7 Tips for Women With ADHD

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Many women feel a huge sense of relief when they find out they have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For years, they may have blamed themselves for their shortcomings and their self-esteem has taken a hit. Constantly worrying about every detail of their lives may have led to emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.

After being diagnosed with ADHD, they finally know why they are the way they are. That it's not their fault. When they realize they have ADHD, feelings of inadequacy can begin to fade away, putting them in a better position to treat and manage their symptoms.

Diagnosing ADHD in Women

Most people have a misperception that ADHD is a disorder for hyperactive schoolboys. Because of the way ADHD manifests in women does not fit this stereotype, women often don't get diagnosed until adulthood.

A 2014 review of ADHD in women and girls found several obstacles to identifying ADHD in women, including:

  • Symptoms presentation: Women tend to internalize symptoms much more than men. Specifically, girls' symptoms veer more toward inattentiveness and disorganization. Families and peers often overlook these symptoms and are therefore less likely to refer them for diagnosis.
  • Comorbid psychiatric disorders: Because ADHD symptoms are generally less disruptive in females, mood disorders (like anxiety or depression) are commonly diagnosed long before they get evaluated for ADHD.
  • Coping strategies: Women who develop better coping strategies than their male counterparts may be able to mask the negative effects of their ADHD symptoms. For example, many overcompensate with list-making to help them stay organized. Although doing this works, it also makes it very easy for doctors to miss the diagnosis.

In general, it is often much easier for a teacher to notice a hyperactive young boy than an inattentive, daydreaming girl. Although hyperactivity tends to wane, symptoms such as inattention can continue into adulthood.

For women, issues related to ADHD may worsen into adulthood. For example, after graduating from high school when the structure of school is no longer in place and the academic or workplace standard is higher, ADHD symptoms can start to cause more problems.

Hyperactivity in Women

Women can be diagnosed with hyperactivity-impulsivity ADHD, although less frequently than women with inattentive ADHD. Having hyperactivity poses its own challenges.

You might find you have more physical energy than your peers and be accused of talking constantly. Because you seemed different, you might have memories of feeling rejected, judged, and excluded by your peers. This experience can continue into adulthood.

Tips for Living With ADHD

There are many things that you can do to make it easier to cope with the symptoms of ADHD.

Get Diagnosed

If you think you may have ADHD but haven’t officially diagnosed yet, make this your priority. Getting diagnosed can have a positive effect on how you feel about yourself.

One study found that women were able to forgive themselves for mistakes in the past and felt more in control of their current lives once they were diagnosed with ADHD. Knowing they weren’t crazy and that there was a name for what they were going through provided a huge sense of relief.

Once you have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist, it's important to discuss treatment. Stimulant medications, for example, are often highly effective for ADHD.

Identify Coexisting Conditions

ADHD rarely travels alone, which means you might have one or more other conditions in addition to your ADHD. Try not to feel alarmed. Knowing what other conditions you have, if any, allows you to treat each one directly, which in turn means you can be your healthiest.

Sometimes symptoms of one condition can be masked by symptoms of ADHD or vice versa. The majority of adults with ADHD have at least one diagnosed or undiagnosed coexisting psychiatric disorder, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance use disorders

This is why it's important to share all your symptoms and concerns with your doctor. Being honest about what you are experiencing doesn't mean that you are complaining. Your doctor needs to know how you feel and what you're struggling with so they can provide you with the most appropriate treatment.

Drive Safely

Inattention and distractibility are the most common reasons for transport accidents. They are also the most common symptoms experienced by women with ADHD.

Drivers affected by ADHD can increase their safety on the road by doing the following:

  • Drive with a manual transmission. Consider driving a car with a manual gearbox rather than automatic because it forces you to be more engaged in the moment and less likely to zone out.
  • Reduce distractions. Before you start to drive, switch your phone off so that you aren’t distracted by incoming calls or texts. Don’t talk on the phone—even with a headset.
  • Don't drink and drive. Never drink and drive or take recreational drugs as these can further reduce your attention.

Let Go of Perfectionism

Let go of the need to be perfect. Spending too much time on small things that don’t have a big impact on your life to the detriment of more important tasks creates undue stress and anxiety.

For example, you might spend hours finding the perfect font for a report for work, while neglecting to start a presentation that is due tomorrow. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to meet impossibly high standards, work on putting things into perspective.

Since you have such high standards for yourself, the internal pressure to be perfect can also stop you from starting a task because it feels overwhelming.

Manage Your Time

Difficulty with time management is common for adult women with ADHD. You may lose track of time, have difficulty following through on plans, or underestimate how much time is needed for a task. You may also spend so much time on a task—known as hyperfocus—that nothing else gets done.

These difficulties can leave you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted. Below are some tips to help you manage your time better:

  • Get organized. Whether you have to go to work, run errands, or tackle household chores, it can be helpful to write down your top priorities. Try creating a schedule the night before so that you can start your day strong. Having a "game plan" will help you feel calmer.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Many women with ADHD say that it takes them longer to do things that other people. Begin by recognizing what you seem to be able to do faster than other people and what takes you more time. When you can take a balanced look at your strengths and weaknesses, it will help your confidence and self-esteem.
  • Allow yourself extra time. Make sure you have plenty of time to finish a project by giving yourself some cushion. Get in the habit of giving yourself an extra 10 minutes for every 30 minutes you think it will take you to complete a task.
  • Use timers. Allot yourself a limited amount of time for each task and use a timer to alert you when your time is up. The timer gives you an audible signal to stop what you are working on so you don't lose track of time.

Exercise

If you have hyperactivity, try incorporating physical activity into your daily routine. Not only will it help you feel focused and calm, but exercise is great for your physical and mental health.

You can channel your energy in many positive ways. Take this opportunity to become active in your community, help a loved one, or find a project that fulfills you. You may even discover a new hobby.

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Article Sources
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