In my work as an ADHD Coach I frequently talk about the difficulty of recognizing ADD in girls, and how challenging their lives can be as ADHD women.
Coming late to a diagnosis of ADHD can set someone into a tailspin of grief, anger, shame and frustration. “What could my life have been with an earlier diagnosis?” “What stood in the way of recognizing ADD in girls, while it was so easy to identify ADD in boys?” “What’s the next thing that will get in the way and screw up my life?” “How will I ever possibly get my act together like everyone else?”
Still others find this news to be a relief because now they have something to hang their failures, mistakes and out-of-step behavior on.
ADDitude Magazine has a great article, Leading Ladies: Seven Successful Women with ADHD, featuring 7 women who fall into the second camp. Well into their 30’s or 40’s before they were diagnosed, these women experienced life with all of the ups and downs associated with ADHD: incomplete education, loss of jobs, loss of self, depression, over-the-top effort to get stuff done, self-medication and loss of relationships. They were likely not diagnosed earlier because they were misdiagnosed as anxious or depressed, thought to be hard to get along with, substance abusers, lazy, rude, flighty, disorganized or….just women. And we all know women (or should I say girls) don’t have ADHD. ADHD in Women and Girls: The Importance of Early ADHD Diagnosis provides a perspective about how pervasive and damaging this thinking can be.
An adult diagnosis is fairly new in the past 8-10 years. As children, many girls were left out of the diagnosis mix because they may not have exhibited the Big 3 that were recognized in boys, that being hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility. Even now with the slow recognition that people do not outgrow their ADHD, there are many adults who have yet to receive a diagnosis that can help them take steps to improve their lives. Women in particular may continue to struggle to get a correct diagnosis because professionals have yet to understand the depth and breadth of ADHD in women. They’re still being treated for anxiety and depression, realizing little or no relief.
As a woman, if you think you might have adult ADHD, don’t wait until your world falls apart to get help. If your bright, sunny little girl suddenly loses interest in school, or friends, is struggling with homework that used to be easy, appears anxious or overwhelmed, it may be time to talk to an ADHD expert. Take a look at this article for more information about Diagnosing ADD/ADHD Girls.