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In response to my last article on ADHD in women being misdiagnosed, I got so many requests for more information! The reality is, in my first post, I had to cut out a lot of information to keep the article from being 1000 pages long (not really, but it seemed like it!)
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 can’t do things she wants to do.If she had trouble with school as a kid, she might think that she can’t be competent at work or she can’t budget herself because she’s not really capable. If she had trouble navigating social relationships, 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 her 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 check book and and accounts are in such a disorganized state she’s not positive that everything actually got 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 because it will take me days to find it all and get it organized enough to be useful.
▶She looses her stuff All. The. Time. As such, she often develops a near superpower of being able to find stuff because, well, 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.
This last year, I lost 4 out of 5 tax documents that were required for me to be able to file my taxes. (Plus, with the procrastination from the last post, you probably also put together that I didn’t realize I’d lost these 4 necessary documents until I was filing my taxes at the last second). Oh, the panic…
▶She dreads boring tasks to the point of feeling panicked or emotional if she has to do them. 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 (especially since I’m so disorganized it literally took me weeks to get it all together well enough to file it). I was dreading it to the point of wanting to cry and run away every time I sat down to do it. 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 that in the last post but it warrants further explanation. Getting lost in your own thoughts doesn’t just happen when you are supposed to be listening to a lecture or your in a conversation. It happens when you’re driving and even when you are the person talking in the conversation. It’s a very common occurrence for me to get lost in thought and miss my turn or drive the wrong way.
Even when I don’t get lost on the road, the fact that I spend so much time in my head means I’m not paying attention to my surroundings so I never learn how to navigate places. I had to use GPS for almost a year to get to work before I figured out that I literally only had to turn 3 times to get there. Now, I still use GPS to get there because I’m less likely to miss one of those turns thinking about something funny I said when I was 6 if the GPS yells out to turn. 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… they most likely come across as being very talkative (mostly too talkative–interrupting others, talking over them, or not letting them get a word in edgewise), or it tends to be fidgeting in subtle ways. I personally bite my nails when I’m concentrating hard and 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 (heck, even in grad school), 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 above, or she can be the complete opposite and be 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), nothing is likely to come out of my mouth–I’m more withdrawn into myself. Verses the more hyperactive ADHDer who gets lost in their head and word vomits the stream of consciousness all over the person in front of them. They can also go back and forth between the two but may not often find themselves in a happy medium.
▶The ADHD woman tends to overthink and, even though she knows the logical response to something, often can’t regulate her attention enough to fully consider 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, that it really should be called Attention DYSREGULATION because and ADHDer can have plenty of focus, just not enough of an ability to distribute that attention appropriately.
So, I for one have, especially pre-treatment, gotten myself entrenched in a thought or an experience that, even though I can think of all of the logical evidence against this place I’m in, they don’t seem to matter. I think of it like this: if you had a lottery ticket and so far every number they’ve played has been on your ticket, you are going to be glued to that TV. Nothing short of a major house fire is going to be able to compete for your attention as you wait to see if you have all the numbers.
THAT is what it feels like when I’m entrenched in an experience or a thought. I’m stuck there and even though I have thought of all of the logical reasons why I can or should let go of a difficult thought or experience, they don’t stick. I want them to. OMG do I want them to. But I can’t pull my attention from the “TV” to save my life.
▶On top of getting entrenched in thoughts, she often finds that thoughts don’t fully connect. One of the things that frustrates me most about attending a lecture is, even if I’m fascinated by the subject, I can’t remember any of it once the lecture is over because the thoughts never fully connect. I comprehend what the person is saying but it’s like it just doesn’t stick.
It seems like most people hear things, take them in, digest them, and then store the information. It seems like my brain hears, sometimes it registers that it’s hearing something, there is a momentary comprehension that seems to land on a slip-n-slide and then it’s gone. Trying to put everything together leaves me feeling like I’m lost in space. The information feels vague and I can’t remember most of it.
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.
▶She’s forgetful. Forgetting appointments? Check. Forgetting to text back? Check. Forgetting to pay bills? Check. Forgetting you agreed to meet a friend on Monday? Check. She forgets. A lot.
One of my friend’s read the last ADHD article and 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, the person usually texts me to confirm the morning of or to tell them they are running late so I can throw on some clothes and hurriedly brush my teeth. 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.😂
▶She prone to emotional overwhelm. It’s interesting that there is no mention of emotional challenges in the criteria for ADHD but research consistently shows that ADHDers 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 have a tough time getting herself out of it because the ADHD brain doesn’t deal more rationally or realistically with these kinds of stress.
I get really impatient but only in certain types of situation *cough* WALMART *cough* Basically 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…
▶But she also probably tries to avoid those emotions. Because these emotions get so overwhelming–whether it’s the intense restlessness when she’s trying to really focus on something boring, or the anger or frustration that comes with whatever her triggers are–they feels so overwhelming that she often avoids them however she can. 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.
▶She’s likely to be 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.
▶She likely struggles with social anxiety. The extreme sensitivity to disapproval combined with feeling like people will or do think you are incompetent or uncool makes for some excessive anxiety for the (more than) 1/3 of ADHDers who have an additional social anxiety. If you’ve looked around my blog, you’ll know I have some experience with this.
▶She’s 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 she did just to see if I could do it. 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 makes careless mistakes. It’s like this one is on repeat. Accidentally throwing away important papers because she’s sick of the messy house (see the first post) and cleaning is boring so she just starts throwing stuff away, forgetting that the last time she did this, she accidentally threw away the care title (which should have been where she stores those important documents but she’s too disorganized to have a go-to place). Or scanning texts and emails instead of actually reading them and not realizing that the appointment is for TODAY, and showing up for it tomorrow. Mistakes that she wouldn’t have made if she’d been paying better attention. And it’s all the time.
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? 😂). As you are scrolling through this list and the last post, it’s really important to keep in mind that, if you are identifying with a lot of these symptoms, for it to be ADHD there has to have been signs of this when you were 12 or younger. If it didn’t start until adulthood, it’s likely something else. There are a lot of thinks 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 look like a lot of other things and sometimes you have more than one thing going on and it can get really hairy to try to tease apart your symptoms. 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’m planning a resource to help with this but, since it’s not out yet, here are some ideas to help:
▶If you’ve had a friend who’s been diagnosed with ADHD, ask her who she sees
▶See if you have any ADHD specialists in your area. I googled “ADHD specialist near me” and found a place with “Attention” in the title. It was safe bet they specialized, and they did!
▶Look for a doctor or therapist who is open about having their own challenges with ADHD.
▶Ask before you see the doctor if they’ve had any additional training in diagnosing or treating Adult ADHD
Don’t miss what’s coming next.
Seriously. I have plans for an invaluable tool to help you with getting the right diagnosis, what to say to ADHD naysayers, the BEST parts about having ADHD, and a pretty mind blowing post coming up about stress. Even if you’ve done a ton of research about stress, I’m pretty sure this post will still knock you off your feet. Don’t miss it! Make sure you subscribe.😉
And if you are interested, here are my favorite ADHD resources to manage symptoms:
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 I’m sitting 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. For all the times you can’t remember if you turned the iron off even though you checked like 50 times. Keeps you from having to turn around and go check it again 😉
Tell me, what are your experiences with these challenges? What do you want to know more about?