July 25, 2024

THERAPY ISSUES FOR WOMEN WITH ADHD

 

ADHD in Women

Introduction to ADHD in Women

Many women go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with ADHD because symptoms can present differently in females. Recognizing these symptoms is pivotal, especially since life changes like hormonal fluctuations during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can amplify or modify ADHD symptoms.

Questions To see if you have ADHD

According to the World Health Organization, women should consider the following questions to determine if they might have ADHD:

  • How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you?
  • How often do you leave your seat in situations where you're expected to remain seated?
  • How often do you struggle to relax during your free time?
  • Do you frequently finish others' sentences in conversations?
  • Are you prone to procrastination?
  • Do you often rely on others to maintain order in your life?

A Note on Current Diagnostic Criteria

The prevailing diagnostic criteria for ADHD can be limiting and may not encompass the full spectrum of ADHD symptoms, especially as our understanding of the condition evolves. For instance, emotional dysregulation, which is increasingly recognized as a significant component of ADHD, isn't adequately captured by many traditional diagnostic tools.

This incomplete picture can lead to misdiagnoses, especially in women. Instead of recognizing the underlying ADHD, many women are inaccurately diagnosed with mood disorders or personality disorders. Common misdiagnoses include Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. Additionally, some women are only diagnosed with secondary conditions like anxiety or depression, which might actually be symptoms resulting from the primary, undiagnosed ADHD.

Risk Factors for causing ADHD in Women

  1. Genetic Predisposition: Having a family member with ADHD increases your risk, as genetic factors play a role in attention regulation.
  2. Hormonal Fluctuations: Changes in hormone levels at various life stages can impact ADHD symptoms. Estrogen and progesterone, in particular, regulate neurotransmitters linked with attention and impulse control.
  3. Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain toxins during childhood or pregnancy, like lead or pesticides, can increase ADHD risk but this is a minor contributing factor.

Gender Bias and Underdiagnosis in ADHD Women

Historically, ADHD has been associated more with young boys. This gender bias means many girls and women with ADHD remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, causing delays in receiving the proper support and most of the struggles for adhd women.

Understanding the ADHD Woman's Neurotype

ADHD, similar to autism, affects executive functioning, sensory processing, and societal interactions. ADHD isn't a mental health condition, it is a  neurotype. ADHD people have different brains and nervous systems. It can challenge daily life, especially when undiagnosed, influencing areas like:

  • Task initiation
  • Sustained attention
  • Alertness regulation
  • Processing speed
  • Emotional regulation
  • Working memory
  • Self-Regulation

Challenges Faced by ADHD Women in Society

ADHD women often grapple with societal discrimination, stigma, and unrealistic expectations. Common internal struggles include feelings of low self-esteem, self-criticism, and a sense of perpetual failure.

Childhood Presentation of ADHD in Women

Girls with ADHD tend to manifest symptoms differently than boys, often internalizing them. While boys might display overt behavioral issues, girls may quietly struggle, leading to late or missed diagnoses.

Mental Health Impacts on Unsupported ADHD Women

Without proper support, ADHD women face severe mental health challenges. They might develop compensatory behaviors, such as perfectionism, which can later lead to burnout. Additionally, ADHD girls may grapple with impulsive behaviors, emotional dysregulation, and relationship challenges.

ADHD Women in Education, Work, and Life Transitions

Some ADHD women may not recognize their symptoms until significant life transitions, such as college, where the newfound pressures can intensify ADHD symptoms, sometimes leading to first-time depressive episodes. Similarly, the onset of motherhood or entering the workforce can reveal latent ADHD tendencies. Moreover, women undergoing menopause might receive their ADHD diagnosis due to the profound hormonal changes affecting their neurology and behavior.

Hope for ADHD Women: Medication and Therapy

Treatment, including medication, coaching, and therapy, can help ADHD women heal from the challenges of living in a world that has stigmatized and discriminated against them. It can help them to shed themselves of the compensatory mechanisms like masking, perfectionism, hiding who they are, shaming themselves, and people-pleasing. Good therapy does not try to make ADHD women more neurotypical. 

Supporting Strategies for ADHD Women

Upon diagnosis, various strategies can assist ADHD women, from self-compassion and self-awareness to advocating for neurodivergent-affirming approaches.

Supporting the ADHD Woman in Your Life

For those close to ADHD women, understanding their experiences and providing a judgment-free environment is pivotal. Learn all you can about adhd, about the experience of living with adhd and growing up in a world where you were shamed and told to change.

How Can I Get Diagnosed with ADHD?

If you suspect you have ADHD, seeking a diagnosis is the first step to understanding and managing your symptoms. The professionals you can approach for a diagnosis depend primarily on your location and available healthcare resources. Generally, the following professionals are equipped to diagnose ADHD:

1. **LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker):** These professionals have training in mental health assessment and can diagnose a range of mental disorders, including ADHD.
2. **Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology):** Clinical psychologists with a Ph.D. often specialize in assessing and diagnosing various psychological conditions.
3. **General Practitioner:** While they are not specialists in mental health, many general practitioners are knowledgeable about ADHD and can provide initial assessments or refer you to a specialist.
4. **Psychiatrist:** These medical doctors specialize in mental health. They not only diagnose but can also provide treatments, including prescribing medications.
5. **Licensed Counselor:** These professionals specialize in therapeutic treatments but many are also qualified to diagnose conditions like ADHD.

If you believe you may have ADHD, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide a comprehensive assessment. They can guide you on the next steps for management and treatment based on your specific needs.

Pages on ADHD women on this website

 


 ADHD MEDICATION 
Learn about why medication helps

 

Take the adhd test here
Learn about ADHD and pregnancy

Learn about adhd and hyperfocus
Learn about ADHD and the kitchen

ADHD and perimenopause
ADHD and driving

Learn about Adhd and music

Learn about Adhd  and shopping

Learn about Adhd and listening

Caffeine and adhd

Social anxiety and adhd

Boundaries and adhd

Self compassion and adhd

add and menopause

hyperfocus

References


Fuller-Thompson, Esme, et al. The Dark Side of ADHD: Factors Associated With Suicide Attempts Among Those With ADHD in a National Representative Canadian Sample. Archives of Suicide
Research (Dec. 2020)

adhd in females

Do I have ADHD? A checklist

 

Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-v1.1) Symptom Checklist questions

Learn about scoring here


Are you a woman wondering if you have ADHD?  There is no one screening tool to determine if you have ADHD. It's a complex process and must be done by a licensed mental health professional. However, here is a list of questions to ask yourself when considering the question.

  • How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project, once the challenging parts have been done?
  • How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order?
  • How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
  • How often do you put off things until the last minute?
  • When you have a problem that requires a bit of thought, how often do you avoid or delay getting started?
  • How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization?
  • How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations?
  •  How often do you fidget or squirm with your hands or feet when you have to sit down for a long time?
  • How often do you feel overly active and compelled to do things, like a motor drove you?
  • How often do you make careless mistakes when you have to work on a boring or difficult project?
  • How often do you have difficulty keeping your attention when you are doing boring or repetitive work?
  • How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
  •  How often do you misplace or have difficulty finding things at home or at work? . How often are you distracted by activity or noise around you?
  •  How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated?
  •  How often do you feel restless or fidgety?
  • How often do you have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself?
  •  How often do you find yourself talking too much when you are in social situations?
  •  When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to, before they can finish them themselves?
  • How often do you have difficulty waiting your turn in situations when turn-taking is required?
  • How often do you interrupt others when they are busy?

 

Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.