You can’t analyze love, right?
Psychology researchers would beg to differ.
In fact, psychology studies can help us learn about the workings of romantic relationships, and a new study sheds light on the relationships of people with ADHD in particular.
A team of psychology researchers in Brazil surveyed 306 adults, prying into their love lives in the name of science. The researchers were interested in differences between people with ADHD, people with autism, and neurotypical people.
Two main patterns emerged that set apart the romantic relationships of people with ADHD.
First, adults with ADHD were more likely to experience divorce. Specifically, the researchers found that ADHD was associated with a fourfold increase in the chance of having a divorce.
That finding fits with previous research, and it confirms that the destructive effects of ADHD symptoms extend into people’s romantic relationships. Symptoms such as inattention, impulsivity and difficulty with self-regulation can wreak havoc not just at work or in school, but in marriages as well.
Interestingly, the study found that people with ADHD report experiencing more intense feelings of love in their romantic relationships.
All participants in the study filled out a questionnaire called the “Passionate Love Scale,” designed to measure feelings of passionate love in relationships. It turned out that average scores for people who had either ADHD alone or both ADHD and autism were significantly higher than for neurotypical people.
The authors of the study describe this kind of love as “an intense emotional state typical of the beginning of romantic relationships, marked by profound feelings of attraction and commitment, as well as by obsessive characteristics, such as a jealous dependence and intrusive thoughts about the partner.”
According to the researchers, ADHDers’ tendency toward this feeling could be linked with emotional dysregulation. Although emotional dysregulation in ADHD is often talked about in relation to negative emotions like anger or sadness, the authors of the study point out that there could be a more general tendency for people with ADHD to feel emotions intensely.
It’s also possible to see how intense feelings of romantic interest could go hand-in-hand with other ADHD tendencies like being driven by external rewards, seeking out novelty, and “hyperfocusing” on select things.
Along those lines, the same team of researchers behind this study previously found that infatuation among teenagers was linked to sensation seeking – a tendency to pursue new, interesting, and intense experiences.
Overall, the latest study highlights how the consequences of ADHD symptoms can show up in every area of life, including in romantic relationships.
The researchers summarize their findings by pointing out that people with ADHD or with both ADHD and autism “described having a higher intensity of romantic love, and nevertheless have less stable relationships.”