Relief. That’s the word many women feel when they’re diagnosed with ADHD. From feeling misunderstood, and judged by others, it’s a relief to have an explanation. When you learn more about ADHD and how it manifests for you individually, you’re in a better position to treat and manage your symptoms and love the person you are. This article will give you tips, tricks, and tools you can personally test, apply, and alter to determine what does and doesn’t work for you. Let’s dive in, lift the stigma, increase awareness, and support ADHD in women.
What Is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs functioning in one of three types: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, or combined. “In general, when someone has a diagnosis of ADHD, it usually describes a collection of symptoms and life impairments. It’s slightly different for everyone and changes as a person grows from being a child, with relatively few coping skills, to adulthood” states psychologist Dr. Laura L. Walsh, Psy.D. But for women, these experiences are far different than men.
How Is ADHD Different In Females than Males?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls (12.9% vs. 5.6%). Research suggests that this alarming difference is not because boys are more vulnerable to ADHD but because girls are consistently overlooked and underdiagnosed.
Why does this happen? ADHD in females looks different than traditional stereotypical behavior. For instance, boys are often hyperactive-impulsive, which means they are more disruptive, talkative, fidgety, impatient, and have noticeable mood swings – all behaviors that are tough for teachers to overlook. Whereas girls tend to internalize their symptoms and are more quiet, shy, forgetful, and process tasks at a different pace. When they’re younger, teachers and peers tell them to try harder and be better instead of giving them the treatment and help their male peers with ADHD receive. These expectations and misunderstandings develop into low self-esteem and can negatively affect their lives into adulthood with co-occurring conditions, such as addiction, depression, and anxiety.
ADHD In Women: 24 Signs and Symptoms
While women are more likely to have inattentive ADHD, not all women will experience the same signs or symptoms. For example, some are hyperactive, while others aren’t – it is individual to the person.
- Cries easily
- Easily upset
- Often late
- Low self-esteem
- Sensory sensitivity
- Chronic procrastination
- Sensitive to rejection
- Poor time management
- Impulsive behaviors
- Easily distracted
- Difficulties relaxing
- Problems completing tasks
- Shifts focus continuously
- Struggles to deal with stress
- Processes tasks at a slower rate
- Self-care and hygiene difficulties
- Poor job performance
- Experiences difficulties in relationships
- Problems with memory
To manage your day-to-day, here is a list of common ADHD experiences and tips to help you feel more in control and at peace;
17 Tips for Managing ADHD in Women
- Use timers. Have a work deadline? Need to be somewhere early? Set multiple timers (the Time Timer is a great option as it visual shows the passage of time) to track time, maintain focus, and manage tasks.
- Get organized the night before. Pick out your clothes, prepare your lunch, set your alarm, and organize everything you need to do the night before
- Give yourself a head start. Add a 15-minute window to everything you need to do. It will give you extra time to prepare for meetings, social events, and appointments.
- Prioritize. Ask yourself, what is the most important task I need to complete today, or which one will make me feel better when I cross it off?
Create visual checklists
- Bullet journaling. With a DIY customizable planner, all you need to do is fill in the blanks to increase organization.
- Make a done list. Instead of focusing on all the things you need to do, focus on your accomplishments so far. It will make you feel proud of yourself when you track how much you do rather than what you didn’t do.
- Grocery lists. Make a grocery list and post it on your fridge. It will remind you to pick up what you need during the week.
- Daily and weekly lists. Setting time aside to make a weekly list with a daily list will help you manage appointments, responsibilities, and deadlines without getting overwhelmed.
Sticking to a routine
- Motivate yourself with rewards. Each time you complete an item or work towards a small or big goal, reward yourself. You deserve to take mini breaks and praise yourself for everything you complete. A reward system will build motivation and increase your self-esteem.
- Start simple, build over time. Don’t set the bar too high and wake up at 5 am, complete a 45-minute HIT routine, meditate, and read a book all before 8 am. Take it slow by working on one positive habit at a time. When you get a handle on what works for you, increase the number of habits along the way.
- Use your mirror. Write your desired morning or evening routine on the mirror. It will remind you to take action.
- Label. Grab your handy label maker and label everything in your house. From kitchen utensils to your children’s toys, you’ll feel better when you know what goes where.
- Don’t love it, toss it. Like Marie Kondo says, “If it doesn’t spark joy, toss it”. It won’t serve you or your brain any good if you hold onto clutter.
- Post-its. These sticky papers serve many functions. If you need to mark your reading place, take notes after a phone or zoom call, or even use them to write positive affirmations, they keep you on top of your game.
Be kind to yourself
- Set boundaries. To prevent overcommitting, learn to say no and stick to it. Setting personal and professional boundaries will prevent burnout, guilt, fatigue, and the people-pleasing habit common in ADHD in women.
- Exercise. Let yourself sweat out the stress for at least 30 minutes a day. Walk, jog, run, complete a short online workout, anything to help you release what is building inside.
- Limit your apologies and forgive yourself. You may have an internalized habit built after years of conditioning that you’re wrong or you made a mistake. Instead of immediately apologizing, take a step back and forgive yourself. Shower yourself with acts of forgiveness whenever you can.
Share your knowledge
There is no right or wrong way to manage your ADHD. What works for you may not work for someone else. And what works for you today may not work in the future. Thankfully, you can always change how you cope and manage your experiences as you grow and evolve. Learning about this condition and increasing your knowledge will also normalize ADHD in women and help others receive the help and treatment they deserve.
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