ADHD Symptoms in Women: My Path to Diagnosis

ADHD Symptoms in Women: My Path to Diagnosis

I spent years researching ADHD and how to best support my children. I knew ADHD would be a lifelong companion from the time my oldest was a toddler. However, my first serious introduction to it was through my kids - I realized I had some ADHD tendencies, but my history seemed contrary to so much that I’d read. I was an obedient, competitive, over-achieving valedictorian who soared through school with extreme organization and high enough test scores, accomplishments, and grades to get full ride scholarships to undergraduate and graduate school.


By the time I was 41, I’d had dozens of medical appointments and participated in years of therapy with my kids - PCIT, TBRI, EMDR, Theraplay, and more. A side comment from my daughter’s psychiatrist sent me reeling - he said that her symptoms would likely look a lot different in adulthood, and rattled off a couple of things - “these are the people who are constantly late, always lose their keys, and are constantly busy.”


I stopped him to ask more, and immediately went down a rabbit hole of research about how ADHD presents in women. There’s a phenomenon where it is wildly misdiagnosed, because it often presents so differently in girls than in boys. Girls with ADHD often aren’t the ones squirming in their seats and missing assignments. My hyperactivity presented as a constant restlessness and the need to fill every night and every weekend with activity. My obsessive agenda-keeping and note-taking in high school weren’t because I was so on top of everything - they were coping mechanisms I had developed in order to succeed.


Many women fight to get a diagnosis - I lucked into a wonderful conversation with my long-term primary care doctor, who immediately told me that she had ADHD and wouldn’t be surprised if I did as well. When I asked what she’d noticed about me that made her think that, she said that my conversations were always informed and well-informed (because of my hyperfocus, I’d always researched everything in advance) but also totally random and hopping from one topic to the other.


Sure enough, the psychiatrist she referred me to for evaluation diagnosed combined type ADHD (both inattentive and hyperactive), and our household was up to 3/4 diagnosed with ADHD, along with a hearty dash of anxiety and other neurodiversities.


I hope that through this site, the extensive research that I have done (yay hyperfocus!) can benefit other families who have adults or kids with ADHD.

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