By Hadley Earabino, TheLoveLifeCoach
As a Sex, Relationship & ADHD Coach who helps women with difficult romantic relationships, it's something I've heard more than once: A woman mentions her ex and makes him sound like the quintessential Lifetime movie villain.
"He was such a narcissist."
"He was a total sociopath."
"He was a compulsive liar."
Bad-mouthing your ex by dismissing him as a "narcissist" or a "sociopath" might feel good when you're hurting, but you could also be totally off-base. And if you've got kids with him, you'll be negotiating with him for years, so your attitude might be making your co-parenting relationship more difficult than it needs to be.
All those years of bad behavior? All the lying, the avoidance, the neglect, the insecurity? Those complaints might be perfectly accurate, but it might not be narcissism and he might not be a sociopath. It could all be evidence of undiagnosed ADHD--one of the most common, and most treatable, psychiatric disorders in adults. You might be unwittingly describing someone with all the symptoms of ADHD.
Evidence: He was a compulsive liar, which is a hallmark of narcissism.
Maybe you think he's a narcissist because he lied all the time. He invented outrageous stories. There's a history of total fabrications and absurd "spinning" of the truth.
Guess what? Lying is a well-documented ADHD trait. Executive functioning problems leads many ADHD folks to "zone out" during conversations, misunderstand questions, and then try to cover up their mistakes by pretending to remember or understand what was said. After a lifetime of making memory-related mistakes, they can get into the habit of saving face, pretending to know more, or making things up as they go along. Add some charming, high-energy charismatic story-telling--also typical of ADHD--and you've got someone easily misunderstood as a narcissist.
Evidence: He doesn't have close ties with anyone, which makes him a sociopath.
Maybe he doesn't have a lot of close ties with too many people. He's alienated people with his crazy, "sociopathic" behavior.
Guess what? Social rejection or ostracism is a common ADHD struggle. While ADHD is primarily a neurological problem, it often becomes a major psychological problem because of the way it affects relationships. Conflict can act as a stimulant to the brain, and for people with ADHD, looking for a fight is just another thrill-seeking behavior that they use to self-medicate. After years of conflict with others, combined with poor decision-making, the ADHD sufferer may even distance himself and put up emotional walls in order to cope.
Evidence: He never showed any guilt or remorse--a typical sociopath.
Maybe he had a hard time even seeing how exactly he was wrong, or that he was wrong at all, much less could he apologize for anything he did. The inability to experience empathy is a sociopathic problem.