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The Honest Truth About ADHD in Women Being Misdiagnosed

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. Women often receive diagnosis later in life.

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,

René

P. S. If you’re getting serious about getting your ADHD symptoms under control, check out my Ultimate Guide to  ADHD

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20 thoughts on “The Honest Truth About ADHD in Women Being Misdiagnosed

  1. “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. Never ever. In fact you need to write a blog on how men might be overdiagnosed with vision problems because they don’t seem to be able to see $#!+!!!

    Okay, sorry. Took a side road there. But this is very insightful but somewhat disheartening. I feel like I’ll never be able to get it together 🙁 But I agree with every word.

  2. Really enjoyed reading this article. Very encouraging. Loved: “If you’re better at splitting atoms than sweeping, why waste your time trying to turn yourself into Donna Reed” haha, Amen sister! I thought you made several great points and key observations that really hit home for me, particularly regarding the expectations we have for men vs women in the home. Looking forward to sharing this with others. Thank you!

  3. My biggest challenge is finding and keeping stable employment. I have been a temp going from one assignment to the next for years due to this condition. The type of feedback I usually receive after I get let go is; ?You don?t seem to take your job seriously because you make too many careless mistakes?, or ?You don?t seem to have the sense of urgency that?s required to be successful in this company?. I put so much effort into doing well, but instead I fail horribly. Medication helps significantly but with lack of stable insurance from no stable employment make it difficult for me to get through. My main goal is to be positive and practice positive habits and speak positivity in my life. However, I?m starting to wear down and I don?t know how much of this I can take. All I want is to be a good mother, maintain stable gainful employment so I can thrive and grow to new heights. ADHD is a curse I wouldnt wish on anyone. Please help me out of this trap! This is no way to live!!

    1. You are NOT the only one struggling with this employment thing, and I am so sorry. I?m definitely here to help if I can, you?re welcome to contact me anytime. ?

  4. You might as well have copied out my last performance review (the one they gave me before saying my contract would not be reviewed).
    I’m still trying to work it out myself, having only recently come to the realisation of probably have ADHD. There is something out there for us, we just have to find it. Hold on!

  5. I was lamenting to my husband just yesterday about how frustrated I get that I can?t keep my home clean like other women I know. I had had such a productive day of work and even did some Christmas shopping, but we have family coming and I felt hopeless looking at my messy living room. This is such a good reminder that we shouldn?t HAVE to do it all, especially with ADHD on top of it all. Everyone who loves a woman with ADHD needs to read this. Thank you for expressing so well what I?ve struggled to write myself!

    1. I am so glad that it brought you some peace. We don’t deserve all of the stress we put on ourselves. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

  6. ?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?….

    Wow!!!!! Never before gave words resonates with me more.

    Love LOVE this article!!!

  7. Your description of young girls was me to a T! My overactive brain kept me employed and thriving in a profession I loved until menopause. THAT is a whole other story, with little research or attention!

  8. I’m married to my wife who’s an ADHD’r. She was recently diagnosed in her late 30’s and is finally getting treatment and putting the pieces together after years of being misdiagnosed.

    I know how challenging it is to support her, but I’m thankful she has online resources like this blog. Thank you for your article.

    1. Hi EC,

      I apologize for the late reply, but I am overjoyed to hear about your wife’s diagnosis. I wish the two of you so much luck on the journey ahead of you!

  9. I swear the more I read about ADHD in women the more I’m like: THAT’S ME! I’ve always been the chatterbox, daydreamer. I can sit and read a book that interests me.. for hours, but any other book and I’m a lost cause. Sometimes I have to skip around in the book just to try and keep my attention on it. I am extremely forgetful and easily distracted. I NEED to be doing more than one thing at a time because I literally CANNOT do only one thing at a time. I can’t sit quietly and listen but I can listen while I doodle or color or have music in the background. I’ve always thought it was just me but damn ADHD just freaking explains my freaking childhood and adulthood. I have rarely been able to finish what I started. Funny thing is I have a son with ADHD and a spouse with it, and both present with the classic symptoms so both tell me I can’t possibly have ADHD because I don’t present like them. Ugh. Psychology needs to get it together already and see how social expectations often impact the way these neurological differences present in women.

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