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ADHD is Different for Women


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So, recently I stumbled on this article about how ADHD presents differently in women and girls and as a result tends to be under diagnosed in these populations. The description of ADHD in women is, well, spookily similar to what my life is like. 

 

Some quotes: "Women with the disorder tend to be less hyperactive and impulsive, more disorganized, scattered, forgetful, and introverted."

 

“They’ve alternately been anxious or depressed for years,” Littman says. “It’s this sense of not being able to hold everything together.” 

 
"A lot of things that are simple and routine to other people—like buying groceries, making dinner, keeping track of possessions, and responding to emails—do not become automatic to these women"
 

"I am both embarrassed and exhausted by my struggles to keep track of objects and time."

 

In the past week I left behind my phone twice (once at home, once at work), my work key card once, twice forgot to bring in a health and safety form and found out about a health and safety course hours before it started (everyone else had known for weeks). I missed two training courses the week before that, simply because I had forgotten that they were on. 

 

At home I am notorious for forgetting to pass on phone messages, my bedroom is covered in a mess of unfiled paperwork and I forgot about a pot on the stove yesterday because I was distracted by my laptop (fortunately my housemate caught it). I'm perpetually late and always forget something leaving the house. I'm often lost and feel like I don't really know what's going on half the time. I'm a terrible fidgeter, spacey and distractible. 

 

I have always assumed my disorganization, dreamy and confused ways, forgetfulness and absentmindedness were character flaws. I'm also as un-hyperactive as they come. I've done well in school and in college, partly because of a high IQ and partly because I'm interested in academic things. When I am interested and engaged with something then I sort of block out all distractions to the point where I don't actually hear people talking to me. I also compensate for some of the disorganization by being anxious and constantly checking where my phone is, where my keys are, if I have locked the door, when I have to go somewhere. But that's exhausting. 

 

The idea that this might be an ADHD thing is interesting. It might explain why I find organizing my life to be SO MUCH more difficult than it seems to be for everyone else. 

 

I'm not sure how I'd go about looking in to a diagnosis though. I'm in the UK, where I'm not sure if ADHD is diagnosed often and I don't know how to go about seeing the right professional. Anyone have any advice, or similar experiences?

Edited by Squish
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I know nothing about getting a diagnosis in the UK, but I wanted to comment on how I could have wrote your post myself (except I tend to be a bit more hyperactive - which can mean different things BTW).

 

The ADHD concept has been depicted merely as a 'young boys syndrome' - only children have it and it is "rarely seen in girls" (let alone women). But finally there is more research and development in the professional world to prove that is all BS.

 

I've done well in school and in college, partly because of a high IQ and partly because I'm interested in academic things. When I am interested and engaged with something then I sort of block out all distractions to the point where I don't actually hear people talking to me.

 

Unfortunately because of stigma people believe that ADHD is only for people who have difficulty with school; only school and 'nothing else' (like it goes away when we get home). When ADHD not only affects WAY more than just academics, but at times ADHD doesn't affect academics as much as it affects interpersonal relationships and regular life skills.

 

Like what you describe is called hyperfocus, which is a particular ADHD flavor of focus. It's like when you are consumed in a subject/matter and no time, person, place, or event, exists. It can be beneficial when you forget to do projects and have limited time or have trouble organizing time/events/tools and need extra help, but can become difficult when you can't control it and you are unable to switch tasks when you need to AKA 'get stuck' (or when you hyperfocus on a non-helpful subject!).

 

 

 

I also compensate for some of the disorganization by being anxious and constantly checking where my phone is, where my keys are, if I have locked the door, when I have to go somewhere. But that's exhausting. 

 

That is exhausting, and that's also a sign of subtle hyperactivity. A lot of people attribute hyperactivity with running around classrooms as children, or productive energy as adults - like running all over town getting errands done or finishing several projects in a day. However a lot of times hyperactivity is rarely productive, but rather disruptive; and comes in various forms. Like anxiousness, worrying, pacing, fidgeting, and other internalized expressions. I find  a lot of other women with ADHD that I talk to, and some men, have this kind of symptomology. Especially when they are more introverted that extroverted. I find this kind of anxiety and restless symptoms are helped with stimulants instead of exasperated by them, unlike other types of anxiety. 

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Squish, I am the same as you. 

 

I am constantly forgetting where I am putting things, or leaving things on the stove.

 

I too have a High IQ but probably underachieved due to lack of motivation and concentration. But when I did well it was because I could memorise facts etc. 

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Well, I *was* going to give you the DSM 5 ADHD list for adults it posted during consideration, but it appears to have vanished.  If anyone has it saved or can find it in the web, please pass it along. (I really want it)

 

The point was that Hyperactivity has other outlets and instances than you would think, and that other things count.

 

As an adult Dx, your best bet is to show that it existed when you were a child, and isn't new.  It will look differently now, but if you remember that age and the ADHD issues then, you can say that x,y,z occurred at that point and it can be used as a belated diagnosis based on your word.

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  • 2 weeks later...

That article makes a lot of sense to me. Especially the part about feeling shame for not being able to do the simple things that other people are able to do like making dinner, doing laundry or answering emails. I used to think they were character flaws too. I'm horrible at managing my life and I blamed myself for not being "good enough" to be able to do all the things that other people did so easily. Then I started ADHD medication for the first time. It was like everything became clearer and I was able to actually do the things that I only wished I could do on any other day. When I was taking my medication as prescribed, things started to go a lot better for me. Then I started abusing my medication along with other drugs and my world came crashing down. It's taken me a long time to find a pdoc who's willing to let me try Adderall again. This time, I'm going to be monitored much more closely than I was the last time around and I'm also taking a lower dose. I'm praying for good things.

 

Thanks for the article. Good luck with trying to get a diagnosis and be careful with the medication if you end up going that route.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi all,

 

I just joined, and this thread really resonated with me. I too was a high-functioning person in school, to the point where I graduated third in my high school class, because I was able to take only the classes that held my interest, had a good memory, and was smart enough to write papers at the last minute. I'm now 40, and I've bounced from job to job, career to career, small business to small business, and have largely been supported by the men in my life. I have a horrible time getting up in the morning, can't focus on things for long or prioritize, and do best when I have short-term projects that I'm passionate about. This fills me with shame and hopelessness, which has manifested as depression, but I'm really thinking that adult, inattentive ADD is right. I've been a dreamer and space cadet my whole life, and it's kept me from excelling like I should.

 

So, hi everyone.

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