Thinking of ADHD, most people have the image of a hyperactive boy in the head, they also like to call Zappelphilippe. This is one who cannot sit still and in school by lack of impulse control is always conspicuous. The real tragedy, however, is not only the ignorance of the diversity of the symptoms but especially in the fact that this assumption is based on clinical studies, which were carried out in the 70s only with white boys. Based on this research, diagnostic criteria have been developed that are still valid today. Just a reminder: It has now been over forty years! But surprisingly little has changed. But I still have ADHD. And I am a woman.
“Sometimes I am asked how ADHD feels. A bit like writing all day to-do lists until you get a to-do list of to-do lists to throw away the next morning. "
In the US, professional voices have become increasingly heard over the past few years that focus on a new aspect of research: ADHD can potentially affect all people, ADHD does not know the gender. The diagnostic rate is currently still 3: 1. When it comes to ADHD, a woman comes to three men. After all, an advance, because a few years ago, a prevalence of 10: 1 was still assumed.
However, the timing of the diagnosis is particularly different with respect to gender. Women often get wrong diagnoses into adulthood or sometimes do not experience what's going on with them all their lives. The chance of developing low self-esteem and depression through the disorder is high. The suicide rates are accordingly high as well. So we need to talk more about women with ADHD.
The experiences girls make with ADHD are fundamentally different from those made by boys, whose symptoms are predominantly in the area of hyperactivity. Boys are more likely to show conspicuous behavior, focusing on issues such as impulse control, aggression, or anger.
If you think of ADHD as a disorder that rests on the three pillars of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity, ADHD women tend to develop symptoms in the area of attention. In contrast to boys, because of their gender-specific socialization, girls tend unconsciously to so-called coping mechanisms, i.e. coping strategies, in order to compensate for deviations from their peers and the failure to meet societal expectations. Experts also speak here of a "masking" of the symptoms.
These coping mechanisms mean that the disorder is usually not recognized by women for a very long time and often only coincidental diagnoses occur if unfavorable coping strategies result in complications such as eating disorders, depression or anxiety disorders.
Many women with ADHD continue to have a constant feeling of being overburdened in adulthood and often cannot justify it because they lack the diagnosis and thus, unfortunately, the opportunity to have a look at the disease. The causes are internalized because women tend socialization-based, the responsibility for their problems first to look for themselves - and this, unfortunately, has far-reaching consequences for many sufferers.
Many ADHD sufferers have been told since their youth that they are stupid or exhausting, annoying, chaotic, sick, lazy or abnormal. These things eat like acid into a soul that is already completely overwhelmed with itself anyway. What follows are self-hatred and deep insecurity. For many people affected, it is therefore difficult to like themselves.
Many things that are commonplace for non-ADHD sufferers cannot be automated by affected women and are an immense burden. Shopping, appointments, phone calls, but also friendships and relationships. They also report that they feel overwhelmed at parties or in society. They suffer from overstimulation or the feeling of being exposed to unprotected volume. They have problems with organizing or just the opposite: a compulsive focus on planning, which is to be understood as compensation of their own deficits.
In contrast to boys, whose symptoms tend to decline during puberty, the symptoms in women are on the increase in this phase of development, but are often dismissed out of ignorance as a pubertal rebellion - true to the motto "that is already growing out again". The resulting injuries leave deep marks. Boys, however, externalize the symptoms at this age and react with anger and outward aggression.
Men tend to shirk pain by developing aggression outwardly. In contrast, women tend to develop feelings of self-hatred.
When I think back to my childhood, I have to say that I grew up very sheltered. I was a healthy and happy child who preferred to hang out with older neighborhood boys. From the point of view of the adults, I was able to loudly “boss around “what from today's perspective was a rather derogatory term for a self-confident girl. I was brave though. But also a daydreamer who could spend hours sorting animal stickers or playing mini-piano in her room. At home, I was very impulsive. I slashed the clothesline, threw the bike against the wall and sunk a pair of scissors in my brother's head.
After enrollment, my character strengths, which were previously praised regularly, suddenly became alleged character weaknesses. My ideas and assertiveness have become a tangible deficit. My opinion was now considered insubordination. The questioning was inappropriate. The frontal lessons broke my legs. I was totally stimulated. The learning pace was too slow on good days and much too slow on bad days. I can remember weeks when I did not say a word at school because I was just staring into the void behind the blackboard and dreaming to myself. Raging thoughts, but a sleepy appearance. The frustration grew day by day.
In puberty, impulsivity became worse. I spare my parents the details of having to read everything again at this point. But I stole and I rioted. At school, with the greatest effort, I always behaved inconspicuously, which I did not succeed at home under the constant provocation of my older brother. I found a way to cheat the system, in which I always failed when I was the way I was - and simply not enough, despite my high intelligence. My solution was not to attract attention! I was a master of camouflage. Just do not tell anyone. Always just divulge so much and afford that you just slip through. School. Friendships... Education. That sounds easy, but all this has consumed all my strength. I was anxious to always look interested while my thoughts raced and the emotions raged inside me.
Looking back, I know that this self-abandonment happened unconsciously. I became unsure. Blushed quickly. And was in total retreat. My self-doubt grew. Why did not I get the simplest things off the line when I was the way I was? However, I did so confidently towards my parents. Today it is obvious which coping strategies I used at that time and how I simply internalized the self-doubt and made it a lifelong companion.
I did not get my diagnosis until I was in my mid-20s. Rather by accident. Because of depression and because I had developed pronounced social anxiety. I did not want to surround myself with people because I always felt that I could not be myself. Everything would fly up. Whatever that "everything" was. After all these years, I did not know it anymore. Today it is clear to me. It was nothing. It was just ADHD in girls.