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Book Review: When An Adult You Love Has ADHD by Dr. Russell Barkley

Updated: Jan 24

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Did you know there are over 40,000 ADHD books on Amazon? While the Amazon recommendation engine does a good job, you might miss big gems because they don't always appear in the top 10 results. In today's post, I'll introduce you to one of those hidden gems, "When an Adult You Love Has ADHD" by Dr. Russell Barkley, and explain why it should be among the first three ADHD books you read to navigate this overwhelming landscape.

Who is Dr. Russell Barkley?

Dr. Russell Barkley is a renowned clinical psychologist and one of the foremost experts on ADHD. His extensive research and practical approach make him a trusted source for understanding and navigating the challenges associated with ADHD. His dedication to understanding and helping those with ADHD is deeply personal. Stemming not only from his professional expertise but also from a heartfelt connection – his own brother has ADHD, while Dr. Barkley does not. Now retired, he continues to contribute to the ADHD community through his YouTube channel and ongoing book publications.

What do I think of this book?

Having explored numerous books on ADHD, I found Dr. Barkley's book to be one of the best guides for non-ADHD partners due to its straightforward approach. Dr. Barkley's writing is refreshingly clear and to the point—truly enabling non-ADHD partners to grasp the true challenges with ADHD, providing practical guidance to overcome those challenges. He achieves this by dividing the book into two major parts - 1) What you need to know about ADHD and 2) How you can help as a loved one. Furthermore, the book reads like a life journey through ADHD, making it super easy to grasp what to expect at each stage. I highly recommend this book, especially for partners who have recently discovered their loved one's ADHD or suspect it. This book surpasses all other ADHD books out there.

3 Reasons Why I recommend this book

Reason No. 1: The Most Thorough Book on ADHD Stages

In Chapter 8, Dr. Barkley meticulously documents all the different stages an ADHD loved ones will go through throughout the ADHD journey. This clarity is unparalleled. For non-ADHD partners in the early stages of discovery, it provides a huge help in understanding what lies ahead. Even for those who have been in a relationship for some time like myself, the book offers profound insights into past and future stages, evoking more "aha" moments than any other books I've read.

For example, in the section "Frustration", he wrote,

When things we try to do to improve a situation fail, we experience incredible frustration (and anger)....You want to scream at them, "Just Grow up!"..."Act like an adult!" and tell them to stop this chronically poor decision-making - but it does little or no good.

This really hits home for me as this is a constant battle because what comes as second nature to non-ADHD partners in terms of executive functions are often foreign to ADHD partners.

Reason 2: Practical Advice for All Common Objection You Will Hear

Dr. Barkley's book stands out for its practical advice, specifically tailored to address the common objections you may encounter when navigating a relationship with an ADHD partner. It goes beyond theoretical insights, offering tangible strategies to tackle everyday challenges that often arise at every stage. Whether it's addressing misconceptions, handling communication barriers, or managing time and responsibilities, the book equips you with actionable guidance to navigate and overcome the obstacles that may surface in your journey with an ADHD loved one.

For example, I especially loved the section on the reactions you might see in your loved one immediately following a professional diagnosis of ADHD. Doctor Barkley listed out many of the common emotions someone with ADHD will go through, and he also gives ADHD loved ones advice on how to combat those emotions, accelerating the time it takes to taking appropriate actions. If I knew of this book when my ADHD partner was getting diagnosed back in 2010, I strongly believe it would have made a big difference in our marriage, paving a smoother journey.

Reason 3: Easiest to digest on Medication Information

I have been through many webinars, read through chapters on ADHD medication. Truth be told, this is a very technical and dry subject for me. However, Dr. Barkley's explanation is very easily digestible by anyone who has no medical background, making it understandable regarding the benefits and effects on the major category, brand, or type of medication. Without reading his chapter on medication, we wouldn't have thought there are other medications that could help him improve beyond what we have seen on his current medication. This prompted us to raise the topic with the nurse practitioner and collectively discuss if my ADHD partner should try another medication that could help him with improving his ADHD symptoms.


"When an Adult You Love Has ADHD" by Dr. Russell Barkley is a must-read for non-ADHD spouses embarking on the journey of understanding and supporting their partners. It provides a solid foundation of knowledge, practical advice, and a clear understanding of ADHD. If you are short on time and need to read 1 book on ADHD, THIS is the book I would recommend.

Like to purchase the book? Click here

Want to check out more of Dr. Barkley's content, here is his website and YouTube channel.

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