ADHD & Romantic Relationships

Two really cool research studies came out relatively recently (2020, 2021) on ADHD & Romance.

First, 2020: Researchers looked at attachment styles & ADHD except, here, they looked at the non-ADHD partners of individuals with ADHD (74.2% with an official diagnosis). They wanted to know how the partner’s a) attachment style and b) ratings of their partner’s ADHD symptoms, together, influenced c) relationship quality.

What they found suggested that a partner’s high level of anxious attachment may make “the negative effect of ADHD symptoms on romantic relationship quality” worse. And, “Though insecure attachment styles are generally thought to have a negative impact on romantic relationships, avoidant attachment was generally associated with more positive outcomes….” Avoidant attachment refers to being an “Island” as couple therapist Stan Tatkin, Ph.D., describes it. Think of someone who likes you around sometimes but often at a distance. Dr. Tatkin describes anxious attachment as being a “Wave.” Think anxious about being losing you but also doing things that might push you away.

As the researchers put it, “Individuals with an anxious attachment style experience heightened emotion during perceptions of abandonment (Dutton et al., 2014), frequently questioning the commitment of their partner (Bowlby, 1988).” On the other hand, “Individuals with an avoidant attachment style often seek to avoid conflict with their partner by withdrawing and becoming quiet and task-focused (Butzer & Campbell, 2008).” Why would avoidant partners possibly be a better match for individuals with ADHD than anxious ones? Consider that individuals with ADHD more often have such insecure attachment styles themselves. Good question. If you want to read how the researchers interpreted the results, you can get the study for free here https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/etd/4839/ (go to the conclusion section). Also remember this study looked at the ADHD partner’s perception of the relationship vs the perception of the person with ADHD. It’d be interesting to know much they line up.

Second, a 2021 study looked at the state of the literature on ADHD & romantic relationships to show what’s known and what remains unknown. The abstract is available here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33421168/. At this time, however, unless you have special access (as a student, for example), the article costs. A work-around is to look it up through the public library and see whether you can get a copy (even through ILL). I am going to school, so likely have access. What I lack right now is time (it’s finals period as I write). My hope is to post on this study over the next two weeks. So soon. : )

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