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ADHD In Women

ADHD-Women

ADHD In Women

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disability that affects individuals across the lifespan. At least 50% of children retain ADHD symptoms into adulthood, and experience challenges in school, relationships, work and overall daily functioning. 

While the primary focus of ADHD research has historically been on boys, we now know that women are also impacted by this disorder. Women faced with this diagnosis may experience difficulties associated with executive functioning, self-regulation, time management, hyperfocus, sleep disturbances and depression or anxiety.

For women struggling with these symptoms who never received an appropriate assessment or treatment for ADHD in the past – there is hope! This blog post will provide a comprehensive overview of ADHD in women: what it looks like; how to recognize it; successful strategies for managing it; and resources available to empower you as you move towards better mental health.

Did you know?

48% of Canadian women with ADHD were misdiagnosed with another disorder. 

What The Research and Studies Have Shown About ADHD in Women

Girls and women with ADHD remain significantly under-diagnosed and under-treated in Canada compared to boys and men due to a lack of awareness, training and research.  

The majority of women with ADHD have a coexisting disorder such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder and their struggles are often attributed to their co-existing condition. Historically, girls were often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed due to the association of ADHD to young boys who exhibited the more obvious symptoms of hyperactivity, and disruptive and defiant behavior.  

For girls, who are more likely to have inattentive ADHD, symptoms such as daydreaming, shyness and distractibility are often overlooked or considered to be personality traits.

ADHD Symptoms In Women

ADHD symptoms in women typically look different than the stereotypical picture of a young boy running around and being disruptive.

Some common ADHD symptoms that are seen in women with ADHD include:

  • Disorganization. You spend money on different organizational tools but don’t use any of them. You may find yourself drowning in paper- you have loose papers and bills piling up in your office, car and at home; you frequently jump onto another task before finishing the current one; you can’t seem to keep your closet or dresser from becoming a chaotic mess. 
  • Time Management Problems. You often underestimate how long something will take. As a result, you find yourself late for meetings or social gatherings, and missing deadlines at work. 
  • Overspending. You buy a new book, bag or phone that peaked your interest at the store, without considering if you need it or if your budget allows for it.
  • Emotional Ups and Downs. You notice that you feel emotions such as anger and frustration intensely and you have difficulty getting calm.
  • “No-filter” Communication. You have a tendency to blurt out responses that immediately come to mind or interrupt people as they speak. 
  • Forgetfulness. You get introduced to a new colleague at work and forget their name within minutes;  you forget to start the washing machine after putting a load of clothes in the washer; or you forget to pack your child’s snacks in her lunch box.
  •  Indecision. When it comes to “mundane” activities such as selecting a restaurant to dine at, you might spend hours researching reviews, only to give up because you can’t pick one and stick with it.
  • Low self-esteem. You’ve spent a lifetime comparing yourself to others and wondering if you just “aren’t as smart” as them. This has taken a toll on your self-esteem-resulting in: feelings of isolation/difficulty forming and maintaining friendships; difficulty setting boundaries; and difficulty pursuing goals due to fear of failure or rejection.
  • Procrastination. Boring activities are painful for individuals with ADHD. Since you would rather focus your time and energy into researching a fun trip you are excited about, you end up putting off more important tasks such as writing a paper or preparing for your meeting. 

 

ADHD-Women-Therapy

Hormones and ADHD In women

Fluctuations in hormones during a female’s menstrual cycle can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Estrogen levels rise in the first 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle. After ovulation, estrogen levels drop and progesterone levels rise. Both hormones are at their lowest levels in the days right before your period. That may also cause a drop in dopamine. For some women, that can mean double trouble-worsening ADHD symptoms and PMS.

Treatments For ADHD In Women

ADHD is a manageable condition with the right treatment. Research shows that medications can be effective in treating the symptoms of ADHD but comes with side effects. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can also be an effective way to manage ADHD symptoms and learn skills for better organization and time management.  Meditation, mindfulness practices, yoga and aerobic exercise are other activities that can help improve your focus and concentration.

It is important to find the right combination of treatments that work best for you and your lifestyle. It is also important to seek support from family and friends who can provide emotional and practical assistance in managing ADHD symptoms. Finally, there are a number of online resources available to those with ADHD who may not have access to traditional medical and mental health care.

Now What?

Sarita Chadda, Occupational Therapist at Pillars of Wellness, has a special interest in working with Adults with ADHD. She can support you by providing you with psycho-education, CBT, behavioral and lifestyle modification strategies, and recommend accommodations based on your needs at school, work or home. Contact her today for a free 15-minute consult to see how she can help you!

Remember!

Being different can be amazing. Embrace your neurodivergent journey and lean into your strengths to live your most meaningful life!

 

Author, Sarita Chadda - Occupational Therapist at Pillars of Wellness.

Laurent Pinci
Laurent Pinci
Pillars of Wellness is a truly Integrated Healthcare Centre providing a high degree of collaboration and communication among health providers.