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What are the Symptoms of ADHD in Adult Women?

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 11/27/2010

ADHD is not just a childhood disorder. There are more than 8 million ADHD adults in the United States, with about half being women. The symptoms of ADHD in adult women are similar to what men experience, but there are enough differences to warrant distinction.

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    Focus and Concentration

    Adult ADHD can affect a woman's ability to focus and concentrate, making it difficult to complete normal everyday tasks. Irrelevant sounds and sights may easily distract her, she may quickly become bored or quickly go from one activity to the next. The symptoms of ADHD in adult women in this category do not receive a lot of attention because they tend not to be obviously disruptive, but they can certainly become troublesome for the individual. Possible symptoms may include:

    • Zoning out and not realizing it. Some women will even zone out mid-conversation
    • Having a hard time focusing or concentrating. For example, may not be able to focus or concentrate when reading a book or listening to others speak
    • Often overlooking details which can result in incomplete work or errors in work
    • Extreme distractibility. Has a rather difficult time staying on track and attention wanders
    • Struggling to complete tasks, including tasks that are simple and routine
    • Poor listening skills. Difficulty following directions, even simple ones, and a difficult time remembering conversations.
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    Hyperfocus

    While difficulty focusing is a common symptom of ADHD, specifically when the task she is concentrating on is not of interest to her, women may also find the opposite true when focusing on something that is of interest. This is known as hyperfocus. Hyperfocus involves becoming absorbed in a task that the woman finds rewarding and stimulating. This symptom is considered a coping mechanism for distraction. It is a way adult women with ADHD tune out the chaos. This symptom can be so strong that it can make her completely oblivious to everything else that is taking place around her. If this symptom is left untreated, a woman's relationships and work can suffer.

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    Forgetfulness and Disorganization

    Another common symptom of ADHD in adult women is being forgetful and disorganized. Staying organized can be challenging because women with ADHD often feel as if their life is out of control and chaotic. Possible symptoms may include:

    • A tendency to procrastinate
    • Chronic lateness
    • Frequently misplacing or losing things, including items used daily
    • Poor organizational skills
    • Difficulty finishing or starting projects
    • Frequently forgetting commitments, deadlines, and appointments
    • Underestimating how much time she will need to complete tasks.
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    Impulsivity

    Adult ADHD can cause a woman to have difficulty inhibiting her comments, responses and behaviors. She may react before thinking about the consequences or act before thinking. She may find herself blurting out comments, interrupting others or rushing through tasks without taking the time to look at the instructions. She may be impatient and possibly get herself into risky situations. Possible symptoms include:

    • Frequently talking over or interrupting others
    • Blurting out inappropriate or rude thoughts without thinking
    • Acting spontaneously or recklessly without considering the consequences
    • Having poor self-control
    • Having addictive tendencies
    • Having difficulty behaving in ways that are socially appropriate
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    Restlessness or Hyperactivity

    Women may seem like they are always on the go or highly energetic. As women age, this symptom may decrease some. Possible symptoms may include:

    • Tendency to take risks
    • Racing thoughts
    • Craving excitement
    • Performing several tasks at once
    • Feelings of agitation or inner restlessness
    • Getting bored easily
    • Fidgeting and difficulty sitting still
    • Talking excessively
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    Emotional Difficulties

    Managing feelings, especially those of frustration or anger, is a common issue for women with ADHD. Possible symptoms may include:

    • Not coping with frustration well
    • Mood swings or irritability
    • Hypersensitivity to criticism
    • Sense of insecurity and low self-esteem
    • Sense of underachievement
    • Easily stressed out or flustered
    • Difficulty staying motivated
    • Short, often explosive, temper
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    Resources

    WebMD. (2010). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD in Adults. Retrieved on November 23, 2010 from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-adults

    Attention Deficit Disorder Resources Organization. (2010). ADHD in Women. Retrieved on November 23, 2010 from the Attention Deficit Disorder Resources Organization: http://www.addresources.org/article_adhd_women_chadd.php