Of course, we all experience occasions of forgetfulness, misplacing something important in a messy house or running late for appointments. But for many women, these challenges are daily events that actually impact their lives. They struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What makes it even harder? Women with adult ADHD often face several unique challenges that men with the disorder typically don’t have to contend with.
What are they and what can you do about it? Let’s see:
The Unique Struggles of Women with Adult ADHD
1. Failure of early diagnosis
Unfortunately, women with adult ADHD typically remain undiagnosed much longer than men. This may be due to the fact that symptoms in girls can be more subtle and easily missed than those in boys. They usually seem less hyperactive in a typical sense. But in reality, they’re often very frustrated by seemingly simple tasks.
What to do about it: Parents, educators, and psychiatrists need to be more vigilant, paying attention to ADHD symptoms in girls, who may otherwise be well-behaved and high-achieving.
2. Consequences of skepticism and stigma
While women with adult ADHD may seem extroverted and animated, they often feel labeled as being scatterbrained, unreliable, willful, lazy, incompetent, or unmotivated. This can cause emotional challenges, like feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression.
What to do about it: Actively seek out people who appreciate the best in you and focus on the positive. Don’t put yourself in situations that will confront you with impossible expectations and negative comparisons.
3. Impact of hormones
Monthly hormone fluctuations can intensify symptoms in women with adult ADHD due to an increase of estrogen. But when a woman enters perimenopause, a strong decrease of estrogen can be just as devastating and even cause extreme forgetfulness.
What to do about it: Talking to your primary care physician and/or psychiatrist about managing the destabilizing effects of fluctuating hormones is critical. You may need extra help in handling PMS and menopausal symptoms.
4. Lack of support
For women with adult ADHD, the greatest struggle may be trying to fulfill the duties expected by their family and society in general – the role of caretaker. Often they are the support system for everybody else but lack access to a support system for themselves.
What to do about it: Give yourself a break and stop expecting the impossible of yourself. Educate your partner and family about the effects of ADHD. Ask them to handle some household matters, including taking the children away from the home without you at times.
5. Dual roles – dual stress
The dual roles of a full-time career and being a wife and/or mother can intensify stress tremendously. Problems with routine matters, such as buying groceries, making dinner, or replying to emails may lead to being overwhelmed and exhausted for women with adult ADHD.
What to do about it: Eliminate or delegate some of the things you do yourself – at home or at work. Seek advice from a therapist on parenting, relationships, or career matters that takes your ADHD into account.
6. Single parenting
Being a single parent adds additional stress for women with adult ADHD. Since the mother most often remains the primary caretaker for children, single parenting adds a huge burden to women with adult ADHD.
What to do about it: Try to approach any difficulties with acceptance and good humor. You’ll have more energy for the positive things in your life. Simplify your life and reduce some of the commitments you or your children have. Also, recognize your limitations, ask grandparents or friends to help out.
Certainly, while both men and women with adult ADHD face obstacles, the lives of women may be impacted in different ways. But with diligent effort and patience, you can learn to successfully cope with emotional challenges, social expectations, hormonal fluctuations, or single parenting.