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In response to my last article on ADHD in women being misdiagnosed, I got so many requests for more information! In my first post, I had to cut out a lot to keep the article from being 1000 pages long. Only a bit of an exaggeration.
But you want more information and I’ve got it for you! Here are the symptoms I left out.
The ADHD Woman often thinks she’s not capable.
If she had trouble with school as a kid, she might think that she can’t be competent at work. Or that she can’t budget herself because she’s not really capable.
Her social relationships may have been difficult, past and present. She might believe she’s unable to put herself out there, make new friends, please her boss, etc…
Whatever it is, she often has something that, even though she CAN do it, she believes that she can’t.
The ADHD woman often has difficulty managing time or money.
That can result in being late often, getting behind on bills, having poor credit, etc…
She may be able to do just enough to get by but her accounts are pretty disorganized. She can’t be sure everything always gets paid…
As a small business owner, I see this the worst when it comes to taxes. I have everything I need to survive an audit but I hope to God they never come for me. It will take me days to get it all together!
The ADHD Woman loses stuff All. The. Time.
As such, she often develops a near superpower of finding lost items. She gives herself a lot of practice…
I once lost my phone and couldn’t find it for 8 months. It was buried in the couch, apparently.
One year, I lost 4 out of 5 required tax documents. I wouldn’t be able to file without them. I didn’t realize I’d lost them until April 12th. With three days until filing…
Oh, the panic.
She dreads boring tasks to the point of feeling panicked or emotional.
Boring tasks are especially bad for an ADHDer if they require a lot of concentration. This is one of the things that led to my diagnosis.
Organizing my tax stuff is a big ordeal because I’m very disorganized. Because of that, I put it off to the last minute.
The deadline was right around the corner. I was dreading it. Every time I sat down to organize my taxes, I got overwhelmed. It felt like hot tears and panic.
And my brain felt completely shut down.
That’s when I talked to my doctor and she asked me to get an evaluation for ADHD.
I knew that the consequences would be rough if I didn’t get my taxes in. But not even the fear of the IRS was enough to get me through that blocked, panicked feeling.
The ADHD woman tends to get lost in her own little world, even while driving.
I mentioned this in the last post but it warrants further explanation. Getting lost in your own thoughts isn’t limited to conversations and lectures.
It also happens when you’re driving and even when you are the person talking in the conversation. I frequently get lost in thought and miss my turn or drive the wrong way.
Even when I don’t get lost on the road, I’m still not paying attention. That means I never learn how to get anywhere without navigation.
I had to use GPS for almost a year to get to work. Finally, I figured out that I literally only had to turn 3 times to get there…
Even now, I still use GPS to get there. I’m less likely to miss one of those turns thinking about something funny I said when I was 6 when I use it.
I mean, I have still missed my turn even with the GPS voice, but it’s at least LESS likely.
If the ADHD woman also has some hyperactive symptoms…
She usually comes across as being overly talkative. Interrupting others, talking over them, or not letting them get a word in edgewise… Or she fidgets and has a hard time sitting still.
I bite my nails when I’m concentrating hard. I twirl the end of my hair or twist my ring around my finger. Over. and Over. and Over. Constantly doing something with my hands but I’ve found ways to make them seem less noticeable to people.
When I’m in training,, I can’t sit for the duration of the lecture. You’ll often find me in the back of the room doing calf raises, tree pose, or trying to balance on one foot.
That’s what I was doing in grad school when a professor looks over and sees me almost hit somebody in the face because I lost my balance.
She was the first person to ever suspect it. She busts out laughing and says, “honey, do you have ADHD?” Wish I’d realized then that she was on to something…
The ADHD woman can be the chatty Cathy or socially withdrawn.
Despite being a fidgetter and a combined inattentive/hyperactive type, I tend toward the socially withdrawn side of the spectrum.
When I get lost in my head (which is most of the time), I don’t say much. I mean, occasionally, I talk to myself but… To everyone else, I might as well be on a different planet.
But the more hyperactive ADHD women may get lost in their head and then word vomit the stream of consciousness on anyone nearby.
The ADHD woman tends to overthink
Even though she knows the logical response to something, she often can’t regulate her attention enough to use those thoughts.
This is another point as to why therapy is often difficult when ADHD goes undiagnosed.
My doctor told me once that Attention deficit is a misnomer for ADHD. It really should be called Attention dis-regulation. He said that an ADHDer can focus as much as anyone. We just lack the ability to regulate and distribute that attention appropriately. YUP.
Before getting diagnosed, it was common for me to get entrenched in a thought or experience. My thoughts would perseverate and no amount of logic could shift my experience.
I think of it like this: you have a lottery ticket. So far, you have every number called. You’re just waiting on that last one… Your eyes are glued to the TV, right?
Nothing short of a major house fire can compete for your attention as you watch and wait. If you tried to pay attention to something else, it probably wouldn’t happen.
THAT is what it feels like when I’m entrenched in an experience or a thought. It’s like you’re stuck and even though you have the logical reasons to let go of a difficult experience, that logic doesn’t stick.
You want them to but can’t pull your attention from the “TV” to save your life.
Mindfulness could be really helpful to her, but she probably thinks she’s too scatterbrained to do it.
The ADHD Woman Often Feels Like Her Thoughts Don’t Connect
One thing that frustrates me about attending lectures is how quickly I forget what was discussed. By the time it’s over, most of what I learned is already lost in a mental abyss.
The thoughts never fully connect. I understand the presentation but that understanding doesn’t stick around after it’s over.
It seems like most people hear things, take them in, digest them, and then store the information.
The ADHD brain hears…
Sometimes registers that it’s hearing something…
Has a momentary comprehension that seems to land on a slip-n-slide…
And then it’s gone.
Trying to put everything together leaves you feeling like you’re lost in space. The information feels vague and most of it doesn’t stick around as long as you need it to.
I think of this as being similar to brain fog. It just feels kind of hazy and vague.
Keep in mind, brain fog is a symptom of A LOT of other diagnoses including fibromyalgia, various autoimmune disorders, and even other mental health disorders so this symptom has to be put in context.
Forgetting appointments? Check. Forgetting to text back? Check. Forgetting to pay bills? Check. Forgetting you agreed to meet a friend on Monday? Check.
The ADHD woman forgets. A lot.
One of my friends recently reminded me that she texted me weeks ago and I forgot to respond. Thankfully, she has ADHD too so she knew it wasn’t because I was avoiding her. I just forgot!
On several occasions, I have made appointments to network for my business and completely forgot about them. Thankfully, every time I’ve had them send a text confirmation that reminds me of the appointment.
That’s kept it from screwing me over.
Plus, having curly hair means people often can’t tell that I didn’t do anything with it and saving that time often keeps me from being late to the meeting that I forgot.?
Thankfully, I finally learned some ways to keep up with the to do list and appointments.
She prone to emotional overwhelm.
It’s interesting that there is no mention of emotional challenges in the criteria for ADHD. Research consistently shows that ADHD-ers are prone to having a hot temper, low frustration tolerance, impatience, high excitability, etc…
Basically, difficulties with working memory set an ADHDer up to experience momentary emotions to an overwhelming degree. That part of the brain carrying information on emotions seems to be somewhat limited in ADHDers.
The ADHD brain doesn’t distinguish as well between dangerous threats and minor issues. So she’s often more sensitive to stress and can get thrown into a panic with things that don’t warrant panic.
Then she has a tough time getting herself out of it.
I get really impatient but only in certain types of situations *cough* WALMART *cough*
Basically, that’s anywhere that has so many people you can’t move without bumping into one or ten people and no one seems to even notice that they nearly ran you over.
I’m getting annoyed just thinking about it. I can get so frustrated that I fantasize about ramming a cart into people…and I am as far from a violent or aggressive person as you can get.
I mean, I’m a vegetarian because I can’t stand the thought of animals dying. But sheesh… Walmart.
But she also probably tries to avoid those emotions.
These emotions get so overwhelming.
Whether it’s the intense restlessness when she’s trying to focus, or the frustration with whatever her triggers are, it’s overwhelming. The ADHD woman often tries to avoid the overwhelm.
By procrastinating tasks or avoiding people, etc…
It takes me a long time to get angry but when I do, it totally and completely overwhelms my entire mind and body. It’s so intense and uncomfortable I avoid getting angry as much as possible.
ADHDers tend to get entrenched in emotions and have difficulty regulating or shifting their attention to other aspects of the situation at times. When I’m angry, it feels like nothing else in the world exists but my anger. It’s pretty rough.
The ADHD woman is often EXTREMELY sensitive to disapproval.
No one likes the feeling that they are being judged, but someone with ADHD tends to experience that feeling as totally and completely overwhelming body and brain.
One wrong look can set off a flooding of shame, embarrassment, fear…
I can remember working with a guy that I felt didn’t like me. When I was in a meeting with him, he just seemed annoyed with me even though he never said anything directly.
My response was so overwhelming that when I’d see him in the hallway, I would duck into another room to hide from him. My reaction drove me nuts.
I couldn’t understand why I was so overwhelmed that a grown woman was hiding from someone who wasn’t trying to be best friends with her.
Other people get really overwhelmed with the feeling of disapproval and respond with defensiveness or arguing.
The ADHD Woman often struggles with social anxiety.
The extreme sensitivity to disapproval combined with feeling like people think you are incompetent makes for some excessive anxiety. Over 1/3 of ADHDers have an additional social anxiety.
If you’ve looked around my blog, you’ll know I have some experience with this. Social anxiety. Perfectionism. Overthinking. That’s a lot of us ADHD women.
She’s too familiar with foot in mouth disease.
Sometimes ADHD is your brain being too fast for your mouth and sometimes it’s your mouth being too fast for your brain.
When that last one happens, it can get awkward. Like the time I was hanging out with someone and she laughed. Her laugh was so unique and without thinking, I tried to laugh the same way, just to see if I could.
I knew immediately that it was a mistake but by that time…well, what’s done is done. She looked offended and I was back to that socially anxious business.
She often makes careless mistakes.
It’s like this one is on repeat.
I accidentally throw away important papers because I’m sick of the messy house (see the first post) that I just start throwing things away. I call it the great purge.
Cleaning is boring and I try to get it over with fast. It’s easy to forget about the things I lost in the last great purge. Like when I accidentally threw away the car title.
Yes, that should have been put where I store those important documents, but I’m often too disorganized to have a go-to place.
Scanning texts and emails instead of actually reading them gets me in trouble, too. I miss important details like an appointment scheduled for today when I thought it said tomorrow…
You know, mistakes that wouldn’t have been made if I had been really paying attention.
This list is by no means comprehensive.
These are just the symptoms I’ve experienced and others I’ve talked to have experienced with ADHD.
I may have even forgotten a few (ADHD here, remember? ?).
If you are identifying with a lot of these symptoms, ask yourself if they’ve been there since you were a kid. ADHD starts by the age of 12.
If your symptoms didn’t start until adulthood, it’s likely something else. There are a lot of things that mimic ADHD.
I’m planning some more information about that coming soon.
It’s also really important to work with a professional to find out if ADHD is what’s going on for you. ADHD can be difficult to tease apart from other issues. Sometimes there’s more than one thing you’re dealing with.
I’ve heard from a lot of you and have experienced it myself that many doctors are ill-informed about adult ADHD and that has made diagnosis tough.
I have two resources to help so make sure you check those out!
The Diagnostic Resource to help you find a good doctor
Great Symptom Resources!
Whether you are already diagnosed or you’re not sure but totally relate to symptoms, these things really come in handy.
My weighted blanket that I sleep with every night. The pressure calms me down, helps me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. I LOVE this blanket. It goes on all of my trips with me. I’m never without it.
My Favorite chair to do the things I have to do but don’t want to do. This chair is one of my favorite things ever. It helps manage the frustration and build up of energy while working on all the stuff I really, REALLY don’t want to do.
Alexa manages reminders, to do lists, and soooooo much more. She remembers passwords (because heaven knows I can’t), she sets timers (so I don’t burn the pizza three times). You can even ask her the answer to life (HHGTG says it’s 42).
This Smart Plug helps make sure you ACTUALLY turned the iron off without going back home to find out. Then maybe you can get to work on time for once 😉