ADHD and its Impact on Siblings - My Brother

My Experience

I love my big brother very much. He is quite a few years older than I am and we grew up together until he moved away - when I was still relatively young. He kept an eye out for me and I tried to follow him everywhere - even when he told me not to. I followed him to his friend's house, I followed him to a swamp behind our home, and I followed him onto a 'frozen' pond. He even rescued me from at least two life threatening events - once when I walked onto the 'frozen' pond and I fell through leaving him to pull me out and once when I stepped into the street in front of an 18-wheeler and he grabbed me out of the way. The truck was so close that it hit my lunch bag right out of my hand, but I was untouched.

My biological father left before I turned 2 and my brother stepped in and took the role of a father figure in my eyes. He did not ask for that role and I don't even think he wanted it. But my little girl mind gave it to him. And like a child thinks of her father, my big brother could do very little wrong. When he did indeed do something wrong, I forgave him instantly. I suppose you can call it ‘hero worship' as my Mom sometimes did. All I knew was that my big brother could ride a ten-speed, stay outside longer without checking in, climb a tree all the way to the top, and win almost every board game we played. To a little kid, that is cool.

Unfortunately, not everyone saw my brother in the same light as I did. He had a knack for finding trouble and diving in with both feet. He was diagnosed early on with ADHD/ADD, but I didn't know either term or prognosis. All I knew was that he started taking some medicine that turned him into a zombie. I remember him begging Mom not to make him take it anymore and I remember it smelled like poo once you opened the medicine bottle. He and I shared a good laugh about that one many times. I didn't blame him one bit for not wanting to take the stinky medicine! Evidently, neither did Mom. She gave in and told him he could stop taking the medicine if he felt that strongly about it.

It was difficult growing up with a sibling with ADHD/ADD. There was a lot of bad behavior and lecturing that is difficult for a young child to comprehend. I knew that something was making my small family miserable and I couldn't do anything about it. I remember promising myself that I would try to help my brother stay out of trouble while also promising myself I would be the perfect daughter in order to keep Mom happy. It broke my little girl heart to see the two most important people in my life so unhappy, and it began to take its toll on me physically.

Celebrities with ADHD

Terry Bradshaw

Ty Pennington

Glenn Beck

Woody Harrelson

"Magic" Johnson

Michael Jordan

Zsa Zsa Gabor

Tom Cruise

Patty Duke

Bill Gates

Pete Rose

Nolan Ryan

I began developing ulcers in first grade from the stress I placed upon myself. Looking back, I would go to the office every day while at school and rest on a cot in a dark room. I would rock side to side, holding my stomach, and wishing I hadn't been born to escape the pain. For some reason, I took it upon myself to try to fix what was wrong. However, I still didn't understand the turmoil at home and try as I might, it didn't get better. I figured out that my brother was very angry about something. But I had no idea what. I would much later learn the anger was directed internally since he was unable to aim it at the father and grandparents that had abandoned him so many years ago.

I wish someone would have taken the time to explain to me what was going on and why my brother always got in trouble. Although I was young, I was a bright and mature girl. I would have understood and it probably would have made a world of difference for me.

I will admit that I have a deep sense of empathy and I am very sensitive to my surroundings, so ADHD/ADD may not affect all siblings like it affected me. But if you have one child with the diagnosis and another child without it, please be aware of the possibility that the child without the diagnosis may be scared, confused, and hurting inside. Fortunately, there are many more treatment options for ADHD/ADD than there were when I was a young child. Therapy and medications have improved over the years and have fewer side effects while providing better results.

I am proud to say that my brother has done very well for himself and his two young boys. He has a great career in the military and I bet he never runs out of steam while chasing his sons. However, I still have a lot of emotions that I need to sort through that developed during those years. I know my brother feels a lot of guilt about his childhood and I wish he wouldn't. After all, he took a lot of the focus off of me so that when I actually did do something bad, it wasn't noticed. What a nice big brother...

The Study

My experience growing up with a sibling with ADHD/ADD differs dramatically from experiences shared in a study conducted in1999. Apparently the study found that siblings of children with ADHA resented the diagnosed sibling for causing disruptions in the home. The ADHD disruptions lead to 3 primary effects on the siblings. The first effect was a feeling of being victimized by the aggression displayed by the sibling with ADHD. The siblings felt unprotected by parents because the parents were too exhausted and weary to notice the aggressive behaviors. The second effect was feeling pressure to take on the role of caretaker to the sibling with ADHD. Siblings, younger and older, felt like they were expected to protect, supervise, give medication to, and help their ADHD brothers and sisters with their homework to lessen the parental load. The third effect was feeling a sense of sorrow and loss. The siblings longed for a ‘normal' life and regretted that they would never have that. The siblings felt saddened by the burden placed on the parents and attempted to be "invisible" so as not to overburden anyone. The siblings felt a sense of loss for quiet and peace in the home.

I never felt any resentment towards my brother, not when I was younger and not now. The best thing I can recommend to any parent who has a child with ADHD/ADD and a child without it is to talk to your child, make your child feel more secure while at home, and help your child understand what is taking place. Even if you are exhausted, drink another cup of coffee and have that talk. It will be beneficial to everyone involved.

You can find more information about the effects of ADHD on siblings by reading Judy Kendall's work in Family Process, 38, published in the spring of 1999. The following link will take you to a site where you can download the article if you like But remember that all situations are different and you are the closest source to the effected sibling.

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Comments 35 comments

goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 8 years ago from Free and running....

Wow, that was a very powerful hub. My stepdaughter has ADHD, she's 6, and we began giving her medication this year for first grade because we had tried everything else. Its like night and day. She has become a model student and is performing very well, where in the past she was considered maybe special ed. I worried about her off the wall influence on my son, but it has turned to typical sibling behavior and her newfound interest in reading and words have rubbed off on my son. She didn't turn into a zombie with the meds as we feared, I think they slowed her down just enough to let her brain flow like it should.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 8 years ago from Neverland Author

Hi goldentoad - I am glad your stepdaughter has responded well and is doing much better. I've read and heard that there are many more options available today for ADHD that work wonders. And I'm glad she's having a positive influence over your son. Who knows, he just may idolize her one day : )

Lisa 7 years ago

I'm glad I found this. Its exactly the way I feel. I'm 16 years old and I have a little brother wqho is 11 years old. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 7, but he's really had it since he was like 3 years old. That's when he stared to act really bad. He would curse and scream and time outs just didn't work on him. My mom didn't know what was wrong with him, she just though he was being a 'bad child'. So when he was in time out, she would have to sit on him (not hard) to get him to stay there.

When he gets angry, he kicks holes in the wall. The last one was about a month ago. He's been doing that sinse he was 6.

One time, he came after my mom with a pair of scissors and scratched her forehead.

I remember my mom yelling 'I HATE YOU!' all the time to him, then she would go in her room and cry.

I was only 11 or 12 at the time and I had to do the best I could to act older than I was and comfort her.

My dad was never home because he worked every day until really late at night.

He gets angry really easily so my brother and him would just yell at each other and then my mom would tell them both to shut up and they would all be yelling then.

I remember being shut in my room so I wouldn't have to listen to it.

I am often neglected because so much attention goes to him.

I think its really affected my childhood because I find myself taking care of my brother to help take the stress off my parents really sucks.

He's in special ed clases because he has trouble learning and my mom still has to stay up all night to help him with his homework even though hes in 6th gradew.

We have tried every ADHD medication out there and none of them work.

I hate being at home because every day is hard. Every day they fight, and he even made my mom depressed.

So sometimes she threatens to leave and never comes back, or she wishes she never had him.

I just wish he was normal, because none of us are happy...

Ardie profile image

Ardie 7 years ago from Neverland Author

Lisa, your story breaks my heart...for everyone involved. Hopefully your school system has a good program in place that can help teach your brother how to focus better and put his energy to positive uses. Even though the reactions of everyone at home arent exactly the best, they are understandable. A disruptive child can be very difficult to take day after day after day. Sadly, your brother cannot help the way he behaves. If you ever need anyone to talk with, please feel free to email me with the contact button under my profile photo.

Secret 6 years ago

This has really helped me get a good understandment on ADHD. I am doing a research paper on it. Really helpful!

Candy 6 years ago

I have a brother with ADHD i am the oldest my brother is only 10 years old and i never get attention cause he is the special child i feel all alone. I take care of my brother all the time my mom and dad work and i have to take care of him. i sometimes act like the oldest but inside i want attention cause he gets it all. am in the 7th grade he is in the 5th. my mom sometimes research autisum on you tube and i feel sad when she is on it she cries even when i feel when i was 6 she didn't care she was inside taking care of my brother

i always felt alone i wrote a lot in my diary i had a bad childhood.

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Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Dear Ardie,

I read this hub and tears filled my eyes. My youngest daughter watched us as we struggled with her older brother who had ADHD. She was quiet and obedient.She had and still does have a lot of resentment towards him. The sad thing is he loves her dearly and has finally turned his life around. I hope as she matures that she will recognize no one meant to cause her hurt. I wish there was "family therapy" for new ADHD cases We were so in the dark and went through so much as a family. Thank you again for writing this. Maybe younger families can get the help they need by reading this hub and know it effects more than the person with ADHD.

God Bless,


Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland Author

Thanks Sunnie Day. How old is your daughter? I bet she will mature beyond the resentment. ADHD and ADD are better understood now than before - and that will help her understand why things took place. When your daughter realizes that you all did the best you could she will move past any bad feelings. I don't see my brother nearly as often as I'd like (he's in WA in the Navy and Im in Ohio) but I still love him to death! I don't resent hom for ANYthing that happened when we were kids. Your children will get to that point too. Best of luck to you and your family.

Haunty profile image

Haunty 5 years ago from Hungary

It shows a lot of character that he tried his best to look after you despite his ADHD/ADD. Your brother is a good person and I think that he drew a lot of strength from your love and hero worship when he needed it.

Lisa 4 years ago

I am girl and i have really bad ADHD. I am a combination type, but i mostly have hyperactivity and impulsivity problems.My mom is single (my dad left when i was a baby) and she cant afford therapy anymore... Im not on my meds currently because they had really bad side effects, so im driving my mom insane! She dosent understand ADHD, and so she calls me lazy and a brat all the time when i get really mad. I don't mean to get angry, and believe me i could start punching holes in walls! I say some pretty nasty things and threaten to do bad stuff, that i would never do...i just get so angry that i scream the first mean thing i think of. But i try really hard to control myself so she dosent get mad. But usually i cant... My mom dosent even notice that im trying as hard as i am! She expects me to be able to accomplish tasks by myself, and chill out. which is one of the hardest things for me to do! Sometimes i feel like the parent because i am an expert on my condition ( thank you internet!) and it seems she makes no effort to try and help me, she always has to be right about EVERYTHING!!!I really wish that i could go get some new medicine because ever since ive been off of it everything has gotten so much harder. Example, in social situations i blurt out rude things without even thinking, and innterript them mid sentence because i get really excited when i remember something i have to tell them. making who ever im talking to think im a jerk. Another example, it is SO hard to remain seated all day, we have no recess, and all we do at lunch is sit. I HATE IT! I tap my feet, fidget, get up to "blow" my nose a zillion times, ask for a bathroom pass every 10 minutes and talk nonstop. I cant focus on anything and i go completely into my own world in math class. ( math can go fuck itself for all i care.... Pardon my french) IM NOT LEARNING ANYTHING! My teachers call home everyday to tell my mom i wont shut up! One of my teachers even makes me sit at the back table by myself all class because ive become a disruption, also she calls me her "special friend". Its very embarrassing, especially if your crush is in that class. The teachers tell me to raise my han, but i get really excited when i know the correct answer and i want to say it before anyone else gets a chance to. Two seconds after my teacher asks me to raise my hand i jump up out of my seat and yell out the answer! :( im not trying to b one of thise people who says " its not my fault i have ADHD" i try i really do, but it just seems to never work! But i realize that there are many positives to having ADHD but sometimes it just seems like the bad completely out weighs the good.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hi Lisa :) Im glad you have taken it on yourself to learn more about the ADHD and you realize it is not your fault - you cannot control this on your own! Medications or behavior therapy may help but you also need a strong support system. I don't know you and yet I am SO proud of you for having such a grown up and mature take on your situation. Keep reading to help yourself and explain to other people what you have just said here. Tell friends that you don't mean to be rude when you interrupt but that the impulse is just too strong sometimes. Explain to teachers that you want to be a good student and raise your hand but its a struggle. I have learned over the years that people are more understanding if they know exactly what causes your actions. ((hugs)) for being your own best friend and feel free to come visit here anytime!! :)

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iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

Ardie, it is amazing how we have so much in common! You have written a wonderful article about your brother, his ADHD, and the effects on the people who love him! I too have his condition. I am so glad you show empathy and compassion for him and in your writing. Thank you!

RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Wow Ardie - not onl was I hooked on the article but the comments as well. It's so nice to see these kids writing how they feel! It's so nice this was a good outlet for them to express themselves. Wonderful job.

I never thought about this - well the effect it might have on the siblings. I can so relate to Miss Lisa up there - I do have an issue (I bet ya can't believe this Ardie:) with speaking out of turn and can't sit still. It caused issues for me in school...and I hope Lisa learns that most people who care about us will learn to understand this about us and since nobody is perfect is a real minor thing. The energy can be channeled it just takes time to learn where to put it. Being in band helped me a lot. When I got hyped up I'd play...or write:). My mom was in the principal"s office so frequently the staff was speculating about an affair:) haha!

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Audra, I am beginning to realize that some of the BEST people I've ever known are ADHD. Seriously, I think the stigma behind the letters is silly. I think maybe my middle daughter has a touch of it and she is so loving and funny and great to be around. I DO have to remind her of certain things sometimes but my goodness - she is FUN! I love meeting adults I get along well with who also have the 'issue' because it reminds me how perfectly these diagnosed children grow up :)

Hi RHW, I NEVER would have guessed you have problems with sitting still and speaking out of turn. That does it - now you are officially one of my favorite people. Im just kidding, you always were :) I have been surprised with the amount of attention this Hub has gotten behind the scenes as well as in the comments. Lots of children email me through the Contact Ardie button and their stories sound a lot like Lisa up above. I just want to hug them all and tell them that it WILL be better.

WiredWizz 4 years ago

I am led to beleive that me (14) and my little brother (6) have ADHD. We drive eachother mad, and I am constantly in trouble at school, or at home. Whereas my brother is a good student, but is hyperactive and 'off the wall'. As i sit hear typing, i have just been in another fight with my brother and heated argument with my mum; my dad trying to calm us all down; and then me banging my head repetedly on the french door windows. We were about to go out and he grabbed my hair, so i moved back sp it wouldn't hurt as much, witch resulted in his elbow against the wall and my thumb wedged inbetween the door :'( i always get in trouble, and half the time its not my fault, but because of my violence towards teachers and my mum in the past they instantly think its me! I am very depressed, failing in school, and feel isolated at home. My parents also fail to disiplin my brother. They don't seem to be able to 'grasp the consept' that this has happened many times before, and the only way to stop it would be disiplin. What i don't get is, i had the naugty step and time outs and whatnot when i was little, yet he gets 'you cant go on the computer for 10minutes! Wth?! This is probably the problem :'-(

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hello WiredWizz, your story breaks my heart. You cannot walk around depressed and miserable. You need to do me a favor and talk to your school counselor, please. You can also come back here when you want so you can vent. You arent alone - read through the other comments here and see how so many of us had similar problems and now we are all grown up and happy and successful. Hang in there and find an adult close to you that you can trust to talk to.

WiredWizz 4 years ago

Thank you Ardie,

You made my day, letting me know i'm not alone! I will talk to the school nurse tomorrow, as she only comes in once a week. I have told my friends about how hard school is and they are very understanding! One of my friends makes sure ive done all my homework and is prepared for my lessons every morning and lunchtime!! I have just had another crap day ar school, but i am currently reading the 'Joey Pigza series ( joey pigza swallowed the key, joey pigza looses control, what would joey do, and i am

Not joey pigza) wich is about a boy with ADHD and i can really relate to him, and luckily they are helping me look on the bright side!! I am just stressing over my GSCE's but i am sure my teachers will help! (and luckily i already get extra help with GSCE stuff) thanks:)

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

WiredWizz :)!!! You sound like you have a plan all set out for yourself. You have great friends who help, you are going to see the school nurse, and you are looking for/and getting extra help with the GSCE (Im guessing that's an exam of some sort). When I was a kid I always used books as a form of escape and to help me understand the world around me - I think I turned out ok :) Keep up the great attitude!!! Im proud of you.

WiredWizz 4 years ago

Hi! GCSE stands for:

General Certificate of Secondary Education, the basic level of a subject taken in school.

For year 10 (age 14-15) pupils. But in year 9 (age 13-14) we start towards the end of the year! Thank you :) (:

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hi WiredWizz - thanks for clearing that up. It turns out this old gal has been out of school for waaaaay too long. Best of luck to you!!

WiredWizz 4 years ago

Infortunately the other day i broke my brothers bed! And as my End of year tests (to decide what GCSE group we go in next year) my mum is helping me revise maths, but it always ends in arguments :-(

Do you have any revision tips? This would also be useful for science because i got my grade back today, and i got a U- (lower than an F) So i have to retake next thursday...

Thanks :-)

WiredWizz 4 years ago

And now i've lost my phone, and have no clue or memory of where it may be :-(

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hiya WiredWizz, its been a few days since you broke your brothers bed - have things gotten better? I mean other than losing your phone (which hopefully has turned up).

I know when I help my daughter study we have to do it in very short spurts. Otherwise I lose her attention and she doesn't retain anything. Maybe you can revise a couple problems and then take a break and then revise another couple...? I will also check and see if I can find a site with better tips for you :)

WiredWizz 4 years ago

Hey, luckily my parents arent too bothered about the bed - accidents happen right? But i still have no clue about my phone, and ive lost my calculator aswell, and i need it for my calculator maths test tomorrow!! Ive found that if i make up a song, or learn a song about the things i have to remember, its easier! Thank you for suggest revising in small bursts, and next time i will plan when to study, instead of havinga mad rush the night before! Ive also got my science retake tomorrow, so i'll let tou know how it goes!

WiredWizz 4 years ago

Yaay! I got a D


Elijah* 4 years ago

Im 12yrs old and I have ADHD just like my parents and brothers (16, 29) Living with ADHD brother i believe was better for me. I knew how they felt and I saw whatthey did so i realised i was doing that. My two other brothers (i was a triplet. They are deceased) also had ADHD. I think because everyone in my family has ADHD We know what each other think and we are a very happy family :)

*name changed for privacy purposes

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hi WW! :) Sorry it took so long to get back to you - my own kids have had so many end of the school year activities and I have been running like a mad-mom! YAY for a D! Was mom proud of you?! Im sure she was. When does your school year end? I bet you are ready for a break. Do you do any work over the summer to help you remember everything you've learned over the school year? I know its the mean mom thing to do but I make my kids do 15 minutes of review work a day.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hello Elijah, I think its great that you changed your name for privacy reasons. I don't even use my real name here!! :) But don't tell anyone, ok? Im just kidding. GREAT for you that you have a family who knows and understands the ADHD. You must have a wonderful support system.

WiredWizz 4 years ago

Hey Ardie!!

That's okay, i have been busy with loads of stuff too!! My mum dosent actually know about the test :-/ we are finishing up on friday for a week long holiday, then we're back again for 6 weeks... So we should finish on... The 20th of july! (one week before the oylimpics begin) but we usually finish early on he friday or we have a day off on the friday! But im not to sure yet!! We don't usually have work over the holidays because we change teachers (like ive had 8 maths teachers in 3 years, 5 of wich were this year)!! And as next year we have a 'reduced timetable' wich means we don't have drama, technology, german, citizenship and economical wellbeing, games, music, I.T or R.E!! Yaay!! Because we are focussing on the subjects that are important for our future! I still haven't done a piece of homework that was due in last year!! It was for R.E, and was to do over summer! This dos'ent sound too bad right? As i didn't have the same teacher? But unfortunately, she's also my aunt... :-/

WiredWizz 4 years ago

Yaay! We have a one week holiday now, and i'm very happy because we fot our maths grade back and i got a 6C which i think is equivelent to a B! And as its the holidays, and my dads off work, we can get On with our hobby, which is called geocaching! Its a high tech treausure hunting game! (we live in england) but they are all over the world!

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Hello WW! It turns out you were on a one week holiday 12 days ago. So did the break help you get recharged? I hope school is going well, less fights with your brother and no lost cell phones =)

I heard of geocaching but I've never actually tried it. It does sound like a lot of fun and a great way to learn your area. Did you guys find anything exciting?

Wiredwizz 4 years ago

Yes thank you! I feel very recharged and ready to go!! We have an 'enterprise week' all of next week where we make stuff (we're stuck with headbands) and we sell it on thursday and friday!! So no lessons all week!!

Schools going okay but i have got really bad marks in stuff like French and Citizenship (u's)!! We haven't got all of our marks back yet though, so i'll let you know what else iv'e got. But i keep forgeting all my homework so i've got lots of letters from my teachers to my parents in my bag :-/

And i have got into a few (okay a lot) of fights with some people in my class, so now im banned from the school LRC (library) and have got this girl on report, and i'm on report too. We have to report to the head of year every morning. Geocaching is very fun, i got stuck up a tree and my dad fell in a river, soon we have to go wading up a river in the night to find one with our buddie mark!

WiredWizz 4 years ago

Urghh... Homework... Coursework... Exams... Assesments... And only the third week back! :-/ How is everyone now the summer holidays is well and truly over? :D

Kasman profile image

Kasman 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

Hey Ardie, this story spoke to me I am the older brother who had ADHD. I remember the parents giving me Ritalin and you talk about making me mean. They finally switched me to aderall and trazadone. I grew out of a lot of the ADHD problems about 14 years ago and have been off the medication ever since. I still have a bit of an issue focusing at times but overall I'm 100 times better than I was. Great article, voting up!

WiredWizz 3 years ago

Hiya Ardie! It's been so long since I mesaged, just checking you're okay!? We've got a lot of exams next week, which besically decides half of our future :3 uh oh! Hope you're okay(:

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