- updated: Jul. 06, 2023
In Part 1 of Narcissism vs. Adult ADHD, I listed the distinct behavioral features of a narcissistic personality as well as those of adult ADHD, as defined by researchers and experts in the field of mental health.
In the US, ADHD has been diagnosed in about 9.6% of children, with boys outnumbering girls. The mental health community is finally discovering that ADHD, once thought of as a condition limited to childhood, is actually a life-long condition. Some estimates report that 2.5 percent to 4.4 percent of US adults have ADHD, with the prevalence increasing.
Over one’s lifetime, environmental and daily demands can either exacerbate ADHD’s negative symptoms or minimize them. Indeed, success and intelligence are not to be discounted because of an ADHD diagnosis, because intelligence itself is not limited by ADHD. It is executing on what one knows that is compromised in ADHD. Hard work, applying one’s abilities, and finding ways to compensate for weaknesses, often lead to considerable success. The arts, industry, and elite level sports, for instance, are filled with people who have ADHD.
From what you’ve learned in Part 1, is it possible that you’ve “diagnosed,” as narcissistic and empathy-deficient, the predictably unwelcome behaviors generated by an ADHD-type brain? If so, you may want to rethink just how much hurt and anger you want to allow yourself because your partner isn’t as attentive as you’d like. If your partner does have ADHD, s/he may be doing the best he can. Her brain is different than a neuro-typical brain. For example, his brain doesn’t function optimally in self-regulation behaviors such as impulse control, emotion regulation, and attention. She’s irresistibly drawn to what interests her. Aspects of the brain’s executive functioning may also be compromised, including:
- Short term memory,
- Considering future consequences of current action,
- Stopping and starting easily,
- Awareness of time,
- Emotion and impulse control,
- Sustained attention and focus on uninteresting tasks,
And, the following list, developed by Russell Barkely, PhD, an international expert on ADHD, also included in Part 1, represents one aspect of a comprehensive diagnosis of adult ADHD (only 6 are required):
- Often is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
- Often makes decisions impulsively.
- Often has difficulty stopping activities or behavior when they should do so.
- Often starts a project or task without reading or listening to directions carefully.
- Often shows poor follow through on promises or commitments they make to others.
- Often has trouble doing things in their proper order or sequence.
- Often drives a motor vehicle much faster than others.
- Often has difficulty holding attention in tasks or leisure activities.
- Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
So, if your partner demonstrates problems in those areas, you really need to consider that the primarily inherited, brain-based condition that you observe and deal with is ADHD. It may be new to you that imaging of ADHD-type brains demonstrates differences in size, shape and activity in certain parts as compared to neuro-typical brains.
Although women have ADHD less often than men, when they do, it often manifests somewhat differently. Perhaps that’s why the diagnosis is often missed, whereas depression and anxiety – the outcomes of living with ADHD –– get attention instead.
Fortunately, troublesome ADHD behavior and perceptions are almost always improved with medication that targets the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Moreover, the person with ADHD can reinforce self-management of executive functioning weaknesses by using various strategies that provide external cues and reminders.
Before I finish, I want to be sure you know that the ADHD-type brain has been beneficial to humankind historically as well as to individual human beings in the present. Thousands of years ago when we were hunter-gatherers, those with an exploratory drive, flexibility, novelty-seeking behaviors and the high energy (hyperactivity) resulting from an ADHD-type brain actually performed better than others. They and those close to them were better nourished due to increased food capture and creativity managing difficult climates. In terms of evolution, those characteristics definitely had survival value.
As I mentioned previously, in our own times, the flexible thinking and novelty seeking of ADHD are generously expressed in the arts and entrepreneurial endeavors. And, elite athletes Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles epitomize the possible outcome of having an ADHD-type brain, with its high energy (hyperactivity) and hyper-focus.
So, in the right environment, an ADHD-type brain actually has advantages. However, in our typical American environment and way of life, difficulties are predictable. The good/great news is that appropriate treatment makes a big difference.
CHADD.org (Children & Adults with ADHD) & ADDitude Magazine are great resources for authoritative, easy-to-understand information about ADHD.