As I write this post, women with ADHD are the fastest growing population to be diagnosed. So if you are a woman who found out you have ADHD after high school, college, or even as a mom, you are not alone. It may not have happened until later because you probably were quiet and well behaved in school. You looked like you were paying attention. Your teachers had no idea that your mind was a million miles away and you struggled with keeping focused and staying on track.
A lot of teenage girls with ADHD learn how to hide their challenges out of necessity and shame, and that coping mechanism often continues into young adulthood and later. And even if you couldn’t hide that you were struggling, it wouldn’t be uncommon to get a misdiagnosis. Although perceptions are changing, ADHD is still more often associated with boys.
In adulthood, a mom may realize she has ADHD when her child is diagnosed. Other reasons for a later diagnosis are that traits that may have been manageable earlier in life become overwhelming with the hormonal changes of PMS, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause.
If you find yourself with consistent difficulty staying focused, keeping track of things, or finishing what you start, you may want to talk to your doctor about women with ADHD. You don’t have to be hyperactive to fit the diagnosis. As a matter of fact, most women are more inattentive than hyper or restless, although they can be both. One common trait for women that I don’t hear as much for men is feeling completely overwhelmed – sometimes to the point of paralysis.
If you do get that diagnosis, you can experience a range of emotions. One could be relief that there is nothing morally “wrong with you.” You actually have a medical diagnosis that is not your fault. There is a lot of support out there to help you learn new ways of doing things that work better for ADHD brain wiring so you can start living the life you want. Maybe now you can give yourself a break and start to notice your strengths and the things you do well. It’s unfortunately common for women to blame ourselves and only see what we are doing wrong.
You may find yourself grieving for all those years you felt like you didn’t measure up and didn’t know you had ADHD. And you may feel angry at people who treated you harshly or judged you unfairly – even if it was out of ignorance or concern. It is up to you now to educate yourself and the important people in your life about your diagnosis so they can offer you the support and acceptance you deserve. You may find that just knowing the truth lessens your stress and worry because there is a reason for your struggles. And there is hope that with knowledge, new skills, and structures, life will get easier.
If you are newly diagnosed or have ADHD traits that are holding you back, please feel free to contact me. I am a Certified ADHD Coach in Seattle who offers a free consultation and would love to talk with you.