ADHD in Girls and Women

ADHD in Girls and Women

ADHD in Girls and Women 612 442 Dr. Menon

If you have boys and men in your life who are diagnosed with  attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), have you wondered if you or your daughter might be too? ADHD often looks different in girls. It can be harder to notice if you’ve mostly learned about it through a boy. Hence, women with ADHD often live undiagnosed. ADHD can present itself in at least 3 different ways: Impulsive/Hyperactive, Inattentive, or Combined. It was a long held belief that girls/females were more likely to present as the inattentive type. However, it would be incorrect to assume that it’s the only way ADHD presents itself. In fact, many women and girls describe “internal” hyperactivity and show behaviors that are similar to very “social” girls.

So, what are some signs to look for in girls?

  • Notice if she’s intense about some topics and activities but zones out of others. The topics and activities don’t have to be unusual.
  • Notice if she has trouble keeping more than one or two friends at a time – even if she feels satisfied with those friendships.
  • Notice if she has intense emotions after a crowded event – even if there were other possible causes, like being tired or hungry.
  • Notice if her follow-through is inconsistent or if you hear her say “I forgot” or “I can’t remember” very often.
  • She fidgets and often needs to get up and walk around.
  • She acts or speaks before thinking.
  • She says that her thoughts feel like they are “going a million miles a minute”.
  • She has trouble keeping her mind on one topic.
  • She can easily makes friends but has difficulty keeping friendships.
  • She has compensatory strategies, such as working two to three times as hard as her peers to feel successful.
  • She fears rejection by peers or friends. 
  • She clings to other people or remains in unhealthy relationships.

It’s Easy to Mis-diagnose

Many times girls and women struggle with organization, time management and other similar concerns. They are often described as “spacy” or “forgetful” before an ADHD diagnosis is eventually considered. Other characteristics include chronic stress, feeling exhausted, distressed, having feelings of inadequacy, and low self-esteem. Often, women with ADHD feel that their lives are out of control or in chaos and daily tasks may seem overwhelming. While having ADHD can be treated and supported, being spacy and forgetful can not. In this way, mislabeling and misinterpretation causes more distress. Later in life, a woman might try again to access help for her symptoms, only to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety. 

What’s the Impact on Daily Life?

Relationships and Social Life

You may wish to be a better friend, partner, or mom, and that you could act the way that other people do. For example, you may wish you could remember birthdays, bake cookies, and arrive on time for a date. By forgetting these things, you may often be perceived as uncaring or uninterested. As an adult, friendships can also be difficult to navigate because the social rules may seem confusing. For example, people may sometimes tell you that you talk too much or you overshare. They may even say you seem “checked out” and uninterested. Meanwhile, you may be uncomfortable and have difficulty staying focused in larger groups or parties. You might come across as shy because your mind may drift during conversations. In any case, your true personality takes a back seat and you leave feeling discouraged or critical of yourself. It’s hard to find the balance.

School and Work

In school, your stress and difficulty might be missed. This is especially true if you’ve learned how to camouflage and be the “good girl” with no behavior problems that make you stand out. However, it doesn’t mean that the difficulty is any less. Girls with ADHD may hyperfocus on things that interest them and show inconsistent effort. But without a comprehensive evaluation, teachers and parents may miss the possibility of ADHD. At school and work, organization and time management become even more critical. There are so many distractions at the office too. Learning how to prioritize, meet deadlines, and not only work based on your own interests are key factors in job success. 

Daily Life

ADHD can affect a surprising number of daily tasks that help your life move forward. Instead of focusing on those larger goals, you may find yourself caught up in the smaller, but still important daily tasks. This leaves you feeling like that proverbial hamster on the wheel. For example, there may be a pile of papers, bills, and documents to organize. You may have a lot of clutter from projects you started but never finished. You might also be spending impulsively without a plan. More, you may even avoid some tasks such as grocery shopping because there are just too many decisions to make and you get stuck in those thoughts.

With increasing professional and public awareness about ADHD symptoms in women, there are more and more great resources and proven methods of support.

Dr. Menon helps smart, sassy, successful, and intelligent girls and women to feel more genuine and accepting of themselves so that they can feel comfortable in social situations and enjoy themselves. You can air out those old feelings of social failure in session. Whether you are in a caretaker role, a perfectionistic mom with an overthinking brain or a student feeling the pressure to perform, Dr. Menon helps women who are feeling anxious because they are doing it all and are terrified of failing. Book a free consult now.

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