ADHD and relationships…it’s complicated. On every level.
For example, I am not a hugger.
Everyone who knows me knows this about me. I don’t hug anyone except my husband, and he makes me do it as a joke.
Two years ago my brother and his wife had the heartbreaking experience of losing a child.
When this happened I was in a strange place – my family needed me and I was completely uncomfortable with showing emotion. So I set out to understand why I am so uncomfortable with my own emotions and the emotions of others.
Reading psychology books and journal articles is one of my nerdy habits. Once in a great while I find something that changes the way I think about living with ADHD.
I started to theorize that people with ADHD have wacky attachments styles. This might explain why we have so much difficulty in relationships.
I know what you’re thinking, “I’m not difficult! People just don’t accept me because of my ADHD.”
That may be quite true. People are not very accepting of ADHD, or of other mental health disorders.
But the fact remains, ADHDers often have problems maintaining relationships. From romantic, to friendships, to even parental relationships with our children.
Understanding your attachment style is essential for you to better manage your ADHD and relationships.
This is what you need to understand about attachment styles (ADHD and Relationships)
Your attachment style IS your relationship style
Research has shown that our interactions early in life contribute to our attachment styles later. Source
As a child with ADHD you potentially experienced up to 50% more negative feedback than a child without ADHD. (I read that somewhere but cannot find the source.)
Those of us with ADHD are much more likely to display anxious and/or avoidant attachment styles that we carry over into our adult relationships.
Relationships are important in all areas of life – wouldn’t you agree?
This is why I say your attachment style IS your relationship style.
There are several types of attachment, but for simplicity I will only use three of them.
Secure attachment style
In her book, The Healthy Mind Toolkit, Dr. Alice Boyes describes secure attachment as one where, “We see other people and ourselves in a positive light…we feel safe expressing our emotions and do not have trouble reading the emotional cues of others.”
Having a secure attachment style allows us to respond to the needs of others in an appropriate way. A securely attached person is not burdened when their child or partner needs support.
Everyone wants to be securely attached. We all want to be able to express our needs without fear of rejection.
But not many of us are 100% there.
Anxious attachment style
Anxiously attached individuals may have gotten the message that their emotions were unwelcome, or overwhelming for others.
We already know with ADHD our emotions are on a rollercoaster, so the message that you are too much for people can start very young. I know it did for me.
I lean toward anxious, and I also exhibit the tendency to be, “hot and cold” in my relationships.
Compartmentalizing relationships is also common with this attachment style. And it is also common in ADHDers.
Do you keep your family separate from your friends, who you keep separate from your work life? Because it’s just easier that way?
If so you might be anxious, like me.
Avoidant attachment style
Avoidant individuals fear rejection. Even moreso than anxious individuals because their behavior is a product of emotional isolation.
Much of the time parents don’t even realize they are being dismissive, but often avoidant types have been left alone to deal with their emotions without parental assistance.
Children who are separated from their caregivers can become avoidant.
Avoidant attachments styles are not open to hearing about the emotions of others, and generally have little desire to share their own.
I am a bit avoidant in the sense that I don’t let many people into my emotional world.
Are you a tough nut like me? Do you dislike it when someone needs your support?
If so you might be avoidant.
Curious about what your attachment style might be?
You can combine attachment types
Many of us are not just one type or another, but a combination of attachment styles. This is totally normal.
But in order to improve our relationships, it is good to know our primary attachment style – the one that most impacts us day-to-day.
Nearly 100% of the information in this article comes from The Healthy Mind Toolkit, and I also draw heavily from this book in my Feel Better Fast Program.
ADHD and attachment styles
Part of why I wanted to study this topic is because ADHD affects every aspect of our lives.
And well…relationships affect every aspect of our lives. So the two are inexorably linked.
Once I figured out that I am anxious/avoidant it was easier for me to understand why I dislike hugging so much. And it was easier for me to practice hugging as well.
Thank goodness I was able, when the time came, to hug my baby brother when he needed it.
Understanding your attachment style is essential for you to have better manage your ADHD and relationships.
Here is a short quiz I came up with. It’s fun and informative.
Here is a link to more info on making a marriage work with ADHD.