Women and Adult ADHD
Being diagnosed with ADHD can be an enormous relief for anyone, but especially for women, who are generally expected to be able to multitask with ease. The rigors of juggling housework, meal planning and preparation, bill paying, work, and raising children all at the same time can leave a woman with ADHD feeling like an inadequate failure.
Finally having an answer, other than the negative self-perception of being inadequate or lazy, can make a tremendous difference. Compared to men with ADHD, women with the condition are more likely to have anxiety and depression, likely related to years or even decades of trying to deal with undiagnosed and untreated ADHD.
So, you finally have an answer. You're thrilled to discover that your lifelong struggles with inattentiveness and organization are not due to laziness, stupidity, lack of motivation, or lack of trying. Now what?
Having a diagnosis will do you no good unless it serves as the impetus to seek positive change. Vow to not allow your ADHD diagnosis to be your excuse; instead, aim to make your ADHD work for you. Some suggestions for living well as a woman with ADHD include the following:
- Structure, structure, and more structure: Just as children with ADHD often thrive in a structured environment, there is a good chance that additional structure in your life will help you live better. But structure doesn't come naturally to people with this condition. Lists, routines, and schedules can all help, but only if they don't overwhelm you. Keep routines and lists simple, and adjust them as necessary.
- Declutter: People with ADHD often live a cluttered life, as they like to leave mail, paperwork, and various household items out in plain view to serve as visual reminders of tasks that need to be completed. They've discovered that "out of sight, out of mind" is very true for them. However, this system usually degenerates into a mess, with so much stuff left out that nothing serves as a visual reminder. Regular efforts to declutter will pay off and are well worth the effort.
- Throw out the trash (or donate it): Having too much stuff sets you up for a disorganized life, especially if you have ADHD. Thin out your possessions, tossing out the trash and donating the usable items you no longer need. Keep it simple, though, and make small, achievable goals so you'll follow through. Don't aim to clean out your entire house all at once; instead, just do little bits at a time. Take a few minutes to clean out your makeup drawer as you get ready in the morning, for instance. Little by little, it will end up making a big difference.
- Aim for simplicity: People with ADHD get bogged down with details and complicated organizational systems, schedules, and plans. Don't aim for more organization; aim for simpler organization. Instead of devising a complicated system for keeping track of bills, try to keep it as simple as possible. Consider tossing all bills together in a basket and paying them all on a weekly basis on a specific day each week, or better yet, sign them all up for "auto-pay."
- No excuses: It can be extraordinarily difficult to explain your struggle with ADHD to others, such as your partner or boss, without it being viewed as an excuse. This is a difficult task to manage, and your explanations will almost always be viewed as excuses if you don't also explain the steps you'll be taking to make positive changes.
- Love your brain: Try to view ADHD, not as a disease you've been inflicted with, but rather as the unique way your brain works. This doesn't mean you shouldn't seek treatment and shouldn't try to improve, but it does mean cutting back on the negative self-talk and self-perceptions.
- Let your kids see your struggle: This is especially important if you have a child with ADHD too. Explain the changes you're trying to make and why you think they might be helpful. Talk about when you try to do things the "normal" way (like the rest of the world), it just doesn't work for you. Explain that this doesn't mean you're a failure, but that your brain will do better with a different, nonstandard approach. Try to talk about yourself in a positive way and model a positive self-image for your children. Laugh at your failures, and brainstorm together with your kids for solutions.
- Seek treatment: Maybe treatment means medications; maybe it means counseling and therapy. What works for one woman may not work for the next. Keep an open dialogue with your healthcare professionals, and try not to get discouraged if change is slow. However, don't settle for treatment that isn't working well or is causing intolerable side effects, as there are many different adult ADHD treatment options available.