Women and ADD

Some women say that they have attention

deficit disorder (AD/HD), but others say they are AD/HD. I prefer to see

the AD/HD as just one aspect of a unique individual. Nevertheless, it is easy to

understand why one might say, “I am ADD.” For better or worse, AD/HD can

affect many areas of one’s life.

Women are more likely to internalize:

to blame themselves and to become depressed. Inattentive or impulsive girls

often feel that “something” is wrong with them. Feelings of shame and guilt

can layer themselves in to a young woman’s personality as she grows up. When a

woman is first diagnosed with AD/HD, she may feel relief and a temporary

euphoria. She now has a name for her guilty secret. But a diagnosis does not

change an ingrained personality style. After the diagnosis comes the real work.

She must gain an in-depth understanding of how the AD/HD affects her own unique

strengths and weaknesses.

The roles of wife and mother add new

dimensions of complexity to daily life of a woman with AD/HD. In our society,

women often bear more of the responsibility for maintaining the household and

raising the children. We expect the homemaker to provide organization and

structure for the rest of the family members. Office jobs often have specific

schedules and clear job descriptions. The home is much less structured. Tasks

may not have a clear beginning or end.

Some women may feel overwhelmed at the

sheer number of tasks in the home. It may be difficult to break down and

prioritize tasks. A woman with difficulty maintaining divided attention may blow

up when her children start asking for things while she is trying to fix dinner.

She may have difficulty providing the structure her children need to help

contain their own ADD. A woman prone to impulsive temper outbursts may have

difficulty disciplining her children. Occasionally this impulsivity can lead to

excessive punishment and even child abuse. If she has insight into her impulsive

tendencies, she and her family can plan to have “time out” periods when

arguments become heated.

Women may discover that AD/HD has its

positive side.  Her generosity,

spontaneity and energy may make the household a Mecca for neighborhood children.

Her high energy may enable her to keep up with a demanding job and a busy family


Sometimes, marriage between a spouse

with AD/HD and a non-AD/HD partner, may work well. The husband may provide

stability, structure and organizational skills. At the same time, the wife’s

creativity, and quest for novelty may provide color to her husband’s life and

help him explore new horizons. This complementary type of relationship works

best when each partner has insight into his or her unique strengths and

weaknesses. They learn from each other in a dynamic way, and do not allow their

roles to become too rigid. Eventually the husband may have periods of

spontaneity, and the AD/HD wife then becomes the stabilizer.

Sometimes individuals with AD/HD marry

each other. The couple may enjoy each other’s spontaneity and energy. The

woman may feel as if she has finally found someone on her own wavelength. 

However, when the couple encounters complex family demands, they may need

outside help to stabilizing their lives.

Sometimes, AD/HD can strain a marriage.

The non-ADD husband may misinterpret his wife’s disorganization and

procrastination as deliberate offences. If the wife goes on an impulsive

spending spree, it may damage family finances. The urge for novel situations can

lead some women into repeated job changes or promiscuity. The dual-AD/HD couple

may have difficulty deciding who will manage the more mundane aspects of family


Both partners should have a thorough

understanding of the psychiatric diagnoses and how the behaviors associated with

the diagnoses affect the entire family. Often women with AD/HD have other

conditions such as anxiety, depression or alcohol abuse. It is important to

address these conditions too. They may hide these difficulties just as they hid

their AD/HD for so long.

The woman’s partner may also feel

euphoric early in the treatment process when medication begins to have an

effect. Both members of the couple are lulled into the belief that the diagnosis

and the medication will be a panacea. Her husband may despair or even leave the

relationship when old patterns and behaviors re-emerge. Family or group therapy

can be an important part of treatment for women with AD/HD. It took a long time

for each family member to learn their behavior patterns and it may take time to

make lasting changes. The AD/HD may be an explanation, but no one should use it

as an excuse. Instead, understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you

develop creative coping strategies.


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