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Common Symptoms of ADD and ADHD in Women

By Terry Matlen

Not all ADHD presents the same. Some women are hyperactive; others are sluggish. Some love having a lot of commotion and stimuli in their lives; others need to frequently retreat to a quiet space to recharge.

Consider the list of symptoms below that are not often listed in the ADD literature but which are commonly described by women with ADHD. Is it any wonder that your daily activities can be so overwhelming?

  • Hypersensitivity to noise, touch, smell; Women with small children are often overwhelmed by the constant interruptions, the noise level and commotion at home
  • Feelings of low self-worth; Women may feel they should be able to “do it all” and feel defeated when they can’t keep up. Juggling parenting and work responsibilities can simply be overwhelming
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism; Again, high expectations since childhood of being a “good girl” can make women with ADHD more vulnerable to these sensitivities
  • Poor sense of time, often running late
  • Being emotionally charged and easily upset; This is exacerbated during hormonal changes
  • Starting projects but seeming unable to finish them; Do you have piles of empty photo books? Heaps of unfinished sewing projects?
  • Taking on too much; On top of work and parenting, there is often the need for women to take on even more, like volunteering, helping out with school-related functions, making meals from scratch, etc.
  • Difficulty remembering names; This often gets worse before, during and after menopause
  • Saying things without thinking, often hurting others' feelings
  • Appearing self-absorbed
  • Poor math and/or writing skills 
  • Seeming to not want to hear what others are saying; This is especially difficult for women, who often want to connect socially, but have difficulty doing so 
  • Engaging in addictive behaviors: shopping, TV (soaps!) and eating are commonly seen.
  • Problems with word retrieval; again, this is often worse during menopause 
  • Poor handwriting; an embarrassing issue - society seems more accepting of poor penmanship in men
  • Difficulty with boring, repetitive tasks, such as laundry and other housekeeping chores 
  • Spending time ruminating
  • Difficulty making decisions; Grocery shopping is often painful, with all the choices available in stores today
  • Clumsiness and poor coordination
  • Tiring easily, or conversely, difficulty sitting still
  • Difficulty falling asleep and difficulty waking up the next morning; Again, made worse during menopause

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