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The Hidden Struggle: Unveiling ADHD in Adult Women

Updated: Feb 20

We all know the classic presentation of ADHD, or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as seen in those diagnosed with it as children or teenagers. Constant fidgeting, being unable to sit still or pay attention to tasks they do not find stimulating, an inability to focus in the face of tedium–these, among others, are some of the well-known symptoms presented in pop psychology.


However, it is worth accounting for the fact that the majority of these well-known symptoms are far more easily viewed in young boys, as opposed to young girls, in particular due to the way children are socialized differently depending on gender. Thus, it follows that most research around ADHD, until recently, was focused on the more easily observable population–rather than populations that held more subtle presentations.


ADHD in Adults

First, let us take a look at the symptoms of ADHD typically viewed in those diagnosed as adults. At this point, it is worth bringing up what is known as masking. Masking is essentially the act of learning how to ‘fit in’, or formulaically adopt the behaviors of those around them in an attempt to seem ‘normal’. While neurodivergent people who mask (as this term is not limited to just those with ADHD) may seem neurotypical, recall what it means to put on a ‘mask’. The behaviors have not vanished–the person has merely managed to successfully train themselves to manage the behaviors and can really only be genuine in more private settings.


out of focus

With this concept in mind, let’s move onto the symptoms list. Carelessness and a lack of attention to detail are first and foremost. Perhaps you submit a report that is decent overall, but upon a closer look, is littered with minor typos. Continually starting new tasks without finishing older ones, an inability to prioritize, and poor organizational skills follow, and are all interconnected. Forgetfulness, as well as a tendency to lose or misplace things, is also one of the symptoms. This could also be a case of recalling your intention to put the object somewhere that is easy to remember, but not actually where you put it.


Restlessness and edginess (an extension of the fidgeting habit) as well as a difficulty keeping quiet during a conversation, or perhaps a tendency to speak out of turn, blurting out responses and even interrupting others at moments. Following these are extreme impatience and an inability to deal with stress (an emotional dysfunction) which may lead to mood swings, irritability, and a quick temper. All of these may combine to result in an overall tendency towards risk-taking behaviors, which can range from impulsive decision-making like bulk purchases to dangerous activities like giving into road rage.


ADHD in Adult Women

ADHD in girls and women often goes undiagnosed due to gender bias in both research and diagnosis criteria. Some characteristics to look out for, both in yourself and others, are difficulties in peer relationships or finding social interactions challenging, comorbidities like anxiety or depression, and thus following that, decreased self-esteem that may be exacerbated by difficulty managing physical health–such as maintaining healthy eating and sleeping habits. ADHD typically presents in one of three ways: primarily inattentive symptoms, primarily hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, and a combination of the two. In the case of women, these symptoms do not become more readily apparent until puberty, generally, and lean towards inattentiveness rather than hyperactivity in a large number of cases.


Another difficulty comes into play when looking at societal perception; a great deal of women with ADHD are often seen as ‘hormonal’, ‘chatty’, or perhaps even ‘air-headed’ (akin to certain stereotypes). Symptoms of ADHD are taken to be character traits or issues with emotional regulation, rather than observing the underlying issue. In recent years, this has resulted in a great deal more ADHD diagnoses in women as more research is done and more people figure things out using their own research and self-diagnoses. If you believe these are situations that you may relate to deeply, if you find yourself plagued by maladaptive daydreaming or zoning out during conversations that hold little interest to you (even if you care about the other person), consider examining these resources and seeing if there may be more to it.


In the event that you believe you do have ADHD, seeking an evaluation via psychiatric services may be of use to you. You may also consider medication to improve focus (stimulant or non-stimulant) or treatment via various forms of therapy, including but not limited to CBT or DBT, and look further into these potential strategies or a combination of them via the websites offered below.


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