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ADHD in women can create unique challenges
How women deal with ADHD is a lot different than how men and boys do. While men are encouraged to be themselves, we are often encouraged to conform, to color within the lines and to do so quietly. Somebody needs to call Cyndi Lauper: lots of girls aren’t having fun, no matter how badly they want to.
I’ve talked at length about the ADHD diagnosis for myself and what a lengthy process it was going from diagnosis to treatment, but believe me when I tell you it was a miracle that I was diagnosed in the first place.
Why are ADHD women being misdiagnosed?
There are a few reasons for this, one being that women talk more about their feelings than their symptoms. So instead of telling you that they are impulsive, they may tell you instead of how they felt after they said something that hurt someone’s feelings. Instead of telling you they can’t get organized, they might share with you how depressed trying to keep up with their ordinary lives can make them.
ADHD symptoms in women can present differently
In children, boys are more frequently diagnosed because they show “classic” symptoms of hyperactivity, such as being unable to sit still; girls are more likely to show their hyperactivity by being chatterboxes, by interrupting, by being more emotional than the average child because social standards often dictate that they are not to behave wildly as the boys do. Unable to suppress hyperactivity, many women deal with ADHD by retreating into daydreams, fidget, and as aforementioned, talk and interrupt excessively.
Societal norms suck
Now back to those societal values we were talking about. Society says that as a woman I should be organizing my family, keeping a pristine home, and involved in a variety of activities, all while being cheery, positive and never saying no. In other words, femininity is often less defined by WHO we are in favor of WHAT we are supposed to be. If women deal with ADHD, they often struggle to meet these qualities that are considered feminine. Therefore, they spend a great deal of time feeling inadequate. I cannot tell you what kind of effect this can have on a woman’s self-esteem. We attach moral values to so many of these “standards” that we have set up for ourselves, such as:
I’m a poor housekeeper, therefore I am less of a woman than a woman who is an excellent housekeeper.
I’ll never be as great of an organizer as Susan; I really must be incompetent.
Other mothers do a much better job of keeping their patience with their children, while I’m always snapping at mine. I’m a terrible mother.
Women with ADHD long for recognition from those they love most
We are constantly caught in the act of comparison and competition against each other for the right to call ourselves “good”. Good mother. Great wife. Wonderful sister. Loving daughter. We wait for the recognition of those who we serve and sacrifice for, often thanklessly, and we rarely get it.
We cope with ADHD differently
We are measuring ourselves against these standards that may not be realistic for the lives we intend to lead. How can women deal with ADHD when they are preoccupied with expectations that are designed for them to fail? If you really want to promote feminism, get women to stop castigating themselves over dust bunnies and dirty dishes. When, for instance, have you ever heard a man state that he felt like less of a man because he couldn’t stop leaving socks on the floor? NEVER! If you are better at splitting atoms than you are at sweeping, why would you waste your time trying to turn yourself into Donna Reed?
Undiagnosed ADHD in adult women can fuel feelings of inadequacy
When women deal with ADHD, we also fall into another trap: because we feel so inadequate when we show up late or invite you into our sometimes messy homes, or lose our patience with you, we spend a great deal of time attempting to compensate in other ways. We chronically over commit to things that don’t make us happy. If there is a task to sign up for, a board to sit on, if you ask us to watch your five blind bulldogs we will probably say yes.
Read this: How ADHD Relationships Are Remarkable
We want to make it up to you
Why do we do that? Because we want to make it up to you. We are constantly apologizing for who we are not, while we never seem to demand you appreciate us for who we are. Then we drain our precious energy, our financial resources and our very sanity trying to please people who will ALWAYS find a reason to be dissatisfied. We fall into despair by wearing ourselves out trying to prove our devotion.
How Women Deal With ADHD
How does this tie in with ADHD? I’ll tell you. With the executive function issues many of us have ( executive function is impulse control, the ability to organize tasks and manage time and prioritize, etc), try as we might, we may never be perfect housekeepers, though it burns our soul to admit it. We may never be as patient with our children. Women with ADHD may never be able to balance our checkbook to the penny, we may never run every committee. Slowly women are killing ourselves trying to prove ourselves. For the sake of our sanity, we must judge our womanhood, our goodness by a simple standard: I will use this day to be the very best self that I can be, and I will continue to press towards improvement, even if I never fully complete the journey. Girls, go have fun.
Until next time,
P. S. If you’re getting serious about getting your ADHD symptoms under control, check out my Ultimate Guide to ADHD