Women With ADHD: Often Looks Different Than Men’s

Women with ADHD: the condition often looks different for girls and women than it does for boys and men.

Therapist Sari Solden pointed out years ago that girls with ADHD are often overlooked. She’s the author of the groundbreaking and bestselling 1995 book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder: Embracing Disorganization at Home and in the Workplacerevised and expanded in 2005. Her newer book, A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD: Embrace Neurodiversity, Live Boldly, and Break Through Barriers, followed in 2019.

Dr. Ellen Littman, co-author of Understanding Girls with ADHD, indicates that girls’ symptoms often increase after puberty, which is the opposite for many boys. And Solden notes that girls who are smart and receive good support and structure are less likely to draw notice.

Solden devised a self-test regarding women with ADHD. Click on the link.

One of the newest books about women with ADHD is Adult Women With ADHD: The Unconventional Guide To Coping With Neurodiversity With Tips for Avoiding Distractions, Managing Emotions and No Longer Feeling Like a Failure, Turning Into a Superwoman by Pansy Bradley. Enough said!

Zoe Kessler, who didn’t find out she had ADHD until she was in her 40’s, wrote ADHD According to Zoë: The Real Deal on Relationships, Finding Your Focus, and Finding Your Keys (2013). The online Jasper/Goldberg Adult ADD Questionnaire helped her self-diagnose (HuffPost):

By question four, I panicked. I had no idea why these questions were even on the test. Wasn’t everybody like this?

Apparently not.

Getting diagnosed, though, led to a “positive shift in self-perception” for her. She adds, “Knowledge about ADHD will set you free from a path of unmet goals and unanswered questions.”

Another resource is Linda Roggli‘s website and book. Midlife women with ADHD can find support at Roggli’s ADDiva.net. Her 2011 Confessions of An ADDiva: Midlife in the Non-Linear Lane has been widely praised by those who can relate.

A few brief quotes from “This Is My Brain on ADD”, found on her website

The psychiatrist who specialized in adult ADD told me to come by at 3:00 p.m. I arrived at 3:14 p.m.
He wasn’t surprised.

I did try medication—several of them, in fact. Some of them made me sleepy, which piqued my interest. If my brain slowed down on stimulants, maybe it did have some wiring problems.

Ultimately, medications didn’t work for me (in part because I couldn’t remember to take them).

The following two guides are also from the chapter in question:

ADD clues you won’t find in the DSM-IV
• Illegible handwriting
• “I have to do it my way”
• Profound sense of failure
• Feeling like a fraud; hiding yourself
• Overcontrolling of self, others, events
• Interrupting yourself
• Easily frustrated; quick trigger to anger
• Very emotional; highest highs, lowest lows
• Obsessive tidiness
• Constantly reorganizing, creating a new “system”
• Making simple tasks complex
• Inability to stick with a diet, exercise; weight issues
• Many intimate partners; impromptu sex
• Difficulty with spatial tasks–puzzles, etc.
• A constant sense of being “swamped”
• Anxiety; a baseline of unease in the world
• Sensitive to labels in clothes, bright light, loud noises

The Truth About Diagnosis
• There is no absolute test for ADHD
• It’s OK to get a “second opinion”
• A “functional diagnosis” can be made via a thorough intake interview with an ADD-savvy physician or psychologist
• Expect to feel relief and grief after diagnosis
• Not everyone has ADD – despite what you may believe
• Having ADD does not mean you are brain damaged
• Medication helps some people; expect to try several of them

See this page for additional books by various authors on this subject.

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