Too Busy or ADD?
Why it might be ADHD: There tends to be a strong genetic component to the disorder, so if one person in a family—like your brother or your son—is diagnosed with it, there's a 25 to 35 percent chance that any other family member has it, too. Since 2012, the greatest increase in usage of ADHD drugs comes from adult women. As more females are diagnosed, experts are learning more about how ADHD affects them: In childhood, for instance, girls are likely to be more inattentive and distracted—not necessarily the human mini-tornadoes we tend to picture.
Why it might not be ADHD: Those who suffer from the disorder have also sought out coping strategies—they usually know all the things they're supposed to do. However, they find themselves unable to implement them without extra help, in the form of medication, a therapist or coach, or some other form of intervention, says Ramsay, who is the author of the forthcoming book The Adult ADHD Tool Kit: Using CBT to Facilitate Coping Inside and Out.
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When you were pregnant, did you find that you felt, paradoxically, more focused, attentive, emotionally rational and organized than usual?
Women's hormones have some surprising impacts on ADHD, says Kathleen Nadeau, PhD, co-founder of the National Center for Gender Issues in ADHD. Estrogen appears to influence the sensitivity receptors in the brain, blunting the severity of some of the symptoms.
Why it might be ADHD: When estrogen levels are consistently high, as when one is pregnant or breastfeeding, women who have been diagnosed with ADHD tend to report fewer symptoms, says Nadeau. This can be a welcome change...while it lasts. Once the hormones return to their monthly fluctuation schedule, those symptoms can surge like crazy. Never been pregnant? Try charting your feelings and behavior throughout your menstrual cycle. Women with ADHD often notice that their symptoms ebb and flow: The first two weeks of their cycle are fine and everything seems to be going smoothly, but then, right before their period, symptoms—hyperactivity, restlessness, distractibility—come crashing back full-force.
Why it might be ADHD: People with ADHD have particular trouble with tardiness, due mostly to their distorted sense of time and their inability to shift focus. There's a saying that people with ADHD run on a clock with just two times: "Now" and "not now." When the "now" is filled with something they enjoy, time flies by and they have an extremely hard time pulling themselves away, says Nadeau, who is also the director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland. When they're not engaged, time moves excruciatingly slowly, so they go out of their way to avoid boring activities—like waiting.
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Why it might not be ADHD: For those with ADHD, their underwear—or whatever other thing they need right now—is always MIA. They put all of their available energy into their job and their public lives, and work very hard to maintain the façade of a put-together person, says Nadeau. But behind closed doors, there's an explosion of chaos. (In your case, bathing beauty, you were probably just overloaded.)
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Why it might not be ADHD: While you may be able to find solace in the misery of other similarly overwhelmed caregivers, the new parent with ADHD probably can't even make it to the meetings. A major life change with new responsibilities—like taking care of a baby, an elderly parent or an injured spouse—also has the effect of bringing ADHD to the forefront. For those people, that double whammy is especially challenging.
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Why it might be ADHD: Women tend to get diagnosed much later than men, but when they look back, the signs were always there—even if they weren't a problem until later in life. "ADHD doesn't suddenly come on out of nowhere," Nadeau adds.