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ADHD and Menopause, Is There a Connection?

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

I know. As if we need one more symptom or issue to worry about at this stage of life. Am I right? The good news is that NO - there is no connection. Well, not exactly. But. According to (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), there is a severe gender gap that leaves girls and women under-treated, under-diagnosed, and often misdiagnosed:

Girls frequently display inattentive symptoms, including forgetfulness, trouble paying attention, and problems with organization. Boys tend to display hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, like blurting out or being unable to sit still in class. These hyperactive/impulsive symptoms get noticed more easily by parents and teachers while inattentive symptoms sometimes get ignored.

Girls are also less likely to be diagnosed earlier because they often display more symptoms of anxiety. Medical providers may only treat a female patient’s anxiety or depression without evaluating for ADHD. Hormones, which affect the symptoms of both ADHD and anxiety, can complicate things.

ADHD was never something that EVER crossed my mind.

Not until I was put on a low dose (150mg) of Wellbutrin to treat low libido. If you listen to Circling the Drain podcast, you know that Ellie and I have been on an experimental journey looking for low-libido solutions, and this was part of that experiment. While it didn't help with my libido, it did help with my focus. I was shocked. "Is this how I'm supposed to feel? Are most people this focused?" I thought. It turns out Wellbutrin is prescribed off-label for both low-libido and ADHD.

Until then, I thought much of my behavior was perfectly normal.

I have an A-type personality and consider myself a person who gets sh*t done; how could I possibly have ADHD? I've worked as a C-suite executive assistant for over 13 years in the high-stress, high-demand world of real estate development. If I didn't have my shit together, I'd fall on my face, right? Maybe.

It wasn't until a friend recommended KC Davis' podcast Struggle Care, episode 31: Wait. Am I ADHD? with Dr. Sasha Hamdani, I realized I might be wrong about EVERYTHING. Do you ever listen to a podcast or read a book where you feel like someone is speaking directly to you? It turns out my ability to hyperfocus is probably what has kept me employed all of these years. All people experience hyperfocus in some way or another. You might call it being in the zone.

However, when you have ADHD, it's either hyperfocus or NO focus.

Women are VERY good at getting by and creating workarounds to cope with ADHD. Are we really surprised? We've been coping our whole lives. As I said, girls are often undiagnosed because their symptoms are not as apparent as with boys. For example, a boy might have outbursts of hyperactivity, but a girl might be hyper-talkative and easily distracted. Boys may openly fidget, while girls (taught to keep to themselves) may bite nails, pick cuticles or sometimes describe "internal hyperactivity." I think you can imagine what that is. Also, this trapped energy might manifest as a tic. More on all of that here.

That was my story. I used to go through bouts of blinking uncontrollably. My mother's solution was to take me to the eye doctor, who (of course) said there was nothing wrong. I mean, it was the 80s. This habit went on for years, and I still want to do it occasionally (my husband has caught me), but as an adult, I have more control over my body, so I'm more aware.

What does all of this have to do with peri/menopause?

ADHD can be exacerbated by hormone fluctuations and everything else that comes with this time in life! More on that here. You might have gone your entire existence thus far without knowing you had ADHD, normalizing some minor, strange behaviors until something happens that forces you to pay attention. Like when I missed three different podcast recording appointments because of something called time blindness.

I went from asking myself, "Is it me or is it perimenopause?" to "Is it me, perimenopause, or ADHD?"

Indeed, many symptoms of peri/menopause are also symptoms of ADHD. For example, forgetfulness, depression, anxiety, and irritability, overlap, making it hard to tease out what is what. Some less common symptoms here:

  • Being easily distracted

  • Frequently failing to complete tasks, work, or chores

  • Making careless mistakes

  • Easily losing items

  • Forgetting to do necessary tasks

  • Having difficulty making plans

  • Feeling easily overwhelmed by tasks or projects

  • Inability to commit to a decision

  • Difficulty with time management

If any of that resonated with you, I'd suggest starting with the podcast episode I listed earlier. If it makes you feel seen, you might want to schedule an appointment with a therapist who can evaluate you and ultimately refer you to a psychotherapist for further help.

I'm meeting with a specialist this week and will keep you all posted!

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