Are You Using ADHD as an Excuse or An Explanation?

 In Understanding ADHD

While on the treadmill at tadhd as an excusehe gym the other day, I eavesdropped on a nearby conversation. Hearing, “using ADHD as an excuse”, grabbed my attention.

(Yes, I admit it. I’m an eavesdropper. People are so interesting!)

Anyway, a woman was discussing her husband’s ADHD with her girlfriend. Lamenting how often her guy used ADHD as an excuse.

“He blames everything on his ADHD. Why he’s late picking up the kids. Why he forgets to stop at the market. Why he spends too much money. I wish I had something to blame everything on.”

Since I was eavesdropping, I squelched my impulse to join the conversation. It did get me thinking though.

There is a fine line between using ADHD as an excuse and using it as an explanation.

Adults with ADHD often do need to explain our behavior — if not to others than at least to ourselves. But we need to know the difference between using ADHD as an excuse and an explanation.

Pay attention. Knowing the difference between an excuse and an explanation is subtle. Yet it’s an important point if you want to change your relationship with your ADHD.

Using ADHD as an Excuse

I believe using ADHD as an excuse implies a total lack of control where unwanted behavior becomes the fault of the attention deficit.

Here’s an example of using ADHD as an excuse: “Since I have ADHD, my house is always a mess, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

I think using ADHD as an explanation suggests taking responsibility for the behavior. Working to change what can be changed and accepting what can’t be changed.

Now let’s use the same example with ADHD as an explanation: “I have ADHD so it’s hard for me to keep the house tidy. I have to set things up so it’s easier for me to stay organized and hire a housekeeper.”

See the difference?

Remember the woman at the gym? Likely her husband’s behavior wouldn’t frustrate her nearly as much if instead of making excuses he honestly tried to change and used explanations instead.

What about you?

Are you using ADHD as an excuse? If so, what do you need to do to take responsibility for your actions? Shift to making explanations for ADHD’s impact on your behavior. It’s worth the work.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Kenneth

    I feel like a blind man trying to see. I know that I need structure and all, but the task of getting that is place is so hard … and that is often considered the excuse. I just feel there is so little I can do about it…. Do I want to? Yes. but if the parner telles you every day that 7 years of wainting and trying to help etc. is more than enough, it’s hard to get yourself together and do the right moves. It is so easy to just give up and sometimes just slepeing forever seems the best cure instead of those demons I have to face each day. The guilt, the frustration, all that I have caused myself without knowing and wanting.

  • John

    My partner “self–diagnosed” with ADHD years after we saw a couples counselor who suggested they might be suffering from ADHD. In the intervening years, my partner vehemently denied that anything had ever been wrong, that I misremembered the sessions, and that their behavioral issues and procrastination was always my fault, even after they lost jobs, money, and friendships. Now that they’ve “self–diagnosed” it’s viewed solely as some kind of pressure–relief valve meant to shut me up, even though it still isn’t medicated or effectively treated through therapy. “ADHD” is now an impossible obstacle that I must “understand” can’t be helped or dealt with; it’s 100 percent an excuse, coming from an individual who cares for nothing other than protecting own privileged comfort zone at all costs. They’ve gone through a roundabout of therapists; tight–lipped vagueness has resulted in years of “they never tell me what I’m supposed to do, so what can I do?” even though I know from experience – and their own, admitted behaviors – that they readily “tune out” when they’re being told something they don’t want to think about or understand. I’m becoming a resentful, angry, violent, and hateful person, forced to raise an adult child which only (conveniently) reinforces my partner’s self–defeating, “victimhood’ attitude. By daring to be my partner’s partner, I am the murdered messenger, held responsible for identifying when their mental health issues cost them on a personal level, held responsible for fixing those mental health issues, and held responsible for causing them by bringing them up. I’m trapped in a whirlwind of confusion; I consider suicide almost daily, because it’s the only thing left I can still control, but even if I did that, it would be recontextualized as me not being “strong enough” to “take care of” my partner; my death would be a footnote in a life they’d get to keep living. I’d be forgotten like so many dates, plans, and projects. I have nothing left.

    • Oscar

      Hello John,
      I am so sorry to hear about the pain you are going through. You are loved for being who you are, right now, and who you are is not just a comparison to your partner. Though I know nothing about your situation if you have been in such a painful place for so long it seems that you should leave your partner immediately– if you are considering suicide regularly this situation has to stop immediately and permanently. I likely am ADHD myself, but this is not just about whether they have ADHD or not– clearly they seem to be consistently manipulative and cruel. I urgently suggest you get in touch with and spend as much time as soon as possible (a call, a house visit, staying for days or weeks or months) with one or more close confidantes who treats you with love and respects you and ask for help and not be afraid to lay out the pain of your situation to them and ask for help .
      You can also reach the national suicide prevention hotline at: 1-800-273-8255
      I hope all the best for you, you deserve better and though things seem painfully bad now you can reconnect with love for yourself and from others and to others that you deserve.

  • Ryan

    Yea but how can you tell if they are lying about it. Using the I have adhd its why I don’t clean my room or I have adhd that’s why I don’t pay attention in school. My son has used these excuses. He’s said plain out to my face he hates school and thinks it’s pountless, and says he doesn’t have the same values as his mother and I. Now this too me is a bunch of bull. Both of these statements he’s thrown himself under the bus and is trying to use adhd as an excuse to all of this. With absolutely no definitive test to diagnose this so called disease I’m calling bullshit. If you’ve been diagnosed with adhd it’s because a dr made a choice to do so, he gave his expert opinion and did it. So in reality it was only his opinion. Please someone explain this to me I feel like I’m right on this but I know I don’t totally understand.

    • Dana Rayburn

      Hey Ryan, it sounds like your son is using ADHD as an excuse for not having to step up and do what needs to be done in life. Using it as an explanation is more like, “I get so distracted in class that it’s hard for me to listen. Here’s what I’m going to do about it.” That doesn’t mean he won’t struggle, but it’s an attitude of moving forward and figuring stuff out. As to if ADHD is real or not, check out the Amen Clinics web site. He does SPECT brain scans and it shows the differences in brain activity.

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