July 3, 2020

Women With Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden

Kindle Highlights

Although there is much overlap between boys and girls in terms of the childhood characteristics of inattentive AD/HD, the struggles they face in adulthood, albeit equally challenging, are often very different because of the gender role expectations that women struggle to meet. LOCATION: 286

This is due to the shame they feel about not being able to meet gender role expectations because of their AD/HD challenges. LOCATION: 301

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” —Maya Angelou LOCATION: 363

AD/HD symptoms such as distractibility to both internal and external stimuli and difficulty with synthesizing and organizing ideas coupled with general fogginess and confusion make it difficult to process information in an average amount of time. LOCATION: 766

One of the most telling signs of the child with this type of AD/HD is disorganization. One look at her locker, desk, room, or maybe even her handwriting might give you a clue that she may be struggling with this disorder. LOCATION: 776

Girls with AD/HD (inattentive type) may have trouble socially, as well. Because they have problems with small talk and with figuring out the rules of social interaction, they tend to become shy and withdrawn. Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D. (ADDA, 1995) says that little girls like this often appear awkward, painfully shy and unable to fit in. LOCATION: 779

Their inner world is a place that outsiders couldn’t fathom, where the simplest activities—getting dressed, planning the day, or running a simple errand—are extremely difficult and frustrating. The cumulative effect of these daily experiences makes them feel like outsiders, separate from the world in some important way, spending their days coping with this silent thief of time and dreams instead of living life. LOCATION: 902

They don’t know how hard they are working or how much of their energy is going into just surviving. They don’t know that living is not supposed to be that hard. Too often, like the frog, by the time they discover this is not the way it’s supposed to be they’re already depleted, depressed, or overwhelmed. LOCATION: 922

AD/HD is such a full-time job that some women have never had the opportunity to stop and figure out a way of doing things differently. They haven’t discovered how to change the rules, what it means to feel comfortable, or how to live without feeling overwhelmed. They just don’t have the concept. LOCATION: 935

Jodi quit her job. But things didn’t get any easier. Secretly, she wished that she could get a housekeeper, but how could she justify that since she only had one child and wasn’t working? LOCATION: 1047

She found simple errands incredibly overwhelming and boring. No one understood why an errand that should have taken only a few minutes meant hours of frustration and confusion. By the time she found her keys and an unwrinkled shirt to throw on and assembled all the stuff” and the lists she needed, and by the time she stopped to get money because she was out of cash and didn’t have her checkbook, she was already frustrated and upset. Just going to the grocery store bombarded her with too many decisions. The lines irritated her to such an extent that by the time she got home she felt she had just returned from battle. LOCATION: 1049

What seemed like millions of obligations swept through her mind, as well as millions of ideas for new projects, but she felt paralyzed to move or take action. LOCATION: 1063

Women with these kinds of difficulties incredulously ask, How do other women do it?” meaning life. LOCATION: 1207

They feel that there is absolutely no way they can keep up with the demands of life LOCATION: 1217

Brown identifies functions that are affected by this impairment in executive functioning as LOCATION: 1391

severe difficulty in mobilizing and sustaining their attention, alertness, effort, and working memory functions for less interesting, though important tasks.” LOCATION: 1392

These problems, as Brown describes them, have to do with activation, (the ability to organize your brain to begin to work), distraction (the ability to sustain attention on tasks), and effort (the ability to maintain energy, alertness, and processing speed). LOCATION: 1393

Difficulty with sustaining focus when affected by emotions such as frustration and difficulties with working memory and recall also are components of executive function. LOCATION: 1395

Rather than a deficit of attention, this means that individuals can’t deploy attention, direct it, or put it in the right place at the right time. He explains that adults who do not have hyperactivity often have severe difficulty activating enough to start a task and sustaining the energy to complete it. This is especially true for low-interest activities. LOCATION: 1398

I spend a lot of time in bed watching TV but my mind isn’t watching TV. I’m thinking about what I should be doing, but I don’t have the energy to do it.” LOCATION: 1405

You can imagine the great impact that problems with sequencing, prioritizing, remembering where you put needed materials, starting to work, and finishing up a project would have on maintaining an organized life. Putting things in piles results from the fear that you won’t find them if you file them, that they will disappear into a black hole” without this needed trigger for your memory. LOCATION: 1408

It is problematic to process all the information that comes into a household and put it into the right places, particularly with sorting and filing. Most of these chores fall to women, and most people do it more or less automatically. Adults with AD/HD don’t. LOCATION: 1412

Kelly and Ramundo (1995) attribute this in part to AD/HD adults’ tendency to consider a multitude of options that make these small distinctions incredibly difficult. LOCATION: 1414

Many people have difficulty figuring out what the next step in a task or project should be or how to plan. They may look at the whole picture but don’t know how to proceed with a job. They just can’t figure out a good plan of attack (executive functioning problems). LOCATION: 1418

I get up in the morning with no idea how to choose from what seems like millions of possibilities of things I need to do, how to organize my day . . . so I just sit there. My non-AD/HD husband tells me how to clean the kitchen after a meal. First, put all the perishables in the refrigerator. Then you put away any other food in the pantry. Then you throw out everything that can go into the trash. Then you stack dishes and glasses together. Then you clean out the sink. At that point, you start rinsing the dishes, stacking them again in categories before you put them into the dishwasher.” This is how non-AD/HD people do tasks and organize their lives. This is exactly what an AD/HD person has such difficulty with. To them, life contains millions of equal stimuli, with no order, no categories, and no priority. Finding a particular bill or matching pair of earrings could be as baffling and frustrating as writing a report. It’s all the same.” LOCATION: 1420

associated motor difficulties such as bumping into or dropping things often creates more mess in the process of trying to clean up than existed before. Kelly and Ramundo (1995) also speak about a distorted sense of how one’s body moves in space in relationship to other objects’ (pg. 60). This LOCATION: 1442

People with AD/HD need high levels of stimulation in order to focus. The brain’s neurotransmitters, those information messengers, aren’t functioning efficiently or consistently. It is during these routine tasks without any high stimulation that one becomes day-dreamy, unfocused, and unproductive. LOCATION: 1450

Susan’s story emphasizes this. Years ago, before Susan was diagnosed, she lived in a house with an apple tree in the back yard. Every autumn the apples would fall off the tree, and Susan’s family would have to pick them up or they would rot on the ground. (She wasn’t the type that looked forward to this—picking up the apples, making apple sauce, canning them for the winter—very un-AD/HD-like activity). Her husband insisted at least for the sake of the neighbors that they pick them up. It was torture for her. She was slow, upset from the second they started, and obviously non-productive. This became an annual source of conflict between them. LOCATION: 1452

Tasks like this with very little external stimulation or structure create a situation, which can be of extremely low interest to the individual. This is where medication can often be very helpful. It turns on the brain and helps one focus when there isn’t anything externally exciting going on. LOCATION: 1457

Inability to Filter Out Distractions LOCATION: 1459

I was in Atlantic City for a conference. I had to keep taking time out to go back to my room so I could get away . . . from the noise, the clicking, the coins; I was ready to lose it. It was a nightmare.” LOCATION: 1469

Synthesizing Ideas LOCATION: 1493

Many creative people with AD/HD find it difficult to pull all their ideas together in an organized, logical, linear manner, especially in written form. Many have an extremely difficult time creating structure or a skeleton on which to build their ideas, thus leading many to overwork. They often have to spend many more hours behind the scenes to pull together what is usually an excellent product. The LOCATION: 1495

There is often a limitless drive for information that leads to feeling overwhelmed because the person cannot organize the amount of material that they can generate mentally. This seems to come both from being unable to ignore any idea or connection that they make in their minds as well as a need (which I have observed) to understand the whole of a subject before they can understand any part of it. LOCATION: 1501

Woman wanted to coordinate multiple schedules in an unstructured, distracting atmosphere. Must be able to process great numbers of details quickly and maintain a neat, well-organized environment. Must keep track of all important occasions, including social obligations, birthday cards, and thank you notes, as well as be responsible for all subtleties and niceties of life. Must be able to choose quickly and easily from a great number of options. Applicant will be responsible for all record-keeping and for maintenance of all systems in the organization, as well as the upkeep on all equipment. For those interested, please call 911-N-O-T-A-D-H-D.” LOCATION: 1517

Difficulty in matching this ideal image” continually confronts the AD/HD woman leading to frustration and failure on a daily basis. This makes it difficult for her to be assertive or to ask for what she considers to be special” help. LOCATION: 1523

Women tend to: Have more varied responsibilities and tasks from different areas of their lives to coordinate and organize LOCATION: 1533

Be more diffuse and have multiple role conflicts and more distractions Have more of the responsibilities for structuring the daily lives of their children (who often also have AD/HD) Men tend to: Have wives or partners who organize their personal lives Have secretaries or other assistants organizing them at work Be encouraged from an early age to focus on a narrow area of strength and to pursue that Not feel the same sense of shame about their disorganization because they have not internalized these organizational cultural expectations to the same extent as women. As a result, they ask for help more easily, which allows them to focus on their talents and abilities Men with the same difficulties are more often seen as endearing or absent-minded whereas women with these difficulties are seen by themselves and the external world as defective or deficient in some basic way LOCATION: 1535

Applicant must have a variety of well-coordinated outfits. NOTE: Is this why I only wear dresses?! LOCATION: 1550

This job requires keeping up the appearance and maintenance of the building as well as attending to the subtle details in order to make the surroundings attractive for others. This position involves a great deal of entertaining so one must know the socially correct things to say at all times. Must excel at small talk, never interrupting or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, never going blank, and always remembering people’s faces and names. One must be able to converse on a variety of topics, remembering details from movies and plays, and of course be well read and able to comfortably discuss both the recent bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, as well as the current political situation. LOCATION: 1550

Once AD/HD women can rise above entry and mid-level positions, they often are able to do quite well; they can see the Big Picture,” conceptualize wonderfully well, and they (finally) have secretaries. LOCATION: 1935

Without any kind of organizational assistance, they either quit the jobs that require larger conceptual thinking (which is their strength) and find jobs where they can manage the organizational demands (not using their conceptual abilities), or they keep thinking they’re bad because they’re not able to meet the demands for smaller thinking. LOCATION: 1952

A woman with AD/HD just doesn’t have the kind of skills, structure, or equipment that would allow her to feel that sense of control. So it’s not the same thing as when things get messy and out of hand for other people, as they might after a busy weekend. At some level, other women feel that they can come in, roll up their sleeves, and get everything cleaned up and back in order. LOCATION: 2004

Don asked his wife Susan if she would run to the store after work and pick up some shaving cream for him. Susan looked at him blankly. I can’t, honey. I just don’t have enough time. I have so much to do!” But it only takes five minutes,” he replied. What’s the big deal?” It’s not a big deal to you maybe, but to me . . .” and then she burst into tears. LOCATION: 2068

Women often feel that they have to wait until their lives are in control before they start to focus on themselves. They want to wait until their lives are in balance before they allow themselves to move in a nourishing, replenishing, satisfying direction. As LOCATION: 2093

Women with AD/HD often move away from relationships in the initial stages of forming friendships because of their difficulty in making small talk or difficulty with finding the words that they want to say when they want to say them. Sometimes it is as difficult to find the words in your messy mind as it is to find a paper on your messy desk. Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo (1995, pg. 66) call this a reaction time irregularity” They go on to point out that a person with this difficulty might look rude or disinterested when they actually may be having trouble retrieving things from memory in a demand situation”. LOCATION: 2182

A woman who has AD/HD (inattentive type) has a real need sometimes for a time out away from other people to recharge and recover. LOCATION: 2194

Healthy self-protection is vital, and it needs to be built into your life. The balance to work toward is not to clam up, tune out, or leave the room, but to protect yourself, without apologizing, putting yourself down, or moving away from other people. LOCATION: 2214

you may feel that you cannot spare time on relationships because it will take time away from getting organized. You may feel that you cannot play” until your work is done. LOCATION: 2354

Some of the ways these women cope and compensate include the following: Self-medicating Over-controlling Over-organizing Under-achieving Under-producing (financially) Assisted living” LOCATION: 2936

It’s hard for a professional to diagnose AD/HD in these women who present well to the world or to believe the severe, daily difficulties these women describe. LOCATION: 2943

Even though she was doing well, the process was unsatisfying to her, highly anxiety provoking, and both emotionally and physically draining. When she was treated with medication and made some adjustments in her workday, she felt great relief. LOCATION: 2947

Over-organizing If a professional asked such a woman about the level of disorganization in her life, she might honestly respond, I’m very organized. I’m never late. In fact, I’m always early. I never forget appointments, and my house is very tidy. I have a place for everything.” Based on these responses, it would be difficult to see her as having AD/HD or difficulties with shifting attention or impulsivity. But, and this is the key, if the professional looks more closely at her daily life, she or he may begin to understand that the woman’s whole life may be centered around organizing and that she may feel that if she doesn’t do this, everything will fall apart. This woman is over-organizing. LOCATION: 2966

Just saying that you are organized doesn’t mean you don’t have AD/HD. You might be focusing on organization to the exclusion of everything else. LOCATION: 2972

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Women with Generalized Anxiety Disorder worry excessively about a great many things and may or may not have racing thoughts. LOCATION: 3086

A woman with AD/HD may report racing, confusing, unending thoughts, but it might not be this same kind of worry. It is more about not being able to catch them and organize them into a manageable form. LOCATION: 3091

Women with AD/HD who are not on medication are often distractible during sex, thinking about what they need to do; this is not out of lack of involvement or lack of feelings toward the partner but merely the inability to focus that much attention. This can result in difficulties with orgasm, but stimulant medication can help focus her on sex rather than on the shopping list! So a woman’s ability to focus, relax, and enjoy intimacy is enhanced just through the normal treatment of AD/HD with stimulants. LOCATION: 3486

If you struggle with remembering things you need to do every day, these can be like little cheat sheets so you don’t have to think it all through each day, for example: How to clean up the kitchen step-by-step What to put in kids’ lunches What to do every morning before leaving the house What to do every night before bed LOCATION: 3920

I always encourage women to have a room of their own” or at least a place of their own or a time of their own in a room. This is a time or place for yourself where you can turn off the noise and demands of the day. This may include a warm bath, a special chair to curl up in, a special book, soothing music, something soothing to sip, a fire, candles, aromas, or relaxation exercises, meditation of some type, or time with pets. Think soft, soothing, nourishing. If you have an organizer come to your house, try taking some time away from setting up files to setting up a sanctuary like this. LOCATION: 3949

Remember, there is no best way, just a best way for you! Permission to do things differently is what we are after here. LOCATION: 3984

Fun: The F” Word Another important way to give yourself permission to care for yourself or approach life in a new way is one of great conflict often for women with AD/HD. I refer to fun as the f” word because it is almost a dirty or forbidden word among women with AD/HD in my groups. Even though women with AD/HD have a great time when they get together at conferences, fun often gets put on the bottom of the to-do pile. Pleasures get equated with guilt because women feel that they have too much to do. Learn to tolerate a little guilt while taking a some time for pleasure, even if is to just read a novel, listen to music, tell jokes with your kids, play cards, or go out with friends. Make a call to someone you love. Have a soothing special time with a partner even for a few minutes a night, as well as a time on the weekend not devoted to problems or schedules—a problem free zone. Nurturing yourself is often the most difficult thing for a woman with AD/HD to do. LOCATION: 3988

that is involved with cooking a meal. The sequencing involved in planning menus, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up was excruciatingly difficult for her. LOCATION: 4102

The field of professional organizers has grown rapidly in the last several years. Some in their national organization, called National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), even specialize in chronic and severe disorganization and AD/HD. The LOCATION: 4122

If Your Work Life Is Not Working For You, What Reasonable Changes Could Help

  1. Non-distracting environment
  2. More structure
  3. Accommodations to activity/energy levels
  4. Informal or formal coaching
  5. Communication strategies
  6. Support
  7. Others? LOCATION: 4886

Remember, you can set limits even when others keep asking you for help. You can set limits even when people are nice to you or ask you to help a good cause. LOCATION: 5000

Sometimes women with AD/HD find it difficult to stay in the homes of friends, relatives, or people they don’t know well because they find it much more difficult to arrange and maintain their belongings. They are self-conscious about their disorganization, feel bombarded, don’t get enough down time, and can easily get overwhelmed. LOCATION: 5427

I don’t mean to be rude but I’m really going to be buried in work for a couple of hours so I’m going to shut my door. I’ll open it when I’m done with this report When I get interrupted, everything leaves my mind. I’m going to turn my phone off for a couple of hours every day I’d really like to answer those questions. How about if we schedule a time, maybe on Friday at one o’clock, so that I can prepare and give you a lot of attention? In the middle of my day, I’m sometimes distracted and I can’t give you the kind of attention that I’d like to It’s really important for me to do a good job, so I need you to write down the instructions LOCATION: 5512

Updated Jul, 03 2020


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