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Women with ADHD

Some of the most inspiring and productive women I know have an ADHD diagnosis. They have been diagnosed as part of an exponential rise in ADHD assessments for girls and women in the last year. The chances are that you know a girl or woman with ADHD and you might not be aware that they have struggled.

On the surface, they seem to have done well at school and got into further education of some sort. They declare that their productivity and success have not come easily. Annie describes her experiences of zoning out at school, struggling to concentrate, finding difficulty in getting going in her work and completing assignments in college. Some others have been criticized for time management and poor organisation skills. They tell me they felt different and misunderstood. A diagnosis of ADHD has brought validation and an understanding of why standard strategies to support attention and concentration did not work. Post -diagnostic advice and information have brought the release of their creativity into productive action in work and home lives.

And clearly professionals have misunderstood ADHD in girls and women too with under diagnosis of female ADHD historically. ‘Previously you needed to be really bad as a female to get a diagnosis’, a clinician in the field commented. ‘Now it is getting easier to get diagnosed because we recognise that there are differences in the presentation of females and males’.

There are young people in schools and adults in prisons who have not had the assessments or support they need to mitigate the clear suffering they have experienced as a result of their ADHD. They must remain a priority for services. Perhaps it is not a case of one context competing against another. For every adult, understanding ourselves and addressing barriers to our success are drivers of self-improvement. Assessments must be proportional to the need and we can recognise our tendencies to neurodivergence and integrate different strategies without being diagnosed. Greater access to good information on how to work with ADHD to increase our effectiveness is important for those who want to recognise these tendencies and accommodate them well. When we understand ourselves, we bring our best self to work and our whole lives with or without diagnosis. When we acknowledge the diversity of ADHD symptoms and tendencies we also reduce the narrow stigma of ADHD and the opportunity to divide us.

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