You may be wondering if there is any relevance to writing about women with ADHD as opposed to just people. But I have my reasons. Firstly, it has been recognized that ADHD affects men and women in different ways. It is also easier to write what I know and as a woman with ADHD I can not profess to entirely know if men share the same experiences or have different ones entirely. I could guess, but here I want to stick to the facts.
There is another point to be acknowledged here also, a point less known about unless you’ve done your research.
Women with ADHD is a feminist issue. Why? Because women with ADHD generally don’t get diagnosed until adulthood due to stereotypical assumptions that young girls are daydreamers, or a little behind their male counterparts when it comes to academic abilities. The inability to focus is often reacted to as a dumbing down of girls with labels chucked around including “scatty” “air head” and “dim”.
Boys on the other hand often show the hyperactive element of ADHD that coincides early on with the onset of testosterone in primary years. Physical afflictions are easier to spot with actions such as fidgeting, an inability to sit still, and in some cases, violence.
Jenny Anderton, editor of How to be Human, describes a “lost generation” of women due to a lifetime of being misdiagnosed. She says:
“Teachers and parents often miss the warning signs (in girls) because feeling disorganized or unfocused often leads to depression and anxiety. Failing to properly diagnose the condition, girls miss out on critical academic services and accommodations, as well as therapy and medication. Many girls end up misdiagnosed and treated with anti-anxiety or depression drugs, some of which exacerbate the effects of ADHD”
This is certainly true in my case. I was accredited almost the entire DMV before I was finally diagnosed correctly at the age of 37.
In happier news, ADHD and business, when cultivated correctly, go together like marmite and crumpets. Indeed, Richard Branson, Lisa Ling, Mary Kate Olsen and Katharine Ellison all have ADHD. Statistically, due to the risk-taking trait shared by people with ADHD, those with ADHD are three times more likely to pursue entrepreneurship than their neurotypical fellow man and woman.
It is important to know and understand that working with women in business with ADHD may present you with some points you would benefit from knowing about:
1. Everything takes a little bit longer.
Not because we’re lazy or procrastinating. We just need more downtime. We can actually cram a lot of work into a short space of time and have to depend on our natural rhythms to make the most of hyper-focused periods. When we are in fact working we are in the zone 100% because we are all or nothing. The nothing days are often out of our control. Overwhelm plays a big factor and some days no amount of methylphenidate is going to keep the brain fog at bay. But with those intense periods of hard work, they are accompanied with a spaghetti junction of words, voices, distractions, meticulously thought out fantasy scenarios and ideas. So. Many. Ideas. We want to actively make ourselves stop having ideas to focus on Just. One. Thing. The constant busyness of a brain that runs endlessly feels like running to jump on a bus you know you’re going to miss, and that bus contains all your ideas, tasks and to do lists for the day ahead. You’ll keep running because you’re in fear that if you don’t hop on, all that it contains will be lost from your memory forever.
2. We can be hypersensitive on some days and not on others.
We love to learn, don’t mind getting things wrong and actively seek out further education and training to help us develop our skills and knowledge. That’s on the good days. On the bad days we find it extremely hard to reach out for feedback and/or allow ourselves to be coachable. We go inward, revel in our own miserable pit of imposter syndrome and barely come up for air. During these periods we find it hard to remain objective and take everything far too personally.
3. Advising us to “choose one thing and focus on that” will not work.
A lot of great business advisers suggest we should choose one thing at a time to focus on and promote. ADHD brains simply do not work that way. We need to jump from project to project at a rapid speed that would send any neurotypical person dizzy. It’s just how we are built. Contrary to what you might believe about point 1 in which I mention hyper-focus, this focus is seldom on just one thing! I guess the best way to compare it is as if you were doing a circuit at the gym. You’ll do small bursts of hard work in short reps, circling back round to continue. Because doing one set of 36 of one thing would hurt, right? But three sets of 12? No problem. Imagine our brains working the same way and you’ve got an idea of how ADHD works.
4. Preaching to us about consistency can be as equally frustrating.
Boy, would we love a bit more consistency in our lives! Telling us to be strict about our routines and maintain a consistent level of social media posting each day is unhelpful. We must work with what we have and on some days what we have is nothing. We know it’s not ideal and we know that consistency looks great. So shoot us! Our brains are unpredictable so when we are having a great day the chances are that our social media posting levels are off the charts! On brain fog days there’s a high probability of tumbleweed. Thank the heavens for social media scheduling! One of the biggest lifesaving tools of the modern day for an ADHD brain.
5. With ADHD comes honesty, empathy and loyalty.
If you know a woman in business with ADHD, the chances are that she provides some sort of service and you can bet all that you have that she will deliver that service with integrity and passion. She desires nothing more than making her customers and clients happy and will go above and beyond to give you her best. If she accepts you as a client you will have her unwavering commitment to you and a business relationship you can trust with your life.
6. We have superhuman intuition.
This aspect of ADHD is equally as wonderful as it is horrifying. We can’t tell you how we know we just know. Move over body language experts and lie detectors, what you really need is a woman with ADHD! We know what you’re thinking, we know when you’re lying and we know how you are feeling in almost any given moment. It can be of great assistance when learning and understanding a clients needs. It can also be terribly upsetting if there is a reason to distrust our client or coworker from what our intuition has picked up on.
7. We get distracted, and it’s ok to pick us up on it.
We can be totally and fully engaged in a conversation one minute, then off in our heads the next. It’s not intentional and we simply cannot bear the thought of being perceived as rude. Personally I would be so happy if you gave me a gentle nudge and brought me back in the room, rather than you left believing I was disinterested. Equally, we get super frustrated if we are mid flow and are interrupted. It takes a nanosecond to lose our train of thought and that train is often irretrievable.
To conclude, ADHD has it’s rewards and disadvantages in equal measure. If you know a woman in business with ADHD you need not concern yourself with the “how” things get done, just rest assured they will be done. We’re out of the box thinkers and many onlookers tend to have no idea in which direction we are going until we reach the destination and are able to present a project completed, then often met with an “aha” moment by the client when all has worked out for the best.
It can be frustrating at times working with such an unpredictable personality. One which has superhuman levels of energy one day and just wants to sit in pyjamas with the curtains drawn and ignore your calls the next.
All I can promise you is that if you persevere and trust her, you won’t regret it.