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Women With ADD

Women with ADD are often overlooked when they are young girls and, unfortunately, are not typically diagnosed with the disorder until they are adults.
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Do you feel frazzled, unorganized, chronically late, spaced out in conversations with friends and family or struggling to understand what is happening in meetings? You may have ADD (and may have had it since you were a little girl in Ms. Smith's first grade).

Women with ADD are often overlooked when they are young girls and, unfortunately, are not typically diagnosed with the disorder until they are adults. While boys may be hyperactive and more visible for teachers, the typical girl with ADD is most often quiet, a daydreamer and unfortunately overlooked. Frequently, women come to recognize their own ADD after one of her children has been diagnosed with it. As a mother learns more about ADD, she begins to see many similar patterns in herself.

Many women seek treatment for ADD because their lives are out of control. Their finances may be in chaos, they may struggle unsuccessfully to keep up with the demands of their jobs, their paperwork and record-keeping are often poorly managed, and they may feel even less able to keep up with the daily tasks of meals, laundry and life management.

Other women are more successful in hiding their ADD, valiantly struggling to keep up with increasingly difficult demands by working into the night and spending their free time trying to "get organized." But whether a woman's life is clearly in chaos or whether she is able to hide her struggles, she often describes herself as feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Other symptoms include compulsive overeating, alcohol abuse, chronic sleep deprivation, dysphoria (unpleasant mood), major depression and anxiety disorders. Additionally, women with ADD appear to experience more psychological distress and have lower self-image than men with ADD.

ADD therapies for women typically include focus on improving self-esteem, interpersonal and family issues, daily health habits, daily stress levels and life management skills. Such interventions are often treated with Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which focuses on the psychological issues of ADHD (e.g., self-blame, self-acceptance, self-esteem), and sometimes focus on executive functioning (e.g., remembering, reasoning, understanding, problem solving, evaluating and using judgment).

It is most helpful for women with ADD to work with a professional to develop better life and stress-management strategies. Additionally, there are things you can do at home to help reduce the impact of your ADD.

  • Seek structure and support from family and friends.

  • Understand and accept your ADD challenges instead of judging and blaming yourself.
  • Create an ADD-friendly family that cooperates and supports one another.
  • Schedule daily time outs for yourself.
  • Develop healthy self-care habits, such as getting adequate sleep and eating right.
  • It is important that women with ADD receive an accurate diagnosis that addresses both symptoms and other important issues with functioning and impairment, which will help determine appropriate treatment and strategies.

    To find a therapist in your area that understands ADD, I recommend going to CHADD's website or Therapy Finder (from Psychology Today). Or, if you are in the New York City area, feel free to contact the Sachs Center at 646-807-8900 for an evaluation.

    George Sachs, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in New York City and director for the Sachs Center. The Sachs Center specializes in the evaluation, testing and treatment of children, teens and adults with ADD and ADHD.