9 Common Symptoms of ADHD in Women

Are you wondering if you have ADHD? You aren’t alone. Although ADHD impacts all genders equally, millions of women live without a diagnosis. A lifetime of coping mechanisms and mislabeling symptoms as personal attributes can leave you feeling inadequate, stressed, and even depressed. 

ADHD is a lifelong disorder and getting a diagnosis and treatment can vastly improve your life at any age. Let’s explore some of the most common symptoms of ADHD in adult women and how they look in daily life. 

Last update: March 19, 2022
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Table of contents

    What are the most common signs of ADHD in women?

    1. Organized chaos

      Your handbag is stuffed with old receipts, 17 different chapsticks, and a ticket stub from a Kings of Leon concert you went to in 2008. Staying organized with ADHD is a daunting task. Even after meticulously organizing something like your desk, the next day it’s inching back to its office party mosh pit ways. In spite of these challenges, you get by. It’s common for people with ADHD to have stations in your home where things “live”, baskets to dump objects, and a lot of practice retracing steps when an item you need disappears into the abyss. 

    2. You blurt things out

      ADHD can make it challenging to have a filter, aka you say things before thinking them through. Despite having the best intentions, it’s normal for people with ADHD to have a long list of “foot-in-mouth” moments where you were a little too honest or forthright with your words. While loved ones generally get used to it, meeting new people and keeping things professional in the workplace can feel exhausting. Understanding the origin of this problem can help you be kinder to yourself when it happens.

    3. Time management is tough

      People with ADHD experience a concept known as time blindness. Essentially, time is abstract and time management is a real struggle. It’s very common for people with ADHD to be prone to wasting time on nonessential aspects of a task. You likely have memories of missed appointments, showing up at the right place at the wrong time, or getting so engulfed in a task that you lost an entire day. You might also find it hard to keep a regular bedtime. Time blindness can lead to a lot of negative self-talk or even being labeled as “spacey” or “inconsiderate” by others. You aren’t any of those things, you’re just trying your best to juggle life with a complicated disorder. 

    4. You take on too much

      You are a go-getter who dives headfirst into several projects, offers to help with everything, and often drowns along the way. In some ways, you are a bit of a superhero. Many women living with adult ADHD have a lifetime of high expectations for themselves which comes along with constant pressure. However, this need for achievement combined with time management and focus difficulties can also leave you feeling frozen, overwhelmed, and ultimately falling short of your own exceedingly high expectations. Learning to scale back, slow down, and forgive yourself for losing interest in your passion projects is an important step. 

    5. You forget things

      Due to factors like high distractibility and working memory issues, remembering details like birthdays, anniversaries, or even names can sometimes feel impossible with ADHD. Forgetfulness can also occur with bigger items such as appointments, ceremonies, or work deadlines. No matter how much you care about the person or thing, sometimes your brain just disregards it. This can leave Debbie, or Rachel, or whatever her name is at spin class feeling like you don’t even care about remembering her name. 

    6. Decisions are easy and impossible

      ADHD is a paradox in a lot of ways and one of those is decision making. When your brain decides to hyperfocus on something, it’s easy to go out and spend $200 on material for your new hobby you know nothing about. When it comes to something more mundane like picking a restaurant– you suddenly feel overwhelmed by your options. You might spend hours researching, reading reviews, and ruminating only to give up and eat toast. A lot of people with ADHD take solace in choosing friends or partners who are enthusiastic about choosing such things. It’s easier that way. 

      What is Hyperfocus?

      Ever find yourself so completely absorbed in a task that you can’t step away or stop thinking about it? That’s hyperfocus. 

      But wait? Isn’t ADHD all about struggling to pay attention? Also yes! The difference with hyperfocus is that the person is very interested and even fixated on the task or subject at hand which activates their reward system.

      What does hyperfocus look like?

      • Becoming an expert on a new topic of passion (i.e. foraging, antique watches, breeds of chickens)

      • Spending excessive time and money on a new hobby

      • Dropping “important tasks” to pursue the one you can’t stop thinking about

      • Difficulty shifting tasks or stopping what you’re doing to eat, bathe or breathe

      • Being “in the zone” for hours

    7. Boring activities are painful

      People with ADHD crave novelty and often find that monotonous daily tasks are almost physically painful. Some days you’d rather dig a trench for three hours than sweep the kitchen floor for 5 minutes. Chores like laundry and dishes are difficult and often get pushed until the last minute. Waiting in line? That’s the absolute worst thing that could ever happen. Daily tolerance for the mundane tends to fluctuate but adding in a bit of flair to these activities to spice them up can help (dance party while vacuuming, anybody?). 

    8. You struggle with self-esteem

      A lifetime of feeling like you always fall short, don’t fit in, and are constantly misunderstood can really do a number on your self-esteem. ADHD leads to a lot of dysregulation and inconsistent symptoms that constantly get mislabeled, even by healthcare workers. You might often find yourself feeling defeated and inadequate when comparing yourself to others. It’s common for people with ADHD to cope with some unhealthy habits when feeling low, such as TV marathons, substance abuse, or binge eating. Understanding the root of your challenges and learning to build a more positive internal dialogue can help get your self-esteem back in check. 

    9. Emotional Rollercoasters

      Many people with ADHD feel emotions more intensely than those without ADHD. While you might go through one devastating emotional experience with ease, a minor setback like the book you want not being available could send you spiraling. This flood of emotions and the inability to filter and assess those feelings are due to brain dysfunction. Specifically, the communication trail between key brain areas that regulate emotions and interpret what to do with those emotions is weak. The result? You may be too explosive, struggle with finding your calm, or have difficulties accurately assessing the emotions of others. 

    How do you manage ADHD symptoms as a woman?

    ADHD is a lifelong disorder and learning how to better manage your symptoms, lean into your strengths, and give yourself the kindness and compassion you deserve is vital. There are multiple ways that you can improve your functioning and regain your confidence with effective interventions such as medication, lifestyle changes, and therapy. 

    Do you think you might have ADHD? It’s now easier than ever to get a diagnosis and treatment plan from the comfort of your own home. Take Frida's free self-assessment to see whether you might have ADHD and talk to an ADHD professional today. You deserve it. 

    Lisa Batten, PhD, CPT, PN1

    Lisa Batten is a clinical scientist, therapist, and writer specializing in neuroscience and clinical pharmacology. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology.