One night in Taos, NM, while boiling pasta, a friend and I threw wet noodles on a wall to test their readiness. Enjoying the quirky shapes formed, we soon drew the imagined faces of the characters outlined. Only later, while painting this wall to get my rental deposit back, did I realize that ink bleeds through paint which is problematic.
I now ask myself, did I have ADHD impulse control problems? Or, was I just young, spontaneous, and having fun?
When I left Taos to get a ‘real life,’ I found myself having trouble managing day-to-day life. As the child of a successful academic family, I was confused and ashamed of my struggles with basics like paperwork, time, and order.
One of my favorite therapist authors, Sari Solden, wrote Women With Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life. She said,
“Simple and routine tasks that traditionally came with womanhood; grocery shopping, cooking dinner, keeping track of things, and paying bills, are difficult with ADD.“
Solden also notes that girls with ADD,
“See their trouble prioritizing, organizing, and paying attention as character flaws. No one told them it’s neurobiological.”
Personally, I never knew my difficulties with these things were symptoms. I assumed messiness, forgetfulness, and inattentiveness were signs of personal failure. Not neurotransmitter issues.
No matter how intelligent someone is, undiagnosed ADD often causes enormous amounts of shame, stress, anxiety, low esteem, and even depression.
There are reasons for this lack of diagnosis for many girls and women. Mental health professionals notice that ADD girls with high IQ’s or supportive families adapt well to life, so no one suspects this medical issue. Because these girls can hyper-focus, it seems that their problems are not from typical ADHD inattention. These ADD girls also slip under the diagnostic radar because they do not have the behavior problems typical of ADHD boys. In fact, many ADD girls are perfectionists. Used to getting things wrong at home, school, and with friends, they struggle to behave and self correct.
Nevertheless, these girls remain undiagnosed until they hit obstacles; like college, marriage, employment issues, or becoming a parent. As a result, ADD women often spend years with shame, depression, and anxiety over perceived flaws and personal underperformance.