Attention Defici–Oooh, Shiny!

Attention  Defici–Oooh, Shiny!

By Amy Alkon

My girlfriend of eight months has ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). She takes medication that helps her focus better at work and has steps (like writing everything down) to avoid forgetting important things, stay more organized, etc. Despite this, she is very disorganized and often gets distracted. (I sometimes catch her checking out when we’re right in the middle of a phone conversation.)

She often runs late when we are supposed to be someplace and forgets things. She can also be very impatient.

There are a lot of great things about her and us, and we do love each other. Still, when she forgets about me or is totally unready (as in, unshowered and wearing a towel) when I come to pick her up, I can’t help but feel like not quite a priority to her.

— The Boyfriend


There are surefire ways to get a woman’s attention, like kneeling and pulling out a big gleaming rock. For an ADHD woman, you may also want to hire one of those street-corner sign-spinner guys to stand next to you in a chicken suit jerking a big arrow at the ring.

ADHD is a stupidly named disorder. Those with it don’t have a deficit of attention; they just have problems controlling the allocation of their attention, explains researcher Martha Bridge Denckla, M.D., on People blame ADHD on too much videogaming, too much television, sheer laziness and even the use of green chalkboards and yellow chalk. Researchers can’t say conclusively what causes ADHD, but Tschudi notes that there’s strong evidence it’s a “neurobiological disorder in which the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine are not regulated properly and cause the brain to underfunction,” leading to problems “staying focused, sustaining effort, managing emotions, and accessing working memory (that is, remembering).”

Having ADHD is like trying to think while having 16 squirrels in your head, all scampering off in different directions. People dating those with ADHD tend to take its effects personally.

For your relationship to work, you both need to try harder, but in different ways. You need to accept that she isn’t a regular-brained person, and she needs to avoid acting like she probably does in the world of the regular-brained — by hiding it when her attention wanders off. She also needs to admit it when she’s feeling too impatient to discuss or do something. She needs to see that she’s on time when it’s important to you, and you need to have perspective when she comes to the door in a towel when it’s not. Ultimately, making things work comes down to the most basic of basics — love — and wanting to be together so much that the tradeoffs seem worth it. My dog needs a bath. Kale. Like Pauline Kael but spelled differently and also it’s a vegetable. Do you think the Iranians have nukes? Sorry … what was I saying about ADHD?


Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail ( 

Categories: Advice, Advice Goddess