Women and Adult ADHD

Monday, July 1 2013 Elizabeth Prager

Being a woman has many advantages. We can have long hair; we can have short hair. We can wear heels; we can wear tennis shoes. We can have cats; we can have dogs. We can have Adult ADHD; we can not have Adult ADHD. I'd really like to talk about the benefits of having cats versus dogs (I'm a cat person big time), but let's talk about the last one. It makes sense, right? This is a blog about Adult ADHD after all ... let's talk about being a woman with Adult ADHD. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about being a woman with Adult ADHD is how long it took me to be diagnosed. I've read a lot on this subject and one thing that's always stuck out to me is that young girl with ADHD don't often look like little boys with ADHD. We don't necessarily run around in school or blurt out answers without raising our hands. The typical little girl with ADHD is shy, quiet and able to hide her inattention with good behavior. This is one big reason why we don't get diagnosed until college or beyond. Professionals are not trained to look for issue in children with rather good behavior - the sticky wheel gets the oil.

The second thing I think of - and this is the one that I think of most often - is that we will invariably have one week a month (and this can stretch to two weeks depending on your normal cycle) where our ADHD symptoms wreak more havoc than the other weeks of the month. Yes, I'm talking about PMS.

I like to think I have a good mind - I'm quick with a joke and fast to learn new information. Most of the time. There is one week or so a month where my brain lags behind and I've got to wait for it to catch up. I find studying harder and reading harder. I find focusing on conversations more difficult. In truth, I find all the tasks that are affected by my ADHD more difficult. So, what do we do to combat it?

We certainly can't just wait for menopause, because I'm sure that will bring its own challenges along with it. I rely on my wife during my PMS to be a constant support, who reminds me that my brain will return to fully functional just like it always does. And, I rely on my doctor to help me to tweak my medication for that time during my cycle. It's true that you just might have to take a higher dose of stimulants during "that time of the month."

Being a woman with ADHD presents some challenges for sure, but don't forget that a woman's ability to have a cat or dog can also help! Please share some of your strategies for your most difficult times!

Author: Elizabeth Prager

View all posts by Elizabeth Prager.

Women and Adult ADHD

Terri
says:
March, 3 2014 at 4:50 pm

How did I not know this was a thing?!? UGH! This clears so much up for me, why my ADHD seems to cycle… 'cause it fricken DOES! THANK YOU!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Elizabeth Prager
says:
March, 6 2014 at 11:15 am

Always glad to be of help, Terri :)

Deb
says:
April, 2 2014 at 3:56 pm

As a little girl I was not quiet, very blurty and couldn't sit still.
I was mostly happy but the expectations of traditional southern
parents(sit still,do what I say when I say, be quiet, dont be so loud)was an issue for me and not being diagnosed ADHD, I was labeled at school as well as humiliated in front of classmates. I assume the teachers thought I was a child with no discipline. This was in the mid seventies and I still struggle with the thought of children being labeled and treated without kindness and love.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Elizabeth Prager
says:
April, 5 2014 at 6:54 am

Hi Deb, I'm sorry to hear that school was like that for you. I can definitely relate - by the end of high school I was in AP English, but only after I spend 2 years of grade school in what we called "Sped" (special education). It was really hard to be "othered" by not being in the traditional classroom. I hope things have gotten better for you since school and that you feel okay with adult ADHD, if that's your current diagnosis.

Melinda
says:
April, 14 2014 at 9:51 am

This brings a lot of light to my situation...thank you! I am 46 and was diagnosed only one year ago when things began crashing down in my life. I was the quiet little girl with the good behavior and grades until high school. When all "hell" broke loose, my family attributed it to my parents divorce. I married the man I thought was my best friend, but it turned out that alcohol was his best friend. I became the well-behaved girl again. We had 3 children and after 17 years I decided I could no longer be the well-behaved girl and do what everyone expected me to do under the control and influence of an alcoholic. I left with my 3 children and moved back to my home area on my own. For 10 years I have raised them on my own, but life has become more and more difficult. I procrastinate and do not do well with time management which has caused my credit to be ruined and recently I lost my job. Like you, I like to think I have a good mind also, my job was complicated and I did well, but my time management and poor organization caused a lot of absenteeism. I am currently on a low dose of stimulant prescribed by my family physician, but now realize that yes, there are times during the month when my mind is more clouded and I am more easily distracted and frustrated. I guess I need to make some changes although I am not sure what those should be yet. Thank you for helping me come to this realization!

Janis Harris
says:
June, 26 2014 at 5:58 am

I was diagnosed one year ago at age 60. My childhood was as described. I am only now beginning to realize that I his all through school and college. The quiet one. The well behaved one. The one who struggled to complete assignments. Disorganized. Difficulty focusing and concentrating. In retrospect, some processing issues. I am having difficulty finding a doctor who deals with adult ADD. I don't match all the criteria. Tired of struggling to read, organize myself, and don't quite know how to explain myself to doctors such they will believe me.

Tammy Pettis
says:
June, 26 2014 at 5:19 am

I can remember as a child growing up in the 60's always being told "what do you have Mexican jumping beans in your pants? " I was Very active and talkative. If was only 6 yrs ago that I was diagnosed and treated for ADHD. I have a son that was diagnosed when was 8 years old.

Laetitia
says:
June, 26 2014 at 5:18 am

I received the diagnosis of ADHD less than three years earlier. I'll be forty next month.
These last three years have been the hardest of my life. I fought against severe depression, my life had reached a point of no return.

However, I can also say that were also the most beautiful years of my life because finally I discovered who I was.
Why I was so different when I was young. Why I was so impulsive and head in the air. Why do I always was moving but in a more subtle way. Why I had to read ten times a page before understanding what I was reading. Why I was always so impatient. Why do I always had a thousand projects in mind but none was completed. Why do I always seemed to the moon and I could not hear what people were saying. Why do I always fell and I was so clumsy. Why I was doing crazy things without thinking. And many other things.

I hated to be so different and dizzy. The lack of self-esteem is the most difficult thing in my opinion and is also the hardest thing to find. I'm glad i had a good psychotherapist.

Do not despair because there is hope. As I am stubborn and determined, I know that my next few fourties years will be wonderful .

We must accept our differences, accept who we are and be proud. Yes I am slower than others but I'm creative, I have the ability to do a thousand things at once. Now I say loud and clear that I'm ADHD. It helps me to accept my limitations.

My life is much better than before. Now I do not force me to be someone else, I am myself and if people do not like it, well they go their way.

I quit my job a year before because nothing working. I know now that I can not work in an office because it is against what I am and even if I take the best drugs in the world, it will not be enough.

My biggest challenge will be in September because I go to school to learn a new job where I could move and build on my strengths.
It will not be easy to study but I know I'll get there with great effort.

And I probably have the worst pms world. I turn into a witch, I cry, I say incredible things, etc..
I discovered two things that help me a lot to reduce the effect:
1. For one week, one week before my period, I double my prescription of Prozac. Of course I talked to my doctor before.
2. I do a lot of sport. I go to the gym three to four times a week. I also drive a foot race. There is no better remedy than sport.

Who would have thought when I was young I was ADHD? I was a good child, shy, solitary, still in my books, etc..
For me, the problems have reached adolescence.

I love your blog. It's good to know that we are not alone.

Sorry for the long text and my spelling mistakes. My first language is French.

Myrna
says:
July, 20 2014 at 9:30 am

My job is in jeopardy because of the stupit unnecessary errors made.
I need help.

Myrna
says:
July, 20 2014 at 9:35 am

Janis: I feel your pain. I'm also in my 60s I have the same problems you have. I have many questions. How do I get at tested to get a doctor to diagnose? I believe that I may lose my job if I don't get diagnosed.

Elizabeth Mach
says:
July, 22 2014 at 6:47 am

I have had ADHD since I was 4years old and still have it my doctor said I would have it the rest of my life I was born on 1-15-55 so know you know my age.

Elizabeth
says:
August, 8 2014 at 6:17 am

Wow what you what sounds just like me! I'm 23 and haven't been diagnosed but Am looking for answers. My husband and I have one reoccurring argument and it revolves around a how I procrastinate how scattered and easily distracted I am and how often I forget what we've just talked about so after four years of the same argument and nothing I've tried helping I stumble across adult ADHD which originally I discounted thinking "but I never got into trouble at school maybe it's just me and I'm just a ditz" so glad to find this makes me feel a lot better. How did you get diagnosed? How should I go about looking into this?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Elizabeth Prager
says:
August, 9 2014 at 2:54 am

Hiya Elizabeth, I got diagnosed quite by chance in college. I was talking to my therapist at the time about how reading is super frustrating for me - I forget what I read in one sentence as soon as I've read the next. Something clicked in her brain and it changed my life. I suggest making an appointment with a psychologist or clinical social worker. Adult ADHD is a clinical diagnosis, so you do not need to go through all the testing (so expensive!) unless you need to take something like the GRE and would like to request extra time. I never got in trouble at school either and I got good grades - in the 1980's and 1990's, it was sort of thought you had to be bouncing off the walls and sort of dumb to have ADHD. That's just not true. Good luck!

Alisa
says:
January, 4 2015 at 12:47 pm

Sugar is the enemy. It makes everything worse, especially PMS and my ADD. I haven't found the magic combination yet but I know when I cut refined carbs, stay as far away from sugar as possible, get 8 hours of sleep each night, and move my body on a consistent basis, my ADD is so much more manageable. In fact, when I can stay consistent with those things, my ADD works to my advantage. It's like a super power :) ........But I really like sugar.....so that's the battle.

Trina
says:
January, 14 2015 at 9:48 am

A parent at the school where I was working had just discovered she had ADHD when her son was diagnosed. We were talking and I realized we had many of the same issues. She recommend the book by Sari Solden about Women and ADHD. I remember sitting up in bed crying at 1:00 a.m. when I realized the reason that I struggled so hard to manage things like organization, bills, weight and time that others made look so easy was because I had ADHD. I was 47 with grown children and grandchildren. I contacted the neurologist, had the testing, started the medication. In about six months when the medication was fully in my system, I realized the dosage was way too much as I had no emotions. My Dr. and I worked to find the right dosage and medication. That was eight years ago. I have since tweaked it as life changes arose, i.e. PMS impacted it, menopausal changes impacted it, etc. I also researched brain issues and learned that being the adult child of an alcoholic impacted my behavior and medication issues. Dr. Amen has some great books on treating the brain for more than one issue and how to balance them. I did not take his supplements but did take the book to my neurologist and he said it was worth a try. I have also joined on line groups to help with behaviors and took a great ADHD Bootcamp for nine weeks that was a telephone conference or web conference with a small group of men and women, all ages and backgrounds from across the US. I think we were all enlightened to find so many common issues and challenges. Keep trying to find what works for you, don't get discouraged or depressed because things work for awhile and then don't. Could just mean you are growing and changing for the better! And I want to thank you Rachel for writing about this issue.

Beth
says:
January, 18 2015 at 3:09 pm

Hi I'm 31 and was diagnosed about a year ago with ADHD. I was always the awkward kid in class even through college. I was once fired from a job because of a mistake I made while not being able to focus. IHowee been married for 13 years. My husband and I dated for two years before we married and at that time I was only 19. We have struggled for the full length of our marriage. Yes we have the happy times that comes when I am not so out if it and in a manic period. Often at times ADHD is confused with Bipolar disorder. They share many of the same signs and symptoms. So please excuse me if using the term 'manic' but that is how it feels for me. I have the highs and lows. When it's high, it is HIGH! When it's low, boy is it ever low. I'm often not able to make reasonable decisions. I have credit card debt that my husband doesn't know about. I'm often not satisfied in life. Be it in my job (past jobs), my marriage and I often find things in myself that I dislike. I have tried many different medications since being diagnosed and so far my current prescriptions have beven the most successful. I have wondered why sometimes they work better than at other times. It never occurred to me that the reason for the inconsistency could be hormonal. Thanks for the insight. However, my marriage is on the edge of a cliff and I don't know what to do. I feel myself being pulled into a manic frenzy trying to fix the things I do wrong but at the same time I am emotionally slipping into a destructive depression. All the while my husband is taking an emotional beating once again. We are now on the brink of divorce and there seems to be nothing I can do. Any suggestions, ideas, advice?

Nina
says:
April, 5 2015 at 6:23 am

Hi Thanks for this great blog and for the insights into ADHD and the menstrual cycle. I am from a different perspective== I am post menopausal, and having gotten through most of the awful, bizarre physical symptoms of this the past two years and come to accept the new normal for my body (still freaks me out at times but...) I have some new struggles that the ADD has been affected with I wanted to share. I never had the terrible PMS to begin with that many of you experienced so i'm sure when you get there, that wil be a relief to you all, but that connecdtion with hormones does come out in another way-- Though there isn't a whole lot of empirical evidence to back this up, I have found and have several other women I know, that the diminishing of estrogen has made me sometimes more spacey and mentally distractive than before menopause because it (estrogen) had played a role in regulating the whole concentration thing. I've talke with my psychiatrist about it and she (thank God it's a woman) has understood this, looked up the subject and agreed to adjust my meds- after talking with other doc's about it, I must say, she did her 'due diligence'- which I am grateful for. I am also doing some yoga breathing exercises to improve concentration/ calmness, and I started last year taking hormone replacement therapy , which is NOT FOR EVERYONE but it seems to be helpful for me.

I don't want to get anyone anxious or depressed or thinking that GHEEZ, I thought it was going to be easier AFTERWARDS, because this isn't the experience ALL WOMEN have had, it's just mine and one that took me by suprise, caused me to struggle and feel lost for a while until I figured out what was going on. Frankly, I still struggle with it for other reasons that have to do more with where I am personally in my life's journey-- mid-fifties never had kids, under-employed and often financially struggling - but there's THERAPY and the support of friendship and my creative outlets that keep things in balance. Also I've read alot and for those of you like me who get support from reading ADD self help/ inspirational stuff I want to recommend 2 excellent books: "DELIVERED FROM DISTRACTION" by Ned Hallowell and and "More Attention, Less Deficit" by Ari Tuckman. Both excellent sources of sympathetic and helpful info! even if they're not women! There's also Sari Solden's book "Women with AttentionDeficiti Disorder" and she has a great website--addjourneys.com Check it all out.

Noreen
says:
June, 12 2015 at 2:11 pm

I am 59 years old and was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago. Since then some things have definitely improved but most are the same. I have not lost a credit or debit card, and have become a lot more organized. Vyvanse helps immensely and I now have a sense of direction! I am 59 years old and have been retired for two years. I was lucky to be an aircraft mechanic in the military and then I worked shipboard as a radio mechanic for the Navy. It was when I hit an office job that me real problems started. Not only was it extremely difficult to sit at a desk but I had a hard time learning the many different IT systems and keeping up with too many different jobs.
I am now painting furniture and have started selling some of the pieces I finished. My new problem is FINISHING anything! I have about 17 pieces of furniture, all small, in various states of completion. If I could only stay focused enough to complete one piece....!

Mj
says:
September, 30 2015 at 11:44 pm

My family md recognized my "difficulty concentrating" when I was in college. I am a horrible driver because it's very hard for me to keep my eyes on the road. In college, I was hitting things all the time.... Mailboxes, garbage cans, and, yes, other cars. I never hit anything at a high speed....but still.... I probably was just lucky. My parents took the radio out of my car, but there was always something else that distracted me. I tape recorded all my college lectures so I could listen to them repeatedly until I absorbed all of it.
I'm always late.... And it drives me crazy. Doesn't matter how early I start to get ready.... I'll walk into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, and see something that needs to be cleaned or picked up and next thing I know it's 20 min later and I'm back upstairs without the coffee.
I burn food because I'll get distracted while I'm cooking... Taking out the trash results in weeding a garden I pass on the way... And when I return , the smoke alarm is going off.
I have often wondered how much time I've spent in my life just looking for things.... My keys, my hair clips, my debit card, etc. I carry 2 purses in my car so I can dump one out into the other one to find things.
I know my lack of organization is debilitating.... And I TRY to rectify it... Planners and labeled bins and lists...problem is that every time I make a list.... I forget to bring it!!!!
My husband gets so irritated..... A common comment is "did you take your medicine today??? You have something going on in every room in the house!!!!" And he's right.
I haven't always stayed on medication. When my kids were little, having ADD was actually an advantage. I HAD to do fifty things at once.... And for whatever reason, I never had a problem walking away from a baby, or forgetting a child, or leaving one unsupervised when I was busy with another one. I was lucky. For about 7 yrs my body functioned on auto-pilot. It was the only time in my life that I didn't feel like I had ADD.
I actually was unmedicated for fifteen years.... I probably needed to be medicated the last eight of those fifteen, but I denied it.
As I got older the ADD got worse...or my ability to control it weaker. I was fired from a job I had after 8 yrs because my work had progressively declined in quality.... I couldn't finish one thing at a time..... I would walk away from someone in the middle of a conversation because something else distracted me. And I interrupted people because thoughts entered my mind and it would blurt out of my mouth. And I was aware of it... But couldn't stop it. I've caught myself starting a sentence with one subject and finishing it with a completely different subject because 2 thoughts entered my mind and I couldn't slow down enough to separate them. It's so embarrassing....
I started to avoid speaking on the phone because I couldn't stop interrupting people. I stopped seeing my friends because I was ashamed of my inability to have a normal conversation. And then I became depressed.
When I went back on medication it helped. But it's not a 100% cure. I think the ADD got worse because I'm going through menopause. Hormones definitely play a role. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone. Thanks for the info I've read in this column... I am going to look for info to help manage and organize my life with ADD. before I stumbled on this article, I really didn't know the info was so readily available.
Yep. Was looking for ideas for borders for high ceilings in a black and white bathroom...... And here I am!!!! At least all of you can relate......

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