Women are notoriously the nurturers of our society. They care for their children, their husbands, manage households, organize activities and, in many cases, hold down full time jobs outside the home. Any one of these tasks can be overwhelming at times and require the ability to multitask and juggle different aspects of life at one time.
ADHD has been historically known as a male disorder, with hyperactivity being one of the most well known symptoms. But often, women are not hyperactive. Inattention, being easily distracted and being disorganized are key symptoms of ADHD in women. Instead of being diagnosed with ADHD, women may be thought of as being spacey or scattered, of being a daydreamer, or of being incompetent.
According to an article, "Common Symptoms of ADD and ADHD in Women" by Terry Matlen, there are a number of symptoms of ADHD in women that may not be considered typical symptoms, may not appear in literature about ADHD and may cause simple tasks to become overwhelming. Some of these characteristics include:
- Low self-esteem
- Sensitivity to criticism
- Poor sense of time
- Emotionally sensitive, especially during hormonal changes
- Speaking without thinking
- Appearing self-absorbed
- Addictive behaviors, including eating, shopping and television (or internet surfing)
- Difficulty completing boring tasks, such as housework and laundry
- Difficulty waking up in the morning
In addition, menopause and other hormonal changes can exacerbate some symptoms of ADHD, such as forgetfulness, emotional sensitivity, word retrieval, and fatigue.
Women with ADHD may spend an enormous amount of time and energy each day trying to compensate for their lack of organization and inability to focus and complete tasks. Because of this, women may end up with anxiety or depression or suffer from low self-esteem.
Today, the stress in a woman's life is higher than in past generations. Women previously, more often than not, stayed home with the children. Caring for the family was their main responsibility. And while that in itself can be an overwhelming responsibility, it becomes even more so when trying to work full time outside the home as well. Women, more than men, need to keep track of children's routines, know who needs new clothes or new shoes, manage schoolwork including keeping track of upcoming tests reports and extra activities, talk with teachers, doctor's appointments, planning meals, grocery shopping, keeping up with laundry and other household chores. These tasks are normally completed without structure and without a support system. ADHD, therefore, has become more of a problem today than in previous times.
ADHD does not show up the same in each person. It can be mild, moderate or severe. It can cause problems in school, in college, in work or may not interfere until after a woman has had children.
Diagnosis of ADHD in Women
Many times, women with ADHD have gone undiagnosed for most of their life. Without hyperactivity, symptoms of inattention and distractibility can go unnoticed. Women may be considered shy and withdrawn or throughout school they may have been daydreamers. Often, a diagnosis comes after their child is diagnosed. While completing questionnaires on behaviors their child may be exhibiting, a mother may begin to see similar characteristics in herself.