What Influence Does ADD Have on Relationships?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

There are many reasons while some relationships thrive why others fail, but it’s no question that untreated ADD can devastate families and intimacy among couples. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen break down exactly how ADD threatens relationships.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.

Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging, to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMd, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com

Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. And stay tuned for a special code for a discount to Amen Clinics, for a full evaluation, as well as any of our supplements at brainmdhealth.com

Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. In this episode we're going to talk about ADD in intimate relationships. I have, as I said, more experience with this than I want to know. But when in my first marriage, I just felt like I got run over by a truck. I'm like, I had no personal experience with how to deal with the emotional outbursts.

Tana Amen: I can relate to that. Yeah, and I think that's really important to ... So this is not to demonize someone with ADD. This is because, I think if you don't know how to deal with the person who has it or who is conflict-seeking, then you don't always behave in a way that could be really helpful. So I want to really bring that up.

Dr Daniel Amen: No, over time you end up bitter. You end up angry.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: And one of the problems is the brain has memory. So you're constantly being triggered about, "Well this happened, so it's likely to happen again."

Tana Amen: So I can tell you in a previous relationship for me, I constantly felt like I was walking on eggshells and trying to figure out, there's this feeling that you have. You're going home and you're like, "What's going to happen when I walk in the door? What's going to be the fight tonight?" You're anticipating and you're like, "How am I going to handle it? What am I going to say?" And you're already walking on eggshells when you walk in and you're trying to position yourself before it even starts.

So then when it starts, you're trying to maneuver to get around it. I have to tell you, for a lot of people, most of us probably, you deal with that for a little while. And then there comes a day where you're like, "I'm done." And so you're not so good at dealing with it anymore. You don't walk on eggshells. You start crushing eggshells. So then it's not so-

Dr Daniel Amen: And not everybody that has ADD has these problems in a relationship.

Tana Amen: Right, everybody's different. 'Cause I have ADD.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right, 'cause you have ADD.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: And you and I don't have these problems.

Tana Amen: No, I don't like conflict.

Dr Daniel Amen: And it's not because I'm better. Although I am. Right, I was really young then. And I know a lot more. But in my book-

Tana Amen: Well, I think we both learned a lot, but-

Dr Daniel Amen: In my book Healing ADD, there's a chapter called The Games ADD People Play.

Tana Amen: But there's ... Let me just finish that off though too, because it's really important to point that out. There are people with, I have ADD, I guess. Okay, I [crosstalk 00:03:31]

Dr Daniel Amen: Do we want to go into that again?

Tana Amen: I will own it, but I don't have a lot of the classic signs and so it's really important for people to hear that. Because we don't have ... I don't like conflict. I'm anxious, so I don't like drama in my house. In fact, it almost creates some drama, because I will draw such a strong boundary against people bringing drama in my house. It's like you can't come in my house and do that. So then that makes people nervous.

Dr Daniel Amen: Which actually sets a good boundary.

Tana Amen: Oh yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: Because then they're less likely to act badly around you.

Tana Amen: Everybody knows, if you do that in my house, you are not welcome.

Dr Daniel Amen: And people with ADD do better with boundaries and they do better with structure.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: That's why many kids who have ADD end up in the military and they thrive in the military because they have structure. The rules-

Tana Amen: So what, people think I'm militant?

Dr Daniel Amen: Could be. The rules are really clear and so on. But I just wanted to highlight some of the games people with ADD play. The first game is, let's have a problem.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Because they're going to use, left untreated, they will use their partner as a stimulant. So even though you're having a great vacation, you've been looking forward to it for half a year. The other person just starts picking on the children or they start picking on their spouse. It's a stimulant and they don't know they do it. It's not conscious. But everybody around them knows they do it.

Tana Amen: And have you ever seen someone that does that and they will not give up ... So you might not pick up the rope. Don't pick up the rope. Don't pick up the rope. They keep pushing. They're not going to let you not pick up the rope. They keep pushing until you do and then all of a sudden they're hurt and it's like they're the victim.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well but when you stop, they unconsciously know they can get you to react. So they keep at it.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: But the more you don't react, the less they will continue the conflict unless they have are over-focused type of ADD, where they just can't let go. It's almost like an OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder problem.

The second game they play is, I bet I can get you to yell at me or hit me. And this is going to sound terrible.

Tana Amen: That's the one I'm talking about.

Dr Daniel Amen: I was chief of domestic violence at Fort Irwin, when I was in the Army. I realized, when there was domestic violence in a home, I had to evaluate everybody in the family.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: And often, what I'd find is a dad who had a brain injury, a child or a wife who had ADD that was conflict-driven and he couldn't control himself because of the damage to his frontal lobes. I'm like, "This is a family issue." I'm going to get hate mail for this.

Tana Amen: You're going to get hate mail for this.

Dr Daniel Amen: But, I've always been, let me call it as I see it. Is, there are family dynamics. There are always family things that work into this and yes, there's never an excuse to have someone hurt a woman or a child. Never an excuse for that. But if you don't understand the dynamic and fix everybody, you can't properly intervene.

The next game they play is, my thoughts are more terrible than your thoughts.

Tana Amen: Right. That's my mom.

Dr Daniel Amen: And they actually use negative thoughts.

Another one is, it's your fault and I'm not responsible. Another one for the over-focused ones, no, no way, never, you can't make me do it.

Tana Amen: That's hilarious.

Dr Daniel Amen: I say the opposite of what you say.

Tana Amen: Now see, if I had any of these, if you force me-

Dr Daniel Amen: No, no way, never. Yeah.

Tana Amen: Yeah. If you tell me I have to do something, you better watch out.

Dr Daniel Amen: I say the opposite of what you say. I say the first thing that comes to my mind. Let's call it even. Even though they started it, you know, acted really badly. Well let's call it even. And the last one is fighting is foreplay. So these are people that have this terrible, knock-down, drag-out fight.

Tana Amen: And then, oh the make-up sex.

Dr Daniel Amen: And then the make-up sex is awesome. But the woman often has trouble having an orgasm, because what does an orgasm require? It requires focus and because people with ADD are often easily distracted, they don't get the focus and so once you treat them, orgasms go up. So, that always makes me happy to contribute to someone's sexual happiness.

Tana Amen: That's hilarious.

Dr Daniel Amen: Always appropriately. So if you find yourself in any of these-

Tana Amen: Yeah, I find that list fascinating and as you're reading that list, I'm like, "That's so interesting." Especially when you were talking about the dynamics in couples. So you have someone who is conflict-driven, but you have someone else who plays that game of, "I bet I can make you hit me. Or that I can make you scream at me." It doesn't ... It's not a popular thought.

But there are people who are stuck in that victim role and that's really sad. It's really important for you to recognize that about yourself because you can never be happy. You can never be successful if you get stuck in that role.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well if you're a victim, you have no power.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: And you can't change anything.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: There's this interesting thing that moms often tell me if we have a bad morning at home, he has a good day at school. If we have a kind, loving morning at home, then he has a bad day at school.

Tana Amen: That's so bizarre.

Dr Daniel Amen: Because he didn't get his stimulant.

Tana Amen: That's so bizarre.

Dr Daniel Amen: And you just see these chronically conflicted relationships that do so much better. It's almost like the secret that very few people know about, that having untreated ADD devastates relationships. And treating it with diet, with exercise, simple supplements or medication can make a huge positive difference and decrease the divorce rates.

Tana Amen: And I think it's really important to point out that because you have ADD does not mean you're not going to be successful. It doesn't mean that you're a bad person, or you're wrong or anything like that. I think that I got lucky early on in life.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, we talked about two presidents, I think have ADD.

Tana Amen: Well, I think I got lucky early on in life with all the chaos and drama that happened in my house, I got lucky early on in life. I did not turn to drugs because of all the drugs that were around me. I turned to exercise. And I don't know why I got that lucky, but somehow that saved me.

Dr Daniel Amen: Which is one of the best natural treatments.

Tana Amen: Right. I didn't know that. I was treating my ADD. I was obsessed with exercise. But I knew it made me feel good. I knew that it helped me and made me feel good. But it doesn't make you a bad person. It just means you have to figure out.

What I didn't realize is that things could be easier by knowing some of this stuff. I just got lucky that I found that other people find other ways to medicate their ADD that might not be as effective. That doesn't make you bad.

Dr Daniel Amen: So how does people do that? They do it with conflict. They do it with fighting.

Tana Amen: Drugs.

Dr Daniel Amen: They do it with methamphetamines. They do it with cocaine. They do it with nicotine.

Tana Amen: If you're over-focused and anxious, you might do it with pot.

Dr Daniel Amen: They do it with pot. They do it with alcohol. They do things that make them feel better fast that clearly doesn't last.

Tana Amen: Right. So knowing this can help you figure out how to make your life work better. Not just in a relationship, but then the whole, the dynamics are better and you'll be successful at many things.

I think the really big key to take away here is that this is something that is treatable. You have to look at it from a different perspective of something other than, "Oh this is a bad person. We need to blame that person." If you can get this treated, your entire life, your family, everything's going to be different. It's really interesting. Don't you think?

Dr Daniel Amen: I love how evolved you have become. I just love that.

Tana Amen: From I don't believe in ADD?

Dr Daniel Amen: I'm sitting there so happy. Because when people are in chronically conflicted relationships, rather than blame the other person, is bad, 'cause haven't you noticed, your friends, they're in chronically bad relationships, that their next relationship is the same.

Tana Amen: Is the same.

Dr Daniel Amen: And then their next relationship is the same. And the only thing that's consistent across those three relationships is you.

Tana Amen: Is that person. Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: So you have to go, "What is attracting me to that?" Or, "What is it I can do different?" So if you're married, or your partner was someone who has ADD and they're not going to go get help, make an appointment for them. Call the clinic. Make sure they show up because they have ADD, so they're not very organized and they don't follow through well.

I think it's a family disorder, no question in my mind. It's a family disorder, and if you're the more organized one and the fun brains that I've seen, one is classic ADD low frontal lobes, the other ones got OCD. And initially the opposites attract and then they want to kill each other. Then they hate each other. So the more organized one, if you can organize when they take their supplements or their medicine, don't be bitter about that. Be grateful that there is something that may be helpful in your relationships.

Tana Amen: Well and there is something to be said about fit. I mean we're talking about relationships here, we just have to point this out. Even if you've got ADD, there is something to be said about fit. You have to know that the person you're with is someone that you can talk to, that wants to be treated, that will work through this with you.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right. So I remember this one couple I saw from the State of Washington. He's an emergency room doctor. He's in my office because his wife read, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. And he's like, "How can I have ADD?" I'm like, "Five of my best friends have ADD and they're all doctors." Emergency room doctors have the highest incidence of ADD.

I'm like, "Well humor me. How's your attention span?" He says, "Great." And his wife slugs him. She goes, "You never pay attention to me." I say, "How's your organization?" He said, "It's awesome." And later, she sends me a picture. "This is his idea of an organized office." Which is like an explosion went off in there.

Tana Amen: Oh my goodness, so funny.

Dr Daniel Amen: And when we scanned him, he had classic ADD. In treating him, their marriage got so much better. But if it wasn't his wife organizing things and threatening to leave him. 'Cause she's like, "I knew you weren't going to go. I've already seen a lawyer. I love you. But I'm not staying in this craziness anymore."

Tana Amen: 'Cause it is craziness. It is crazy.

Dr Daniel Amen: It ended up saving their marriage. Which was so special because it actually had a generational impact. They would have gotten divorced. His conflict-driven nature. They'd have fought in court for years and it just wouldn't have been fun for those poor kids.

Tana Amen: Right, and talking about the past, the relationship I was in, if that person may have been willing to be treated and seen, that may have been a different outcome. But I wasn't willing to stay. I already grew up in chaos and drama and trauma and I wasn't doing it anymore.

But being with you, okay I have ADD. But I actually think of my life as being extremely happy, very balanced, loving, amazing-

Dr Daniel Amen: But you were also willing, when we talked about it and you got scanned, you go, "Well I want this better." And you were willing to do the things that were required.

Tana Amen: I always want to be better. But I always want to be better.

Dr Daniel Amen: 'Cause you want to be better. You didn't see it as a defect.

Tana Amen: No.

Dr Daniel Amen: You saw it as an impediment to being your best self.

Tana Amen: No, you call me a seeker. I'm always going to some seminar or taking some course or class. That's not a negative. That's a compliment.

Dr Daniel Amen: That's a compliment.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: ADD and relationships. They can be so much better. Just don't deny it. Don't put your head in the sand, otherwise someone's going to kick you in the butt. Stay with us.