As an adult woman, living with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) means that you probably weren’t diagnosed as a child.
In most cases, ADHD is not properly diagnosed until adulthood especially if you’re female.
This is because ADHD is mostly diagnosed in more men than women and even when it occurs in women, it actually needs to be critically examined in order to achieve accurate diagnosis.
It’s also very possible that as a sufferer of ADHD, you most likely accidentally came across information that clearly stated the symptoms you’ve always had in very clear terms and made you realize that you’re certainly not alone on this.
Or your mental health expert related in simple words all your symptoms and gradually told you what they meant.
If in the past, you’ve been diagnosed with depression and panic attacks or anxiety, getting a certain diagnosis of ADHD would certainly feel very relieving and exhilarating.
Your past symptoms would start to make absolute sense and ,you would also understand why it was difficult to get a proper diagnosis in the past.
The negative feelings that you had once attributed to your personality would become more understandable and you would start to work on getting on with your life and finding ways to comfortably live with symptoms that were formerly confusing and challenging.
But what is ADHD and how does one know that they have it?
Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that consists of a combination of recurring problems, such as difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.
In adults, ADHD can ultimately lead to having unstable relationships, poor work or school performance, low self-esteem, and so on.
One underlying factor about ADHD is that symptoms start in early childhood and continue into adulthood.
Sometimes, ADHD is not recognized or diagnosed until the person enters adulthood.
As opposed to the childhood symptoms of ADHD, in adults hyperactivity may decrease, but impulsiveness, restlessness and difficulty paying attention may continue.
The treatment techniques for adult ADHD is similar to that of childhood ADHD.
Adult ADHD treatment includes medications, psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and treatment for any mental health conditions that occur along with ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD
In most cases, some people with ADHD have fewer symptoms as they age, but in others, these symptoms continue and may even start to get in the way of daily functioning.
In adults, the main features of ADHD may include difficulty paying attention, impulsiveness and restlessness. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Many adults with ADHD aren’t aware they have it — they just know that everyday tasks can be a challenge.
Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans.
The inability to control impulses can be anything from uncontrolled impatience while waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and swift outbursts of anger.
Adult ADHD symptoms may include the following:
- Disorganization and difficulty in prioritizing tasks.
- Poor time management skills
- Difficulty in focusing on a task
- Inability to multitask
- Excessive activity or restlessness
- Poor planning
- Inability to tolerate frustration
- Frequent mood swings
- Problems following through and completing tasks
- Hot temper
- Trouble coping with stress
In reality, almost everyone has had some symptoms of ADHD at some point in their lives. However, if your difficulties are recent or occurred only occasionally in the past, you probably don’t have ADHD.
ADHD is diagnosed only when symptoms are severe enough to cause ongoing problems in more than one, some or all areas of your life and these persistent and disruptive symptoms can be traced back to early childhood.
Getting an accurate diagnosis of ADHD as an adult can be a daunting task because certain ADHD symptoms are similar to those caused by other conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders.
And many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety.
Causes of ADHD.
The exact cause of ADHD is not clear, but research efforts are still ongoing. Factors that may be involved in the development of ADHD include:
- Genetics: ADHD can run in families, and studies indicate that genes may play a role.
- Environment: Certain environmental factors also may increase risk, such as lead exposure as a child.
- Problems during development: Problems with the central nervous system at key moments in development may play a role.
Risk Factors That May Increase ADHD.
Risk of ADHD may increase if:
- You have blood relatives, such as a parent or sibling, with ADHD or another mental health disorder
- Your mother smoked, drank alcohol or used drugs during pregnancy
- As a child, you were exposed to environmental toxins — such as lead, found mainly in paint and pipes in older buildings
- You were born prematurely
Signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults can be hard to spot. However, core symptoms start early in life — before age 12 — and continue into adulthood, creating major problems.
No single test has been known to confirm the diagnosis. Making the diagnosis will likely include:
- Physical exam, to help rule out other possible causes for your symptoms
- Information gathering, such as asking you questions about any current medical issues, personal and family medical history, and the history of your symptoms
- ADHD rating scales or psychological tests to help collect and evaluate information about your symptoms
However, the good news is that you can get treatment of whatever kind and eventually live a comfortable, fulfilling life. These treatments could be medication, therapy, coaching or a combination of all.
It’s very liberating to finally put a name to your symptoms. Knowing that what you’re dealing with is not unique to only you can be very helpful.
Also, talking about your state of mind and doing what you can to learn more about ADHD and also get helpful insights on how best to cope with the symptoms goes a long way too.
There are women living comfortably with ADHD and reading the following stories will be very beneficial to any other women dealing with ADHD:
Melissa’s Story on ADHD
For as long as she could remember, Melissa had always had issues with disorganization, forgetfulness, depression, and even following through and planning activities.
This had happened all through her life but she didn’t know what her condition was. It took flipping through the pages of the book, Delivered from Distraction to finally put a name to it.
She had inattentive ADHD and she’d had no idea whatsoever. As she took a seat in the library and continued to read, she found herself laughing at how much the descriptions sounded just like her father.
“Then I browsed through the book’s questionnaire and realized that I had answered ‘Yes’ to every single question, except for the ones dealing with hyperactivity,” Melissa recounted.
“I felt humiliated and excited at the same time. It was definitely an ‘aha’ moment: ‘So that’s what’s wrong with me.’”
She went on to get properly and officially diagnosed at 44, Melissa became expectant that she finally understood what had caused her so much grief in the past.
In the past, she’d had genetic depression but she discovered that having ADHD did not make it better instead it worsened it.
In her words,“It’s hard not to be depressed when you feel like you’re working harder than everyone else to maintain a basic level of practical success as an adult.”
Being a good student with good grades helped a little to offset her depression but it also helped to mask her ADHD a great deal.
Always having to take medication has become very important to Melissa’s life. “I’ve been taking Wellbutrin for depression for about 10 years, but life really improved once I started taking Ritalin, about a year and a half ago,” she says.
“After taking the first pill, I got more done with more focus in four hours than I had in the previous two weeks. It felt like a miracle, like I had walked through a door called ‘normal.’
And I thought ‘Oh, so this is how regular people get things done.” Eventually, the Ritalin started to wear off and she can get more work done and also have no trouble focusing when she’s at it.
However having good habits and self-discipline are somethings that Melissa regrets not adopting as a child. As she says, “Even with medication, I can still zone out and fall down a rabbit hole at home and hyper-focus on one exciting things.
Then suddenly realize several hours later that the house is a wreck, I forgot to defrost dinner, and I haven’t done what needed to be done that day,” In her opinion, if she’d had better habits, they would have helped her tremendously.
Over time, she has had to devise better ways to help her be a better planner and organizer; motivated Moms, a chore planner, helps her to do this and also to keep track of her activities.
Other things that helped include a reminder list with two columns: “Things I Can Do When the Kids are Home” and “Things I Can Do When the Kids Are Away”.
She says, “Listening to audio books also helps me focus mentally when I’m doing boring household chores, and keeps me from wandering off somewhere else.”
Candace’s Story on ADHD
When she was a child, Candace thought she was one of the “bad kids,” because she was always in trouble for not being able to be attentive in class, having bad grades in math and continuously receiving negative feedback wherever she went.
Her only way of dealing with it was to act out on purpose just so she could get attention. Slowly, as she got older, Candace began to understand she had ADHD and she had gotten it from using recreational drugs with her friends as a young adult.
“I took a muscle relaxant a couple of times, but they always made me feel very focused and I could never figure out why. One night, we had all taken Adderall,” she says.
“Everyone else was all over the place, but I was like, ‘The world is real. Everything makes sense. What’s going on?!’ I had never felt more like I understood everything that was going on.
It was amazing. I thought, ‘This is what it’s supposed to be like,’” she says. “I felt bad for it though. I felt bad that I felt good.”
Several years later when a friend told her that she’d been diagnosed with ADHD, Candace didn’t believe her because she wrongfully assumed that there was no such thing as ADHD in adults.
Gradually, she observed how her friend behaved when she didn’t take her medication “She was just like me,” Candace said.
“I asked her what she took and she said Adderall, exactly what I had taken (that one day). I was starting to not feel so bad anymore. I thought, ‘Maybe this is what I need.”
Then came one summer when Candace was so depressed, it didn’t make sense. “I couldn’t figure out why as an adult, I can’t get it together.
Why do I look so irresponsible? Why do I look like I don’t care? Why does life make sense to other people, and I just can’t get it right?” she says. After her pregnancy and childbirth, she decided to find out for sure if she was dealing with ADHD.
In her words, “I decided, ‘I’m going in, because I’m not going to short-change my child,’” she says. She finally got properly diagnosed at 27.
Today, Candace says that taking Adderall has helped her to get on marvelously with her life. She says,
“I used to think that everybody was better than me, that anything that I put my hands to was going to be destroyed, that people liked me for a short time, but once they really got to know me, they were gone.
I really had no self-confidence,” she says. “After my diagnosis, after I started taking my medication and I started getting things right, it was like everything was narrowed down for me and I wasn’t guessing anymore.”
She has made it a point of duty to always listen to podcasts about ADHD from ADDitudemag.com. She says they helped her better handle her condition and recommends them to anyone dealing with ADHD.
Heather’s Story on ADHD
Heather in no way took into consideration the possibility that she could have ADHD until her ex-husband accused her of it at some point of a fight.
“At the time I blew him off as a guy with a sparkly new counseling diploma desiring to position labels on each person,” she says.
“I didn’t suit the stereotypical persona of someone with ADHD; I used to be punctual, effortlessly met closing dates and became fairly organized.
Most of the time I used to be tired, no longer hyper, however the seed became planted and years later, I did some online studies.”
The research led her to recognize that she matched other factors of ADHD.
“I talk too rapidly, interpret other human beings’ conversations, have problems staying focused, and always distracted,” Heather says. “I get lost in an assignment if I find it particularly charming and may lose all feel of time.
I’m additionally hypersensitive to random stimuli like flashing lighting, high-pitched sounds, tough textures, smells and tastes.” Her health practitioner referred her to a counselor to be tested for ADHD.
However the counseling branch she went to didn’t even have a test for adults, so she had to take a test for younger people as a substitute. She became identified at age 39.
After attempting an expansion of ADHD medications, inclusive of Adderall, Concerta and Strattera, with little development, Heather’s physician put her on the highest dose of Wellbutrin, which allows her signs.
Even though she attempted counseling for a while as well, “It felt like the counselor didn’t understand the way to address an adult woman with ADHD,” she says.
“The entire workplace is set up for young people, I truly desired to just pass time playing with the toys and ignore the counselor’s questions.”
Having a diagnosis of ADHD has helped Heather understand why she does some of the things she does and has helped her locate equipment and coping mechanisms.
Using reminders with Google calendar on her iPhone helps her stay prepared. In the past, Heather used to exchange jobs each 12 months or so due to the fact she was either fired or became bored, but she has had her present job for 6 years now.
Kelsey’s Story on ADHD
Kelsey found out that she may have ADHD while she was in middle school. Due to the fact that Kelsey had inattentive kind ADHD, her pediatrician didn’t assume she had it.
A few weeks before getting her ADHD diagnosis, Kelsey was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
Now Kelsey is on Adderall, which she says makes a huge difference. In therapy, she is working on learning to attend to herself, in addition to approaches to assist her ADHD and anxiety.
“Understanding that I’ve ADHD changed my lifestyle for the better,” says Kelsey.
“I now have access to advocates at my university, which leaves me much less burdened whilst dealing with college because I have greater help if something slips, and I’m capable of focusing all through class thanks to my medicine.”
One trick she has learned to be helpful is to dedicate days or times of the week to particular activities, like homework or working out.
This allows her organization in order that even though her timetable changes, she has those windows of time already blocked off.
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.