivity. I think if you calmly tell a person with ADD that they’re about to do something stupid, they can recognize that fact. We don’t do these things because we’re out of touch with reality, we do them because we don’t think about the reality ahead of time. If someone draws something to our attention, we can stop ourselves.

It’s also possible that your husband has quick-cycling bipolar or cyclothalmic disorder. The symptoms overlap enough with ADD that it’s tough to tease them apart. Luckily, he’s not on a stimulant, because that makes the manic part even worse.

I also know from friends who deal with the quick-cycling bipolar that people can be incredibly hard to live with at various points in their cycles. Remember that when he says hateful, horrible things, it’s not because he really feels that way, but because his brain chemistry is knocking his thoughts and emotions all out of proportion.

I agree with YellaRyan. Minimize damage from this episode and wait until he’s less altered to sit down and talk about how to deal with these issues. I don’t recommend ultimatums, generally, but insisting that the two of you go together to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist (and preferably one who knows about adult ADD and cyclothalmic disorder) for an evaluation is probably something that’s worth making an ultimatum about.

Good luck!

Posted by todd0813 on Dec 24, 2013 at 7:36pm

To me, that doesn’t sound like hyperfocus. Hyperfocus is when an ADHDer can calm down and focus on a task for hours at a time without interruption. It’s a desirable state, not a problem.

What you describe sounds more like bipolar, or the kind of obsessive rumination ADHDers can struggle with - fixating on one idea, need, or objective, and not being able to let go of it.

You might take a look at David Giwerc’s book “Permission to Proceed” - he talks about different types of ADHD mental states.

Posted by sdsea on Dec 24, 2013 at 11:05pm

I have fallen for big/grandiose schemes that require large amounts of money up front. Fortunately, I’m not the one holding the purse strings, and now I’m far older, wiser, and medicated. wink (Diagnosed ADD Inattentive type; VERY spontaneous w/o meds, always following the next big thing for a few weeks, then dropping it)
How long does he stay focused on any of these schemes? Or does he stick with his investment when others might be discouraged or bored with them?
Absolutely, separate your funds from his. If you can’t do that, at least set aside a small savings account that only you have access to, and start feeding it every paycheck you get. A little once a month can add up pretty fast, and build a safe cushion for yourself should his threats or actions put you in an unsafe position in the future.
If you ever feel physically unsafe, GET OUT. But if you can stick with it & get him to go to another doctor when his next “down” hits, all the better. Or, if you can contact that doctor who’s already prescribing him, DO IT. Right away! Leave messages with his office, email him, everything!
*hugs* God luck and merry holidays!

Posted by Utena42 on Dec 25, 2013 at 6:43am

Absolutely call the prescribing doctor and if not a psychiatrist get him to one if at all possible. Wellbutrin and other ssri class drugs are known to trigger mania and manic, hypomanic, or even hyperthymic episodes after SSRI use in bipolar patients who have been previously misdiagnosed with unipolar depression. Trust your instincts - this does not sound like hyperfocus - which typically is more like a “flow state” for me and often although annoying to our non-ADHD partners who we may not attend to well, does not include grandiosity, secretiveness, spending sprees or anything you are describing. For instance, I hyperfocused when I wrote my dissertation and had to be told by my committee to shift from one chapter to the next (or else I would have never finished). We tend to fixate on the area of focus that holds our interest at the time to the exclusion of other things but we do not lose judgment and if we are cued, we realize the hyper focus is maladaptive. Good luck!

Posted by Karyajohnson on Dec 25, 2013 at 11:12pm

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