ADHD Women: A Study in Contrast

ADHD woman's face contrast

I have often thought that the lives of ADHD women are a study in contrast.

From the outside you and I appear to conduct our lives rather haphazardly.

Someone once told me having a conversation with me is a bit like talking to the Mad Hatter.I change subjects a lot. I get excited when talking about something I am passionate about, and I talk really fast. My attention darts away from the conversation frequently.

I can also be completely inflexible. I like to keep my schedule the same week-to-week and day-to-day. I get angry and irritable if someone throws a wrench in my plans or interrupts me while I work  hyperfocus.

I am privileged to have formed my own little community that has allowed me to talk to thousands of women.

The more women we welcome into the group, the more I see that no two women with ADHD are exactly alike. We all have unique struggles and unique strengths. But we are all a study in contrast.

ADHD Women: A Study in Contrast


Lack of Focus v. Hyperfocus

You’ve probably developed some strategies for getting things done, showing up on time, and holding down the corks. This hypervigilence is totally exhausting, but feels necessary to get by.

But what happens when too many demands are placed on your attention? When too many projects at work AND at home start to weight you down?

You end up confused about where to focus. And then your motivation tanks.

Adults with ADHD don’t lack attention, they simply have trouble figuring out where to apply their attention.

But we also have an exacting attention to detail when we ARE interested in something. This is often called hyperfocus.

Hyperfocus is a doubled-edged sword for most of us. We can get a lot done in a short time when we are hyperfocused. This feels really good in the moment.

On the other hand, time blindness kicks in and we fail to pay attention to anything outside of our own head. This leads to trouble with relationships and mood regulation.

Nobody wants to be around someone whose mood fluctuates seemingly without any explanation.

Social Butterfly v. Social Reject

I have always vacillated between getting out and meeting new people and experiencing new things – and wanting to stay inside my house in my pajamas without seeing anyone.

I actually wrote about my weird social anxiety issues that developed in my 20’s in this post. While I am better than I used to be, I still clam up and get a little sweaty and nervous when I have to introduce myself to someone new.

You and I both know that following a conversation can be difficult. And some of us identify as Highly Sensitive People or empaths. There is a balance to strike between getting the needed social interaction and also taking care of ourselves.

Many of us numb-out on social media because it temporarily fills our need for human interaction. But you are still alone in your room after you click out of Facebook or instagram.

spontaneity v. Routine

As you know I love me some routines. I have community members who tell me that they also do better and feel better with a routine in place. Routines are life for some of us.

Without a routine you and I would be unable to get out the door every morning.

I recall a few years ago my husband got up on a Sunday morning and wanted to go to Ikea. At the time our son was about 2 years old, and I had a plan for how I would get all of the chores done that day. (I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time.)

When he proposed that we take an impromptu trip to Ikea my head about exploded.  I just freaked out and started yelling about how I cannot cook, clean and shop with so much pressure.

Sound familiar?

I am so un-spontaneous that I don’t know how to describe a fun, spontaneous woman with ADHD.   I know these women exist. If you are this way – fill this section in for me.

Disorganization v. OCD tendencies

I have piles of papers, piles of clean clothes, and piles of dirty clothes. I have piles of my son’s schoolwork. I move the piles around when people come over.

Wacky fact: I am disorganized but also OCD.

I am a germ phobe. I disinfect surfaces in my house and the handles of my fridge every day. I use Clorox wipes on my doorknobs everyday.

You’ve sent me emails describing some of your OCD tendencies. Everything from hand washing, to exercising, to buying a label maker so you can label everything in your house.

I’m not gonna lie, the label maker sounds like a ton of fun!

But sometimes this need to control something in our lives becomes too much. Sorta like the clutter becomes too much.

If that isn’t a contrast I don’t know what is.

Racing Thoughts v. Mental Exhaustion

So many of you have told me that you have racing thoughts.

Often there is no real pattern to when the thoughts strike, it seems to happen at all times of day and night.

Unfortunately, many of you report that your racing thoughts are negative or cause you stress. This is in line with the research I’ve done into how ADHD people think. We are very prone to negative thoughts and limiting beliefs.

I actually wrote a whole article based on a conversation we had in the Enclave about negative rumination.

Mental exhaustion sets in for many of us in the late afternoon or evening.

There is a dual nature to life with ADHD. A push and pull that is always present.

Some of my worst ADHD-inspired traits are offset by other positive contrasting traits.  I could write more about contrasting personality traits, but I will spare you.

This I know to be true: ADHD women are a study in contrast. And we need each other.

 We can create conversation, healing, and more calm in our lives TOGETHER.


2 comments on “ADHD Women: A Study in Contrast

  1. I’ve already commented on one of your other blog posts today–but I’m just completely blown away at how alike our brains function. Freaking out at the idea of a spontaneous Ikea trip–I have SO done the EXACT same thing! I have recently started to practice being more mindful, at peace in the moment, and being flexible, but it definitely does not come easily.

  2. Rachael – you can comment on any post you wish!
    I love comments because whether people love it or hate it at least you know where you stand.
    I am not spontaneous, I just didn’t get that set of genes. Instead I ruminate and worry and berate myself. Not fun but I am dealing with it.
    Do you use any mindfulness apps? I have some apps and I am gearing up to read a book about ADHD and mindfulness.

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