Overview

Imagine: At least nine million American adults share a highly genetic condition that can jeopardize their health, employment, finances, and their closest relationships. Yet only one million know they have it, and only some of themtruly understand it.

What is this mysterious condition? Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And contrary to popular myth, ADHD symptoms can be even moreimpairing in adulthood than in childhood. After all, children don’t drive automobiles, have credit cards, enter romantic relationships, and hold a job. Neither are they responsible for maintaining a household (or their own health), paying bills, and raising a family!

The science has been clear for more than a decade: Adult ADHD was declared a medical diagnosis in 1994. Still, the public and even many mental-health professionals harbor misconceptions about it.

Change comes slowly. Meanwhile, too many people (perhaps as many as 30 million in the U.S. alone) suffer needlessly in ignorance, along with their loved ones.

Everyone knows someone with adult ADHD, even though you might not realize it. (And neither might that adult!) Too often, we misattribute the symptoms to anxiety and depression—or even laziness, willfulness, flightiness, selfishness, moodiness, and worse. We describe some people with undiagnosed ADHD as having personalities that are addictive, Type A, or even passive-aggressive.

In most ways, ADHD symptoms (forgetfulness, distractibility, and impulsivity, chief among them) do resemble the human condition in exaggerated form, and so we don’t simply make the connection to a brain condition.

Meanwhile, these adults and their family members face the “ADHD Roller Coaster” in these various flavors, shapes, and sizes:

  • Disorganization and clutter
  • Forgotten tasks and obligations
  • Out-of-whack priorities
  • Unpaid bills and maxed-out credit cards
  • Neglected home repairs and lost jobs
  • Hot tempers and erratic parenting styles
  • Traffic accidents and citations
  • Addictions and poor health habits
  • And many more.

Moreover, the ADHD symptoms themselves (including poor working memory and difficulty linking cause with effect) mean that many adults fail to accurately perceive their own role in creating the chaos swirling round them. They sometimes place the blame everywhere else—the pointy-haired boss, the high-maintenance partner, the screaming kids, the “anal” folks at the IRS. If you try to point out their role in the chaos, without both of you understanding about ADHD, you’ll just stay stuck on the roller coaster. In fact, the roller coaster might grow even wilder.

For these reasons, it often falls to the partners of these adults to understand and connect the problematic behaviors to ADHD’s symptoms. That’s why author Gina Pera reaches out to this group in particular, acknowledging the impact of untreated ADHD on loved ones. Nonetheless, everyone affected by ADHD will find the information in this book invaluable, especially adults with ADHD and psychotherapists, who often mistake treatable ADHD symptoms for “communication problems” or “personality.”

Meticulously researched by this award-winning journalist, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? offers the latest information from top experts who explain the science and proven protocols for reducing ADHD’s most challenging symptoms. Real-life details come from the partners themselves, who share their stories with touching candor (yet plenty of humor) and their own strategies and tips. The revolutionary message is one of hope for millions of people and a joyous opportunity for a better life—not to mention a much smoother and more enjoyable ride.

The book is organized in three parts:
Part One, Chapters 1-7
From the Tunnel of Love to the Roller Coaster: Could Your Partner Have ADHD?

Learn about the variable nature of ADHD and how to recognize its major indications as well as its subtleties, particularly as they affect relationship, money, driving, cooperation, empathy, and sex. Understand the central challenge of this widely misunderstood condition: it’s not a lack of attention—you don’t’ have to take it personally —but a lack of self-regulation. Finally, see how actual symptoms differ from the negative mindsets and poor coping skills that typically develop over decades of a person living with undiagnosed, unaddressed ADHD.

Part Two, Chapters 8-10
Roller Coaster Whiplash and G-Force Confusion:
How Many Plunges Before You Say, “Whoa!”
Part Two details the three stages of stress responses that the partners of adults with ADHD typically experience when ADHD symptoms go unrecognized and unaddressed: the so-called Three Plunges of the ADHD Roller Coaster:

  • Explaining the Inexplicable
  • Managing the Unmanageable
  • Breaking Down in Illness—Or Through to Truth

You’ll learn about the surprisingly intricate twists and turns this ride can take. For example, many adults with ADHD manifest few symptoms during courtship or even the first few years of the relationship. Yet, as responsibilities increase—such as starting a family, paying a mortgage, and working a job—the adult’s capacity to cope becomes overwhelmed, and the roller coaster picks up speed. It might even fly off the rails. Hello whiplash!

Part Three, Chapters 11-23
Your Relationship and the Art of Roller Coaster Maintenance
Four Success Strategies guide you through proven protocols for taming the roller coaster:

  • Taking care of yourself
  • Dealing with denial—your own and your partner’s
  • Finding effective therapy for individuals and couples affected by ADHD
  • Understanding the role of medication

The final chapter presents a step-by-step plan for healing the relationship, including practical approaches to communicating and working together on household tasks.

Appendices de-bunk common myths, provide guidelines for finding a professional evaluation, and offer first-person stories from those who lived many decades on the roller coaster before learning about ADHD.