When my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in 1994, there was virtually no information on ADHD in girls. Some doctors even told me it was impossible. At the time, specialists willing to admit it existed said that for every girl with ADHD, there were 3 or 4 boys who had it. Today, I still occasionally hear the same statistic quoted though we now know it is completely false. The new statement should be “for every 3 or 4 boys we diagnose with ADHD, we fail to diagnose and treat 2 or 3 girls.” We fail because we don’t recognize that ADHD often does not manifest itself the same way in girls as it does in boys.
The Impact of Unrecognized ADHD in Girls
The daydreaming girl who sits quietly at the back of the class doesn’t get recognized because she is quiet. She also doesn’t get the attention she needs to thrive and achieve her full educational potential. She does not have the opportunity to choose a career that allows her to contribute using her unique strengths. Without that opportunity, she may instead, land a job that forces her to work in her areas of weaknesses, handling details or doing work that bores her to tears. Not all ADHD women end up like this but that is, for many girls, the cost of not being treated.
Women Have Unique Issues
Women also struggle with unique issues. While we may have made great strides in sharing responsibility in the home, the responsibility of dealing with family details (a child’s friend’s birthday party, managing meals and daycare, dealing with housework and renovations, helping kids with homework, etc.) often fall on mothers. In this situation, many ADHD mothers feel overwhelmed and incompetent. When they let a ball drop, they feel a great deal of guilt and shame. On this front, we need to address these issues and change how we divide chores and responsibilities so that every member of the family contributes, not by some arbitrary standard of what each member “should” do, but going instead with your strengths.
Finally! Some Attention Given to Women’s Inattentiveness
Next year, 2016, arriving in just a few short days, has a great deal in store for women with ADHD. First, the ADHD Women’s Palooza, hosted by Linda Roggli and Terry Matlin, will take place from January 11 to 16th. I’ll be one of 31 guest speakers address issues of ADHD in women exclusively.
Secondly, Sari Solden, author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder and Journeys Through ADDulthood, will be hosting the Better Together Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She decided to hold a festival (which sounds a lot like a big party!) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of her ground-breaking book, Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, on May 14th, 2016. I’ll also be attending this event along with a long list of other ADHD specialists.
Let’s use these two events as catalyst to put more attention on the unique challenges faced by women with ADHD for the coming year and let’s find better solutions for them.