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Building Stronger Bonds: The importance of healthy relationships for those with ADHD

I wasn't diagnosed with ADHD until I was 29. In that time, I had my fair share of extremely toxic, co-dependent relationships with friends and partners. I had figured that was just what normal relationships looked like. I had no grasp on what a healthy relationship actually was.

I lucked out with my husband. Who was also late diagnosed as neurodivergent but was seeking the same respect, love, and care I was.

Many aren't that lucky.

Did you know that being neurodivergent makes you significantly more likely to be subject to domestic violence? Like 30.7% compared to the neurotypical population at 6.3%. You are more likely to experience violence, emotional abuse, and trauma due to relationships than the average person.

Why is this?

Why are neurodivergent adults at higher risk for being involved in toxic relationships?

There are several reasons full of nuance that result in neurodivergent adults being at higher risk for toxic relationships. Here are just a few.

  • Impulsivity

By nature, many ADHD'rs are impulsive. Thinking before we act. Red flags tend to fly right past us as we run full steam ahead into rough waters.

  • Misinterpreting social ques

It is no secret that adults with ADHD and autism struggle to understand other's behaviors. This can make it very difficult to identify when a relationship is toxic or if it just needs improved communication. All relationships require work, but some relationships aren't worth that work.

  • Attachment styles

One study done in 2020 showed that certain attachment styles can have a big impact on relationships. Especially insecure attachment styles. Due to higher rates of trauma in children with ADHD. It makes sense to assume a higher percentage than average of adults with ADHD will have unhealthy attachment styles. Unhealthy attachment styles can result in relationships festering into something toxic very quickly.

  • Emotional dysregulation

ADHD'rs tend to have a hard time identifying their needs or communicating them clearly. In a toxic relationship, this difficulty is exploited. There is no attempt to understand the partner with ADHD or empathize with their experience. This difficulty could even be exploited to gaslight or manipulate the neurodivergent partner.

It is also important to note that the reasons outlined above can aid neurodivergent people in becoming a part of the toxicity in relationships. Emotional dysregulation, left unchecked, can lead to violent outbursts. Unhealthy attachment styles can result in behavior that is not appropriate for the current relationship (unjustified jealousy, controlling behaviors, etc.) It is important to take stock of these things in ourselves and do the work to be the type of friend or partner we need for ourselves.

How can toxic relationships impact mental and physical health?

Here is a list of some of the ways toxic relationships can impact well-being.

Physical Health:

  • Headaches

  • Upset stomach

  • Sleep problems

  • Chest pain

  • Muscle tension

  • Increased risk of heart problems

  • Inflammation

  • Hypertension

Emotional Health:

  • Isolation

  • PTSD

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Increased risk of substance abuse

Key Traits of a Healthy Relationship

So, what does a healthy relationship look like?

There are a few key components to a healthy relationship: communication, boundaries, trust, and respect. In a healthy relationship, you can speak up about your needs without causing more problems. You can have boundaries and not feel like your friends or partners need to have access to every part of your life. Trust and honesty leave space in the relationship for you to be yourself and at ease. And respect encompasses all of this.

You can read more about cultivating healthy relationships here in our post Cultivating Healthy Relationships: nurturing connections for emotional well-being.

It is important for anyone to recognize red flags in toxic relationships, but this is especially true for neurodivergent people. Because we are likely to stay and hunker down far longer than the average person. Increasing the likelihood of physical and mental health consequences from a toxic relationship.

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

call: 800-799-7233

or text START to 88788


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