Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects so many people, but can be misunderstood in women as they are often underdiagnosed as compared to men, leading to higher rates of depression and anxiety among the women who struggled with it in childhood.
While in boys and men ADHD is usually more obvious because ADHD hyperactive type is more common in males, for girls and women the most common type of ADHD is the inattentive, which keeps the symptoms more under the radar. Therefore, it can be extremely isolating because they feel like they have to keep their condition a secret and may not know what is wrong with them, and like no one can truly understand them.
Our goal at Florecer Family Counseling is to increase awareness about ADHD in women so they can understand and validate their struggles during childhood, and recognize the signs in their next generation.
What are the Symptoms of ADHD?
So what are the symptoms of ADHD? There are two main categories: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.
Inattentive symptoms include:
Unable to give attention to something for a long time (i.e. homework, a project, a book)
Not following through on tasks
Losing things often
Losing interest in things quickly
Forgetfulness and missing details
Hyperactive-impulsive symptoms include:
Being impatient with others
Impulsive with their reactions
Fidgeting often or always feeling restless
Speaking out of turn or cutting people off
Adults are better at managing these symptoms than children as their brain has fully developed, which is why it is harder to notice the signs in adulthood if it was missed in childhood. This can leave many women who have undiagnosed ADHD to wonder what is wrong with them and develop anxiety and/or depression. Women who are dominant in inattentive ADHD are more likely to develop depression, whereas those who are dominant in the hyperactive-impulsive type are more likely to develop anxiety.
Relationship between ADHD and Depression
Women with inattentive-dominant ADHD may develop poor self-esteem because they are unable to perform well in their work or in other tasks in life, which can lead to depression. Because they have a hard time focusing, they may be unable to complete work projects in a timely manner, or procrastinate on tasks that need to get done. They may be reprimanded by their boss or even fired for poor performance.
In their daily life, they may not be able to keep their room, apartment, or house clean or be organized enough to plan meals and chores. Their parents, husband or intimate partner may often get frustrated at them. This can lead to feeling like they can’t measure up, and that something is fundamentally wrong with them, which can cause depression.
Relationship between ADHD and Anxiety
Women who are more hyperactive-impulsive-dominant may struggle more with anxiety. Many of the symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are similar to the symptoms of anxiety, such as restlessness and racing thoughts. In childhood they were often reprimanded which caused them to feel anxious as they would try to not get in trouble. As adults, these women constantly feel on edge and wound-up and many may turn to drugs and alcohol or other addictive substances in order to relieve pent-up anxiety.
Please reach out for professional help if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, nd/or substance abuse.
The Positives of ADHD
Though ADHD is seen primarily as a negative disorder, there are actually many strengths that women with ADHD have that other people don’t. It is important to understand the positive sides of ADHD so we can celebrate and encourage girls and women who have it instead of continuing to negatively stigmatize it. Those with ADHD have a unique perspective on the world that we can all learn from.
What are some of these strengths? Every cloud has a silver lining––they are actually just the positive sides of some of the negatives, including higher energy (flip side of hyperactivity), spontaneity (flip side of impulsivity), great conversationalists (flip side of inattentiveness), and hyperfocus. Women with ADHD also tend to be very creative as they see things differently than others and see things “outside the box.”
And finally, women living with ADHD tend to be more resilient, because they have had to overcome so many challenges in life due to their condition.