ADHD: Suffering in Silence: Women With Adult ADHD (cont.)

Although these girls may get good grades or are praised for their work, they often feel they don't deserve it, and that chance had something to do with their success. So they work harder to prove themselves, to the point of sacrificing sleep and good nutrition, or setting up a very rigid schedule for themselves in a sometimes obsessive-compulsive manner.

As girls become women and take on more responsibilities, the stakes grow higher, even without ADHD. Many of today's women are expected to not only work, but also take care of the house and children.

The average woman is already doing more, says Terry Matlen, MSW, author of Survival Tips For Women with ADHD: Beyond Piles, Palms, and Post-its. She says, "If you add the burden of ADHD symptoms -- getting overwhelmed, being forgetful, being hyperactive, or being disorganized -- to deal with that, on top of taking care of children... plus being a wife and handling a job, it's just more than one can imagine."

Instead of recognizing the adult ADHD factor, however, many women and their families see their difficulties as merely a part of the stress of modern-day living. Other factors that can aggravate ADHD symptoms and potentially throw women off the ADHD trail include:

  • Hormonal fluctuations. Symptoms of adult ADHD could tax already challenged minds and bodies. Women with PMS, for example, can already be oversensitive and irritable. For women with perimenopause, Matlen says it's not unusual to already have some trouble with memory, cognitive skills, and word retrieval. Then there's also the emotional rollercoaster that often accompanies pregnancy and post-partum depression. The drastic changes in hormone levels could certainly wreak havoc with mental health and well-being. Add ADHD to the mix, and the burden could certainly become greater.
  • Iron deficiency due to menstruation. Research has shown that mild iron deficiency, as experienced by some females, could affect cognitive skills, says L. Eugene Arnold, MD, a child psychiatrist and author of A Family Guide to ADHD. Coupled with the symptoms of ADHD, iron deficiency could become a significant challenge.
  • Other mental disorders. As many as two-thirds of children with ADHD have at least one co-existing condition, according to Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), an advocacy group. Depression and anxiety are common ailments experienced by people with ADHD. They also tend to be more prevalent in women in general.
  • Personal problems. Girls and women who have been physically abused, or those who have not had good role models for things such as motherhood and organization could exhibit ADHD-like symptoms. These, and other personal factors, could complicate the identification of the disorder.

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