How ADHD Impacts Women & Why Support Communities Matter

Feb 15, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. ET
Image: Getty Images

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder does not just plague children in the classroom; it’s silently disrupting the lives of adult women.

Around 38 percent of adults who are diagnosed with adult ADHD are women; however, the number is probably higher because of the inability to properly diagnose women and the stereotype that women are able to multitask at a much higher and better level than men.

Greg Crosby, one of the authors of Transforming ADHD: Simple, Effective Attention & Action Skills to Help You Focus & Succeed, says that ADHD manifests itself in many forms and it is not only rooted in the ability to lack attention, but “it’s about inattention and over-focusing.” The book details how patients with ADHD have problems focusing on one single task while also over-focusing on one specific task that they love. This method of working is called "flow," which is when you zero in “so closely on some activity that you lose yourself in it.”

More: Why ADHD is so underdiagnosed in girls

Brandon Ashinoff, a psychologist at the University of Birmingham, says that this hyper-focusing creates a block and makes it so that “no other information gets into your brain,” which in turn is a maldistribution of attention, another definition of ADHD. The ultimate goal in controlling ADHD is to evenly and effectively distribute attention to specific projects on hand.

ADHD is also a highly stigmatized disorder for women. In The Atlantic article “ADHD Is Different For Women,” Maria Yagoda discusses how symptoms are subtler for women and girls and the result is that women overcompensate to try to keep up with their responsibilities and expectations. The difference between someone who has ADHD and someone who is merely forgetful once or twice is that ADHD impacts your daily life and routine. Disorganization, forgetfulness, introversion, appearing spacey are all the ways a woman can appear when struggling to manage her expectations with her ADHD. The result can include stress or depression as a patient feels inferior and disappointed in their lack of accomplishing tasks at a successful rate.

The invisible demographic of women living with ADHD is around 6 million, and a community platform called Kaleidoscope Society is shining a light on women who live with ADHD and creating a space for them to empower one another and speak out against the stigma and stereotypes.

Margaux Joffe kick-started the society in October of 2016, which is ADHD Awareness Month. The movement on the Kaleidoscope platform is the first of its kind. To bring together women nationwide to share their story, motivate one another and create a supportive community is a way for the women who are a part of Kaleidoscope to bring visibility to adult women with ADHD to the mainstream media. The website pulls back the curtain on an oftentimes abstract reality. With resource linksADHD 101, podcasts, interviews with up-and-coming creatives and expert Q&As, Kaleidoscope is the most easily accessible platform out there for women who are diagnosed. Joffe told Broadly, “I want women with attention deficit disorder to know that they’re not alone.”

More: I used to joke that I was "so ADD" and then a doctor told me it was true

The values for the Kaleidoscope Society include:

  • Create community
  • Invite self-discovery
  • Build on strengths
  • Inspire greatness

Community profiles on the website include Bustle’s associate lifestyle editor Gabrielle Moss, TV professional and writer Tiffany D. Jackson, CEO and founder of Glassbreakers Eileen Carey and many more.

The most important characteristic of the Kaleidoscope Society is the unending positive reinforcement for readers. Joffe isn’t trying to find a cure per se, but is celebrating the uniqueness and beauty that women with ADHD bring to the world. In her community profile, the founder says, “I’ve experienced so many beautiful things that only happened because I got sidetracked and took a magical detour. I have friends all over the world. I am creative, intuitive and passionate. I can come up with 100 ways to spend a Saturday. I fall in love daily, with a poem, with the color of your eyes, with a stranger’s voice. I am never bored. I care about what I do. I am courageous. I am passionate. I am resilient. I am proud of who I am.”

More: 5 Commonly misdiagnosed diseases and what they could actually be

If you are diagnosed with ADHD, check out these tips on how to manage your to-do listsbounce back after a failure and successfully take care of yourself.

By S. Nicole Lane

Originally published on HelloFlo.