Hearts and Wandering Minds

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Among the most widely commented on stories in the New York Times this week reports on the havoc attention deficit disorder is supposedly wreaking on American marriages.  The Times writes

"Typically people don't realize the A.D.H.D. is impacting their marriage because there's been no talk about this at all," said Melissa Orlov, author of the book "The A.D.H.D. Effect on Marriage," to be published in September.

Ms. Orlov says she began studying attention deficit's toll on relationships after her husband received the diagnosis about five years ago. Although she had been working for years with Dr. Ned Hallowell, a leading researcher on the subject, Ms. Orlov had not realized that the disorder was also ruining her marriage.

The story goes on to explain that marriage eroding symptoms such as inattention and lack of consideration for one's mate are not a symptom of carelessness, but of a brain disorder that can and must be treated.  Unfortunately, the single source quoted--Ms. Orlov--is not a scientist, psychologist, social worker or physician, but a self described marketing and communications expert who has written a book on the subject.  One wonders whether the reporter who penned this piece might herself have benefited from paying a little closer attention to detail, for at least one actual study examining the impact of ADHD on marriage has been done, and found the link between marital complaints and ADHD to be none too powerful.  That is, the probability of feeling "unloved" was about equal whether one's spouse was ADHD or not.  A fickle heart will corrode any marriage, but the impact of a meandering mind--well, that's a question in need of a good deal more attention.    

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Ellen Ruppel Shell is the co-director of the Graduate Program in Science Journalism at Boston University. She is the author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.

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