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Do I have ADHD or am I just a million other things?

Thousands of women and girls are living a lie… Maybe even you?

Up until this summer, I believed something very different to what I know about myself and my life now…

But first, what if someone said to you this whole time you weren’t just impulsive, shy, introverted, too much, anxious, messy, perfectionist, overwhelmed, chatty, lazy, unmotivated, passionate, confused, a workaholic, scatty, creative, easily distracted, enthusiastic, careless, forgetful, restless, too busy, lonely, sensitive, weird, full of self-doubt, fearful, ashamed, driven and solutions focused?

You are the way you are, not just because of your star sign, childhood trauma, an event at work, an accident, your upbringing, being bullied at school, motherhood, a breakdown of a relationship or friendship, and your path hasn’t made you who you are.

What if you’re just different and the world hasn’t accepted you but you didn’t know why you felt different? Like a bit of an outsider.

I’ve wasted hundreds of pounds on books, courses, hypnotherapy and therapy. It’s clear there are millions of other people that feel the same way, the self-help industry is worth over $13 billion! Plus the amount of guilt, stress, inner turmoil and anxiety I’ve suffered from trying to figure it all out; trying to fit in and find some peace and contentment. Why did I find it so hard? Why can’t I maintain good habits and behaviours?

Then I discovered I had inattentive ADHD

But surely ADHD is just that thing hyperactive and disruptive 7-year-old boys have?

This is the misconception that stops millions of women in the UK from getting properly assessed for ADHD. This, and the fact the current system is largely reliant on women with ADHD understanding their own traits and seeking a diagnosis. The problem is, the existing diagnostic criteria – the traits you need to identify – are still based on research that is massively biased towards white boys and men. Girls and women simply don’t always conform to that clinical picture. It’s therefore a scarily common assumption that women and non-binary people are simply in the minority of sufferers, when actually the ratio is equal.

ADHD affects over 1.5 million adults in the UK, yet only 4.9% of women will be diagnosed in their lifetime compared to 12% of men.

And only 1% of the UK population have an ADHD diagnosis, despite the fact 1 in 20 (5%) are estimated to have the condition, according to ADHD UK. 

“ADHD often presents in women in a very masked form, with mood, anxiety and persistent shame issues, with toxic perfectionism, accompanied by working a lot harder than others behind the scenes to achieve,” explains psychotherapist and psychiatrist Dr Helen Read, who recently set up her London-based ADHD Consultancy after retiring as the Lead Consultant for ADHD at a large London NHS Trust. “The combination of an outwardly successful life, with a disorganised home environment is often seen. Many women with ADHD are people pleasers, but often feel ashamed, “never good enough”, and struggle with imposter syndrome”. 

Whether you have ADHD or not you might know someone that has undiagnosed ADHD. It could be your friend, a client or colleague, another mum at the school gates, or a member of your family. Neurodiversity is all around us, everyone experiences the world in a different way, and there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving.

The whole of society is neurodiverse. Diversity is the trait of a whole group not of an individual. It is estimated that around 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people in the UK) have neurodevelopmental differences, including autism, which are observed when they learn and process information in a particular way.

You might experience someone’s ADHD traits and put them down to a lack of effort or rudeness, for example. But once you have an understanding of this disorder or you discover the key to your own brain, it’s a really powerful thing…

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