ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a disorder that affects daily functioning and interferes with your work, personal development and social relationships.

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ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a disorder that affects daily functioning and interferes with your work, personal development and social relationships.

Understanding ADHD in Adult Women

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ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a disorder that affects daily functioning and interferes with your work, personal development and social relationships. This neurodevelopmental condition manifests itself in unique ways depending on various factors including genetics, social environment, co-occurring disorders and more. When it comes to women, ADHD presents unique challenges owing to their specific experiences, leading to atypical symptoms and varied coping strategies.  

What Is ADHD in Women?

ADHD is a disorder that often stems from childhood and is traditionally associated with men. However, recent research shows that it is more prevalent among women than previously thought. The key differentiating factor between ADHD in men and women is the predominant type of ADHD that affects them. Men are more prone to hyperactive/impulsive ADHD which can make a person restless, impatient and disruptive, while women are more prone to inattentive ADHD, which is characterized by the lack of ability to focus, be organized or remember things, among others. 

Why ADHD in Women is Overlooked

Because hyperactive ADHD has more visible symptoms like impulsivity and disruptive behaviors, it is often easier to spot compared to inattentive ADHD which have atypical symptoms. Lack of attentiveness or disorganization can be more difficult to identify for a non-professional. In fact, some of these symptoms are viewed as stress or mood disorders. It is also important to note that many women may not reveal their challenges with ADHD due to societal stigma attached to mental health, especially among women. They may thus develop coping strategies that mask their symptoms, further hindering a recognition and eventual treatment. 

Gender Bias in ADHD Diagnosis

Historically, ADHD has been evaluated based on behaviors of hyperactive behaviors among young boys, and similar symptoms have been highlighted, leaving less room for diagnosis for muted symptoms that are prevalent in women. This lack of recognition is compounded by the fact that women are often expected to be organized and less impulsive, which urges them to hide their concerns. They often take extra measures to hide their inattentiveness to ensure they don’t come across as less of a woman to those around them. ADHD symptoms among women are also often brushed aside as “mood swings” or other apparently less concerning issues. 

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Symptoms of ADHD in Women

While symptoms of ADHD vary from person to person, there are some common symptoms that are observed by experts that seem to be more specific to women. It is important to understand these symptoms from the point of view of the unique experiences of a woman with respect to their roles and responsibilities in society. Remember to also keep in mind that ADHD can occur with other mental health disorders, and that symptoms of one can in some cases be confused for another. It is thus advised to seek professional diagnosis before coming to conclusions regarding ADHD in adult women. 

Common ADHD Symptoms in Men and Women

Some of the common hyperactive/impulsive ADHD symptoms include: 

Restlessness

Fidgeting

Getting bored fast

Impulsively interrupting others

Talking too much

Overspending

Feeling extra active all the time

Trouble being patient

Trouble understanding social boundaries

Some of the common inattentive ADHD symptoms include: 

Disorganization

Indecision

Being prone to making mistakes due to lack of attention

Lack of focus and concentration 

Paying less attention in conversations

Difficulty in following plans

Forgetfulness

Difficulty in managing time

Differences in ADHD Symptoms Between Men and Women

As mentioned earlier, women are more likely to exhibit atypical symptoms that are more internalized, compared to men. With men, experts have noted clear and obvious signs of challenges with respect to focus and organization, as compared to women, who seem to avoid causing disruptions. Men may impulsively blurt out while women seem to manage their impulses.

Men with ADHD tend to have outbursts or visible mood swings, while women tend to deal with internal challenges surrounding self-esteem or anxiety. In some cases, it is observed that women are able to find better coping strategies that bring relative success in their professional pursuits, making it harder to recognize, as opposed to men. 

ADHD Diagnosis in women

A mental healthcare professional is best equipped with the tools to provide the right diagnosis for ADHD. Since ADHD symptoms can vary in nature and intensity, diagnosis usually involves interviewing the client about their challenges, their symptoms and more. Since women normally show atypical symptoms, it is important to engage in honest conversation in a comfortable, non-judgmental environment with an expert, to arrive at a personalized treatment plan. 

Challenges Faced by Women with ADHD

Women with ADHD face various challenges across different aspects of life, including education, work, relationships, and daily tasks. These challenges encompass emotional control issues, learning difficulties, heightened risk of mental health conditions, difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships, struggles in managing daily responsibilities, and difficulty with organization and decision-making. ADHD symptoms can also lead to increased feelings of frustration causing hindrances in achieving your goals. 

Societal Expectations and ADHD

Societal expectations often create a barrier for women to express their concerns, often exacerbating them. Society often expects women to be highly organized, emotionally stable, and less impulsive. This pressure can lead women with ADHD to develop unusual coping mechanisms, like masking their symptoms, which may hinder accurate diagnosis and treatment. These expectations can create a sense of internal conflict and further strain on their daily lives, relationships, and self-esteem.

ADHD and Relationships

Women with ADHD may face challenges in relationships due to the tendency to hide their struggles. Societal expectations often pressure them to appear organized and emotionally stable. This masking can lead to difficulties in building trust and maintaining connections. Additionally, their struggles with planning and responsibilities may be misinterpreted as indifference, causing strain in relationships. It's crucial to recognize that these behaviors are often a result of societal conditioning and not a deliberate choice on their part.

ADHD in the Workplace

ADHD in the workplace can present distinct challenges for women, as meeting professional expectations is combined with gendered expectations of being polite, nurturing, and accommodating. Maintaining organization, attention to detail, and time management can be particularly daunting for women with ADHD. Women may use excessive effort to mask their symptoms, potentially leading to burnout. Work-related stress and performance issues can further exacerbate the struggle. 

Co-Occurring Conditions with ADHD

ADHD is frequently accompanied by co-occurring conditions such as anxiety and depression, with some overlapping symptoms, especially in women. Disordered eating, particularly anorexia and bulimia, is also prevalent.

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is common in young girls and adolescents with ADHD. Additionally, substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and mood disorders can coexist with ADHD. These comorbid conditions can complicate the diagnosis, but awareness and expertise can help healthcare professionals identify and address them effectively.

Coping Strategies and Support

When coping with ADHD, it is crucial to take proactive steps to manage symptoms and enhance well-being. These strategies for women encompass regular exercise and mindfulness practices to improve focus and mood. Consider making dietary adjustments, such as a balanced diet and limiting sugar and caffeine as it can help control impulsivity and hyperactivity. While it is challenging at first, consider taking steps to improve organizational skills, time management, and sleep hygiene which are key for managing daily life. At the workplace, decluttering, minimizing distractions, and using tools like planners can enhance productivity and reduce the frustration that comes with ADHD. Effective communication and emotional management can aid in smoother relationships and also help you speak about your concerns, creating a compassionate environment. 

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Treatment and Management of ADHD in Women

Treatment for adult women with ADHD usually involves a holistic, multifaceted, personalized approach based on the unique symptoms and situation of the person dealing with it. Treatment options include medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and practical solutions like behavioral coaching and management strategies.

The first step is to receive an accurate diagnosis which provides you much needed clarity on the condition, and empowers you to utilize your strengths as a person to manage your symptoms. Remember that the best way to treat ADHD is by consulting a mental healthcare expert, who will provide you a personalized treatment plan based on your unique needs. 

Medications for ADHD

Medications for ADHD are recommended by psychiatrists not as a cure to the disorder, but to provide respite and manage the symptoms of the condition better. Remember that it is important to follow the course of medication as recommended by an expert, since the amount and interval of medication can vary dramatically depending on the nature and severity of the condition. Medication is just one aspect of a larger holistic treatment plan for ADHD. 

Therapy and Lifestyle Changes

Therapy and lifestyle changes are integral components of ADHD management. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy aids in developing planning, organization, impulse control, and stress management skills. Behavioral coaching is another technique that provides practical solutions for daily challenges, enhancing time management and organization. Alongside these therapies, adopting a balanced diet, regular exercise, and quality sleep hygiene can significantly contribute to symptom control. 

Parenting when you have ADHD

Parenting with ADHD as a woman can be highly challenging as focusing on tasks and responsibilities becomes difficult. Try to take time to spend regular time with your child, without the presence of others. Find ways to bond with your child without burning yourself out. Take breaks and share duties with your partner. Parenting with ADHD can be made easier with the support and compassion of your partner, so try to share your challenges and maintain an environment of trust. 

Effective treatment for ADHD with Cadabams

If you are a woman who is seeking expert guidance and treatment for ADHD, consider Cadabams. With over 30 years of experience in the field of mental healthcare, our licensed professionals can accurately diagnose your condition, provide a personalized treatment plan and constantly guide you along your recovery journey. Speak to one of our therapists today.

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