By Kimberly Blaker
Women and Attention Deficit Disorder
ccording to Sari Solden, in her book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, “Almost all women find that life today is complex, upsetting or frustrating, but they are still able to meet most of life’s demands reasonably well…. For women with untreated Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), however, the demands of daily life can be crippling. It cripples their self-esteem, their families, their lives, their work and their relationships.” ADD, also known as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), affects between three and five percent of the population. However, adult ADD, especially as it appears in women, often goes unrecognized.
CHARACTERISTICS OF ADD IN WOMEN The symptoms of ADD are many. Some are more commonly seen in women and opposite the more recognized symptoms, making detection unlikely and diagnosis difficult. Each person’s experience is unique. While there is a multitude of characteristics, most women with the disorder don’t have every symptom. Instead, each woman has a mixture severe enough to impair some areas of life. Mental vs. Physical Disorganization: For women struggling with this disorder, disorganization is common and often a serious problem. They may be unable to organize their homes, offices, or lives. To outsiders, this disorganization is not always visible. Women who lead professional lives may have assistants, secretaries, and cleaning services to assist them. Some may have a partner who compensates for their organizational dysfunction. Those without such Symptoms of ADD Some of the symptoms commonly assistance may have such clutter and disarray seen in women, partially taken from At- that others wonder how she manages. Other women with ADD may find clutter and tention Deficit Disorder in Adults by Dr. disorganization an incredible distraction. These Lynn Weiss, are as follows: distractions, coupled with the responsibilities Difficulty completing tasks or follow- of everyday life, lead to mental disorganization as the scattered brain struggles to store, ing through on plans weed out, and organize in a logical fashion. For Difficulty shifting attention these women, being tidy and organized equals Excessively shifting from one activity survival. This trait, when coupled with difficulty to another shifting attention, may lead to over organizing Difficulty concentrating on reading to the point it engulfs one’s life. Impatience Hyperactivity vs. Hypoactivity: Women with Frequent preoccupation in thoughts ADD can be at either end of the spectrum, eiand not hearing when spoken to ther hyperactive or hypoactive (underactive). Difficulty sitting still or excessive Hyperactive women may go at full speed until fidgeting they crash from the overload. Family life can Sudden and unexpected mood also suffer with a hyperactive mother. She may be unable to sit and play games or read to her swings Interrupting in conversations, speak- children unless she finds the activities stimulating without considering consequenc- ing. If a hyperactive mom does manage to sit for an activity, she may fidget or feel anxious. es Many women with ADD are at the other Hot tempered extreme. They’re hypoactive, unable to musNeed for high stimulus ter the energy to do much of anything. These Forgetfulness women are often unable to keep up with life’s Low tolerance for frustration many demands such as maintaining a home, Tendency toward substance abuse participating in family activities, staying in 20 • Long Island Woman • November 2015
touch with friends, even holding down a job. This symptom is often perceived as laziness by outsiders and even family who may not understand. This misperception creates problems for the hypoactive woman and affects her self-esteem. Inattention vs. Hyperfocusing: Women with ADD struggle with the inability to regulate attention. This doesn’t mean they can never maintain attention. The ability to focus for most with ADD is based on interest and whether the activity is stimulating. Many women daydreamed through school. Yet the subjects or activities they found fun and interesting didn’t pose such a problem. Adult life may be the same. Hyperfocusing, the opposite of inattention, also poses problems and can coexist with symptoms of inattention. While it may be difficult to focus on some things, a woman may hyperfocus on that which interests her and be unable to shift. Hyperfocusing can last for hours, days, and longer and makes it difficult to break for important matters. Meals are forgotten. Family members may carry on conversations and not be heard. Hyperfocusing puts a strain on the family. If a hyperfocused woman does manage to pull away, she may wander aimlessly and forget what she is doing. Impatience and Impulsivity: Standing in lines, sitting in waiting rooms, and being placed on hold for lengthy waits drives some women with ADD to the brink, so they may avoid these situations altogether. These women may be impatient either visibly or internally or act impulsively. Minor nuisances can cause major agitation. Other women with this disorder are able to maintain their composure yet still feel anxious and annoyed. Women with ADD may also be impatient about life and events. She may plan her whole education or life in one day and need for it to happen immediately. She goes into things full swing rather than step-by-step. This can result in a change of heart after much investment or feeling spread too thin with too many goals to achieve. Impulsiveness is seen when women with the disorder act or speak without thinking. This often leads to trouble by spending impulsively or jumping into relationships and even marriage. Some struggle socially and interrupt conversations or blurt things out they later regret. Mood: Mood swings, being overemotional, or easily frustrated is another problem. For some women, having ADD is like being on an emotional roller coaster. Extreme shifts in mood sometimes lead to a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, though the two can coexist. Women with ADD are frustrated by the slightest aggravations. A simple mistake seems a major ordeal and may result in anger, storming off, and dropping a task altogether. If interrupted in the midst of something, a woman may become irritable and annoyed. Depression, although not a symptom of ADD, often coexists or is a result of the debilitating disorder. Depression in the ADD woman may stem from lack of self worth because she is unable to hold down a job or adequately care for her family. It may result from not achieving up to her potential because of attention problems in school or an inability to stick with anything. It also sometimes comes from feeling overwhelmed, a feeling that can dominate the life of a woman with this disorder.
MISDIAGNOSIS Studies show the incidence of ADD in men and women are nearly identical, says Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., co-author of Understanding Women with To advertise: 516-505-0555 x1 • liwomanonline.com/advertise
Published on Oct 23, 2015