Do you keep nodding your head and pretending to listen, but secretly checked yourself out of the conversation five minutes ago? What about those racing thoughts that never seem to calm down? Constantly crossing and picking up your legs or tossing and turning in bed? Or my personal favorite: Laying down at 9 p.m., doom-scrolling TikTok to calm down from an overwhelming day, and then realizing it’s suddenly 2 a.m. because you’re not time conscious?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD.
There are many clinical descriptions of what ADHD feels like to the person suffering from it. These include difficulties in six areas of executive function. John Mersch, MD describes these as shifting from one mindset or strategy to another, organization, planning, working memory, separation of emotion and reason, and appropriate regulation of language and movements. Merschs The clinical description of what ADHD feels like also includes inattention, such as: B. Failure to pay close attention to detail, difficulty maintaining attention on tasks, and avoidance of tasks that require sustained mental effort.
Imagine this: you are in a room with a thousand televisions, and every TV shows something different. Now try to focus on just one TV without getting distracted. After you’ve focused for five minutes, tell me what just happened on the show. In addition, you have a paper that accounts for 50% of your final grade in 30 minutes that you have not started yet because it requires a series of assignments – try to start on that too. Welcome in my life.
I was diagnosed with ADHD in February 2022 when I was 20 years old, Mid spring semester of my junior year in college. This diagnosis was life-shattering on so many levels, and so many questions rocked my world.
Have you ever thought that part of you “is just how everyone feels” and that you just have to suck it up and deal with it? Stop being lazy and find out for yourself? be more disciplined? Yeah, it’s no fun to feel this way. This is a common mindset among people diagnosed with ADHD later in life.
How did it take so long to get a diagnosis? Unfortunately, it is common for women with ADHD not to be diagnosed until adulthood. There are two big reasons for this.
There is little research looking at ADHD in adult women. Boys are more likely to get an accurate diagnosis than girls, too. Corresponding WebMDgender bias and overlooked ADHD symptoms may explain why Girls show less overt hyperactive behavior than boys. WebMD also acknowledges that misdiagnosis may be to blame; Instead, doctors diagnose women with other mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression. Although there are similar symptoms (such as mood problems, forgetfulness, and trouble concentrating), it’s important to recognize that these disorders are not the same. Symptoms must be fully considered in the assessment.
These two reasons point to my own late diagnosis.
As a woman whose hyperactivity didn’t manifest itself in disruptive classroom behavior or constant movement, my ADHD wasn’t obvious enough to see and my grades were good enough that I didn’t even have to consider it being there. Without realizing it, I was exceptionally good at masking my symptoms to make them appear normal. I didn’t look like I couldn’t concentrate because I was particularly good at pretending to listen. As my mind raced and my heart rate soared, I appeared calm and still on the outside.
My impulsiveness didn’t manifest itself in blurting out answers in class, but instead, like cheating in my relationships and a terrible way with money (you would also buy Taco Bells all the time if you could… right?) My symptoms were not the norm and because some were considered “quirky female traits” they were overlooked or even laughed at.
Okay, all of this information is great and important to know, but you’re probably wondering: Why is this important to me? It’s important because of the risks. That American Psychological Association found that adult women with untreated ADHD are at risk for divorce, financial crises, raising a child with ADHD, never completing college, underemployment, substance abuse, eating disorders, and ongoing stress. It’s important, too, because the more we don’t talk about it, the more women are left in the dust. Education and advocacy are critical to bridging the ADHD gender gap and helping women like me get the help and resources they need to succeed.
Let’s change the dynamic from hidden and unknown to loud and proud. ADHD is not something to hide or be ashamed of. We should recognize it and the people who have been diagnosed with it.
My name is Bailey Houston, and I have ADHD. I don’t want to hide that part of me anymore and I hope you don’t either. Be the change you want to see – for you, for me and for the ADHD community, undiagnosed or otherwise.