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I don't understand the emo roller coaster

I don't understand the emo roller coaster2013-10-27T12:46:13+00:00

The Forums Forums For The Non-ADD I Married An ADDer I don't understand the emo roller coaster

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    My husband has ADHD. Love him to bits but cannot understand his unpredictable emotional responses. The littlest things are big deals. My mind comprehends that he is angry/frustrated much of the day and takes it out on me. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked him, “why are u angry” and he often tells me he isn’t angry but bothered by whatever but becomes angry at my questioning. The toughest thing is that he is often upset by other things that have nothing to do with me but he really struggles with channelling the frustration at the right source in appropriate ways. As a result I become the verbal punching bag. This really sux and I didn’t understand until recently the connection between emotional regulation and ADHD. How do you guys with significant others with ADHD deal with such things? My husband is 34 and medication has never been a part of his life. He’s doctor gave him wellibutrin for depression or whatever but it’s not for his ADHD symptoms specifically emo regulation concerns.


    Post count: 845

    You have hit upon perhaps the most devastating aspect of adult ADD. Many with ADHD have a string of one or more failed marriages, an indication that relationships, where ADHD is involved, often becomes strained. You may get a variety of answers and suggestions to your question “How do you guys with significant others with ADHD deal with such things?” From one with moderate ADD, this is mine.

    Learn all you can about ADHD.


    might give you an insight into how the ADHD mind works.


    addresses relationships. There is a book “The ADHD effect on marriage” which is good.

    As you mentioned, actions and responses from an ADHD individual can often be . . . unexpected. People with ADHD are often misunderstood. As you learn more about ADHD, you may come to recognize ADHD behaviors. Hopefully this will help you to understand what is going on with him allowing you to better cope as well as to be able to help him. He may have other issues such as aspergers or depression.

    Psychcentral.com has self tests for a variety of “mental conditions.” I would suggest that you go to the site and take some of the assessments beginning with that for ADHD. Not that you have it, but that you can see what issues and behaviors are present. (Note: Often behaviors among ADHD are entirely different. E.g. Some can’t stop talking, others say very little. Some anger easily, I don’t.)

    There are you tube videos of Russell Barkley which have no nonsense information as well as a whole bunch of good videos here on this site. Keep in mind that the ADHD brain exhibits definite differences in structure and chemistry. It is not an intelligence issue. There is a strong genetic component.

    Many with ADHD are misdiagnosed as depressed and given meds for depression. Depression meds for ADHD where depression is not present aren’t going to do any good.

    Perhaps the best thing your husband has going for him in his dealing with his ADHD is that you “Love him to bits.” If so, then learn all you can about ADHD so you can provide the support he needs. In the process I believe you will find you can handle his ADHD much more easily.

    Finally, it’s good to have you here on this site.  I wish we had more non-ADHD spouses etc. to help us get a better feel for what issues you face with us.  Otherwise, it’s like the blind leading the blind.


    Post count: 845

    Another thing that might be mentioned is self esteem.  See:


    As one who is, or at least should be, the most important person in your husband’s life,  you can have a huge positive effect on his self esteem which can do wonders for a relationship.


    Post count: 906

    Hi @allied, welcome to TADD. 🙂

    Welbutrin is prescribed for ADHD as well as depression. It’s one exception to the rule about ADHD and antidepressants. Because it works by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine, it will not make ADHD symptoms worse. It doesn’t really make them better either. At least not much, though I do feel some difference when I take it.

    It is also often a first choice in cases where there is a history of “self medication” because it is not amphetamine based and is not habit forming. And as kc said, adult ADD is often misdiagnosed as depression, so doctors will tend to go there first. But it is not meant to be used by itself. It is usually prescribed as a booster for another medication. I have heard that it works quite well in combination with Ritalin or Concerta.

    It isn’t good that you feel like a “verbal punching bag” and, in my opinion, there is no excuse for that. ADHD or no ADHD, your husband needs to have some respect for you. So I think you should talk to him about how you feel and try to come up with a solution. Maybe he could work out his frustrations on a real punching bag, for example, or go for a run, or write it down in a journal. Or come here and vent in the forums where people who have ADHD can relate to the problem and help him to resolve it.

    When I was in high school, at the end of a bad day, I would sometimes blast heavy metal music as loud as I could and do some weight lifting or some other form of exercise…like throwing things and screaming…:roll:

    I also find video games to be very cathartic.

    Recognizing the source of the frustration/anger is very important also. Sometimes it is really hard to tell. I will just be so annoyed with my husband, or my mother, and just be snapping at them constantly, and suddenly realize that it’s really because of something else, like something that happened at work. Or it might be a trigger from my past, something that sets me off due to past failures and criticisms that I have had to face my whole life.

    And…..I really have to go now. There goes another morning down the drain.



    Post count: 1096

    Hello allied – welcome to the site.

    I cannot better kc and blackdog’s  answers. Unlike kc, I am one ‘of the ones’ who rides the emotional rollercoaster.

    Any little thing can set me off and I don’t really understand it myself. However the key is ‘any little thing’. I can huff and puff and rant about things but really it’s an empty emotion. I get wound up about situations – people may bear the brunt of it but it’s the situation and not them that gets me going even if they are the cause of the situation.

    So the drama queen moments are just bluster and hot air but with a hint of anger. A bark without a bite.

    If something big happens to really justify anger then I remain calm and deal with it.

    The reasons for the emotional outbursts are often because  I am feeling overwhelmed or frustrated at not having enough time to do something and if someone asks me to fit in just one more thing.  Failing to get a task done whilst others are piling up is the foundation for a trigger, at least at work anyway.  It can be frustrating because most of the time issues and overwhelm are because of my own inaction and lack of time awareness.

    I think the bottom line is that the emotional rollercoaster  is predictable if you know the triggers. I have tried to hold in the emotion but it doesn’t work. It’s like the valve on a steam kettle, it has to blow. Sometimes it stimulates the brain into some activity and other times it’s just a release of tension.

    I think the key point is it is his ‘failing’ (for want of a better word) and certainly not yours. He probably feels awful at you seeing his outbursts.

    I now take Ritalin and it is wonderful for controlling emotional aspects of ADHD.  It gives me thinking time so I can limit my outbursts or go elsewhere to calm down.

    ADHD is the reason but not an excuse – I have learned to give myself time out. Blackkdog’s punchbag is a good idea. Something physical is a good outlet.  Barkley’s videos are excellent –  but we need to ensure we take responsibility for lack of emotional regulation to minimise the effects on those whom we love.

    Do discuss it with him. Bear in mind he probably feels guilty about it so he might be a bit defensive. Therefore don’t make a big thing of it. Can you have some kind of code word between you and him that alerts him that his behaviour is unacceptable? Or some gesture. That would get the message across without sparking an argument.

    However, he should respect you and listen to what you have to say on the matter. I would not excuse his behaviour, nor mine for that matter, but sadly lack of emotional regulation and impulsivity is a difficult combination when also mixed with anxiety because of outside or internal influences.

    PS – I just re-read your post. I was having problems with my ipod earlier – shows how good Ritalin is because I didn’t throw it out of the window.  So my PS……just a thought……but try not asking him why he’s angry. Is it possible to carry on as normal when he’s being difficult?If I have one of my hissy fits and people just ignore it and carry on as normal it’s nothing more than a childish tantrum…here and gone. If someone acknowledges it then I feel embarrassed or just can’t believe they don’t know why I am annoyed, which just makes it worse. Difficult I know…but just acknowledging his anger whilst he’s angry may not be helpful. 

    Also, if he ever does go down the medication route, then he needs to be aware there is a balance between the right calming dose and too much (which makes me irritable; but everyone is different). 



    Patte Rosebank
    Post count: 1517

    @Allied, I second what the others have said.

    And here’s something else that can help you.  Rick & Ava were on Attention Talk Radio last week, talking about “We Plus ADHD – Creating Great Relationships”.   http://www.blogtalkradio.com/attentiontalkradio/2013/10/24/we-plus-adhd-creating-great-relationships



    Rick Green – Founder of TotallyADD
    Post count: 473

    Some brilliant stuff here. What awesome members!

    The only thing I can say is that the emotional issue, for me it was always imagining the worst possible outcome. For example, I’d notice the time and realize one of my kids was supposed to be here an hour ago, and in 10 seconds I’d go from, ‘Probably traffic, or an accident, I hope they aren’t in it, maybe that’s why they haven’t called… ” and end up imagining myself at their funeral.

    Ridiculous. But now when I was in the grip of it.

    But when I saw ADHD as an issue with Executive Function, as in filtering out all the noise, making decisions, tracking time, knowing when to switch, sticking with something when it got hard, prioritizing, planning, keeping several things in mind… in other words a problem with ‘regulating’… I could see that it’s also about regulating emotions. Controlling them. Stopping them if they start to run away.

    And since emotions are the result of thoughts… my panic was over the thought of a car accident… well, when your thoughts can run away on you, so can your emotions.

    And memories or thoughts that have a lot of emotion attached, like a funeral, well, it becomes a very strong memory, a very strong neural pathway. One you will go to easily.


    Post count: 430

    Hi Allied,

    I am the one with ADHD and my wife and I both suffer from it.  To me it isn’t a Roller Coaster. Roller Coasters are fun. My emotions are more like a hot water heater with a defective relief valve. Pressure builds until there is a massive explosion. Sometimes things get destroyed in the explosion and sometimes not. I start over and the pressure builds… It’s a cycle.

    From my perspective, it is never one thing that sends me over the top, it is the culmination of many, many, many little things. With medication, I can see the situation building, and I can avert an explosion, but it never really removes the frustrations that historically cause the explosions. Thankfully, because of ADHD, I soon forget about being mad, and start over. My secret is to “disapear” for a while until that happens.

    I have ADD, and Dyslexia, and a little OCD and Agorophobia tossed into the mix as if I didn’t have enough to deal with. I have lived a lifetime of people asking me why I am the way I am. Not in a good way, but because they are frustrated with me. I have no way to explain it to them in a way that would give them understanding.

    I am sure your husband is dealing with more than “just” ADHD, because it is an accepted fact that ADHD rarely travels alone. Another source of frustration is it is so easy to misinterpret his actions and reactions. It’s unavoidable. He doesn’t know about his reactions or about his ADD any more than anyone else does and he lives with it from the inside.  Another source of frustration.

    Medication and counseling will give your husband an edge on the condition and allow him to modify his behavior. He needs to find the right medication or combination of medications, in the right dosages, taken at the right times. That takes a lot of patience. Something the ADHD person is not very good at.

    I used to use my wife as a verbal punching bag as well. I would feel like $#!? afterwards, which would only deepen my depression, frustration and anger, but it was the only way I had to express it.

    The moral of the story: Counseling, Meds, and information. The three will help break that cycle. The guy you married, is in there and wants to come out. But the ADD is eclipsing him.



    Post count: 68

    The angry outbursts are something I’m guilty of. I get frustrated with something and don’t even realize I’m in the cranky red zone. When my husband has had enough of my stomping around an huffing he’ll sometimes ask me “why are you so angry?!” and that makes me even madder because I feel like I’m being attacked.

    It’s obviously not his fault and he shouldn’t have to put up with me taking stuff out on him, but more often than not I don’t even realize I’m in a bad mood until he points it out. It helps me when he phrases it differently though.

    Instead of, “WHY ARE YOU SO ANGRY!!!!” (to which I instantly put up boxing gloves) something calmer like, “you look like you could use a hug”  is a lot more effective. It diffuses the bomb instead of throwing gas on a fire.


    Post count: 363

    I think it can be profoundly difficult. I’m the ADHD partner, and am triggered emotionally pretty much constantly by everything. My husband can feel that I’m taking it out on him – but he’s a mellow guy and tends to deflect my volatility with humor. He’ll sometimes get me to shift out of a mood by saying something like, “You’re not possible. You’re on the verge of becoming theoretical.” He’s good at making jokes, finding something absurd about the situation, finding the humor in it. That helps. If he reacted and became defensive, I don’t think our marriage would have survived this long. Right, so I have nothing useful to say other than that this is a very common problem for people with ADHD, it is part of the condition, and it is not about you. If you can learn to detach and not take it personally that might make it easier. It also might help to offer some kind of positive feedback in those difficult moments (that’s probably not when you want to give it, but it might help).

    It would also be good if your husband could recognize for himself that “emotional disregulation” is part of the ADHD, and try to gain some perspective on it that way. For me knowing that it’s part of the constellation of symptoms makes it less of a character issue, which reduces the guilt and feelings of inadequacy about always being such a bundle of EMO, which in turn makes the big emotional responses less of a burden.

    In my opinion, none of this stuff really gets solved with pills. Medication can help alleviate some of the worst symptoms, but in the end, other forms of help are probably necessary (like learning about ADHD, coaching, support groups).


    Post count: 42

    >> My emotions are more like a hot water heater with a defective relief valve. Pressure builds until there is a massive explosion. Sometimes things get destroyed in the explosion and sometimes not. I start over and the pressure builds… It’s a cycle<<

    Wow…that describes me perfectly.  Get out of my head LOL

    Seriously, though, I’m the ADHD partner, and my poor wife has to put up with this all the time.  It actually happened to us the other night.  Long story short, I had dealt with an hour of frustration from my 4-year-old not listening while I was trying to cook dinner.  The reason I was dealing with it is because my wife fell asleep on the couch due to exhaustion (she’s an insomniac).

    I finally got diner done and woke the wife up, then had to sit down and shovel mine in so I’d have time to get the munchkin ready for her dance class, and again, she decided to keep playing instead of listening when I asked her to do things–take off your socks, take off your jeans–no, don’t step on them, sit down and pull with your hands–wait, where’s your leotar–HEY!  GET OUT OF THE BATHROOM!

    I lost it on that last one, screamed it.  Instantly felt horrible, but the wife came in a moment later and started (justifiably) laying into me about how I was treating our daughter, and that made it worse.  I ended up talking a long walk, like about two and a half miles, while the girls went to dance class, power walking and chain smoking the whole way.  Twenty seven minutes later (two and a half miles in twenty seven minutes–damn, I was almost running!), I was calm and level, and have been ever since.

    GOD, I need a heavy bag!

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