ADHD, we’ve all heard the term before. When it comes to common mental health illnesses, ADHD is one that surely makes the list. But what exactly is it? What are its symptoms? And most importantly, how do you know if you have ADHD?
What is ADHD?
Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a mental health condition characterized by difficulty in paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. The disorder manifests itself in three forms: inattentiveness, hyperactivity or impulsiveness, or a combination of the two. When it comes to ADHD in adults, more specifically in women, the condition has a tendency to go undetected. This can be chalked down to the fact that when it comes to diagnosis there is a huge disparity between the various symptoms displayed in women. Women are consistently underdiagnosed as common symptoms are often mistaken personality traits.
Common Symptoms in Women
While men have a tendency to show signs of hyperactive/ impulsive ADHD, women are on the other end of the spectrum, exhibiting symptoms of inattentive ADHD. This particular form of the condition makes it difficult to focus, pay attention to details, stay organized, listen and remember things. These symptoms often develop in early adolescent years but are dismissed as personality traits such as shyness, chattiness or forgetfulness. Commonly diagnosed symptoms include:
- Psychological distress
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Low self esteem
- Chronic stress
Signs to look out for
While these don’t include all the signals that a woman with ADHD can display, these definitely are some common ones.
- Relationships- When it comes to relationships many women wish that they were able to become a better friend, partner, mother or daughter. This frequently arises due to societal expectations of what a woman should be and do, and if at some point you are unable to meet that extremely unfair standard you might end up questioning your self-worth.
- Social Life – Growing up many women with ADHD are described as tomboys, this fosters in adults as feelings of uncertainty when it comes to public gatherings and socializing. While you might be a talkative person, you may dislike going to social events for the reason that they make you feel overwhelmed and vulnerable. Hence, your mind might shift from the conversation unless you’re the center of attention or it is a topic that you take interest in.
- Career– Many patients of ADHD find it difficult to get work done in offices due to the noise and people present which makes it hard for them to focus. This can result in staying late or coming in early to get work done efficiently and avoid people.
- School Life- Symptoms at an early stage in school life may get overlooked since women tend to have inattentive ADHD, which does not show up in more visible and detectable problems like hyperactivity and impulsiveness. As an adult you might end up feeling frustrated that people in the same walks of life with you have out done themselves with their achievements, which may not be the case.
Conditions that go hand-in-hand with ADHD
Many women tend to have coexisting conditions when it comes to ADHD, this is often due to the overlapping symptoms of the disorder. Some conditions which go alongside ADHD are as follows:
- Substance Abuse Disorders, such as alcohol or drug addictions
- Anxiety Disorders, such as social anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Sleep Disorders, such as insomnia or narcolepsy
- Eating Disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
- Mood Disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder
After having discussed all common things with regards to ADHD we move on to perhaps the most difficult part of the disorder, the diagnosis. Signs of ADHD in adults, especially women can be hard to spot. However, core symptoms develop in adolescent years and continue on to adulthood, causing significant issues. Due to the nature of the condition, no single test can confirm the diagnosis. There can be various steps such as physical exams, information gathering, ADHD rating scales or psychological tests in order to conduct a thorough diagnosis. Treatments for ADHD in adults typically involve psychological counselling, education, medication, skill training and behavioral therapy.
While the whole concept of ADHD might seem daunting, never forget that you can always reach out for help. The disorder is more common than you think, and you never know who might need your support. So remember to be kind, to yourself and others.
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Written By Dishita Jallan