ADHD In Indian Women: The Hidden Spectrum

When I was, I told I don't have ADHD, because I was not hyper enough! The non-violent, never-seated-still, feet tapping girls, assemble!

A couple of months ago, I posted an ADHD meme on my page, and an old theatre mentor reached out to claim that I do not suffer from ADHD, and that my doctor’s report is warped by capitalism. When I asked her how she knew me (more than my daily brushing and bathing alarms), she confidently claimed:

“You are not hyper enough.”

The ADHD myth

One of the major myths regarding neurodivergent is that there’s a strict list of symptoms that everyone gate-keeps, and if one does not cross it, one does not have it. Be it autism or ADHD, the spectrum is always considered a hoax, and the people who have the tell-tale signs make the disorder look more like a cult.

ADHD has only found its way to research in the last decade, and how it manifests in women is so underdone that most claim it is just a ‘men being men’ disorder.

People who suffer from ADHD (like me) also benefit from the multiple tabs in our heads (unlike me), mostly living to tell the tale of how it is a superpower to brainstorm, but I call it a hazard when the doctor is relaying the fever prescription.

ADHD or Disorderly Distribution of Attention? Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurobehavioural disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity.

Read more: Everything I Know About ADHD As A Mom Of A Kid With ADHD

Symptoms often begin in childhood, but go unnoticed in girl-child

In the majority of cases, symptoms begin in childhood and continue to affect a person’s functioning well into adulthood. Inattentive ADHD, also known as ADD, is a subtype of ADHD that leads to problems such as a limited attention span, forgetfulness, or procrastination. People with ADHD of the inattentive type have difficulty paying attention to details but also tend to maintain long hours of fluctuating attention on the things that interest them.

Never miss real stories from India's women.

Register Now

Doctoral prescriptions and assessments are based on the research that was based on boys/men, and so more often than not, ADHD gains a telltale subtext of people with roadrunner skills, constantly bashing into things and throwing away books. This results in the wrong diagnosis when women show up, mostly misjudged to have bipolar disorder or depression, and getting wrongly medicated for it.

Reports have also suggested that gender bias may play a significant role in the misdiagnosis and underdiagnosed of ADHD in women and girls.

Given that certain symptoms of ADD include being shy or impulsive, it may often be misunderstood as a girl’s or woman’s character/personality traits, making it difficult to diagnose the real cause of the condition. Masking in neurodivergent is mirroring ‘socially acceptable’ behaviour and camouflaging by controlling impulses and having rehearsed responses to people and events around.

Women with ADHD mask themselves as the ‘good kid’ or ‘quiet, spacey, or weird’ kid. Who forgets a lot, is clumsy, mostly is in a different world, knows random facts, has no ambition towards one thing, and is spread thin with 60 other hobbies.

Since ADHD in women is not destructive or loud enough for people, masking becomes an unconscious attempt to fit in and escape society’s already working discrimination. Asking for help is mostly considered an attempt at attention-seeking or simply being lazy.

ADHD symptoms in women If research for women is an underexplored topic, gender-diverse communities don’t even cut. At this point, the non-cis male neurodivergent population is flying blind. Society drills into us what the ‘correct female behaviour’ is, resulting in women tending to have a more internalized projection of ADHD.

This has most of us never considering or getting a diagnosis early on, with all our report cards being either exceptionally good with the future of burnout or bad grades indicating the need for sensory learning instead of textbooks.

Read more: A Child With ADHD Is Not Any Lesser Than The Others In A Classroom!

ADHD and periods

One of the major factors of how ADHD can be widely different and sometimes even more intense for women is during the time of periods. The entire menstrual cycle is notorious already with the changing energy spikes. The dopamine levels fluctuate, and one week or an entire month has us surrendering to our hormones, which are mostly unkind.

ADHD adds (rudely) its low dopamine to the mix because ADHD also means chronic serotonin and dopamine deficiency. So during periods, one is not just on a mood swing, but the said swing is also on fire.

Overlooked ADHD symptoms in women

If you skipped through the intro for me to get to the point, I have news for you—welcome to the club. Symptoms in women look like:

  • Not paying close attention to details and making careless mistakes in schoolwork.
  • Trouble staying focused and being easily distracted, being disorganized or messy.
  • Forgetting routine tasks, like household chores or even daily personal care.
  • Not following through on instructions.
  • Difficulty organizing and completing tasks and failing to meet deadlines.
  • Prone to alcohol/drug addiction.
  • Avoiding or disliking tasks that require sustained concentration.
  • History of anxiety and depression.
  • Trouble keeping on one topic or following through one storyline, making and losing friends quickly.
  • Constantly changing views about one’s body and eating disorders.
  • Are considered unreliable due to constantly changing perspectives.

Where men being different is celebrated as genius minds rarely sit still, with women, the same symptoms are her being weird. Masking becomes second nature and often results in developing imposter syndrome and being constantly discontent with ourselves.

What helps?

The behaviour of girls with ADHD is sometimes so far outside gender norms that this contributes to social rejection and isolation. Peer victimization and frustrations with oneself can result in the need to harm oneself if not screened and intervened from early on. The repercussion is a 33% increase in the risk for suicide attempts.

We need to understand that every disorder has its pick and choose from the basket of symptoms, ranging from hormonal and environmental changes. To expect every disorder to be of one nature pushes an entire spectrum to a linear line and pushes the majority off the cliffs.

So, what are the steps to tackle this?

  • Getting a diagnosis from doctors who specialize in ADHD.
  • Awareness and unlearning the neurotypical ways of understanding and doing things.
  • Educating people around us on how it is a spectrum and not a space for “everyone has it” banter.
  • Exercising and eating nourishing foods are proven to elevate serotonin and dopamine levels.
  • Being patient with our changing interests and ways of doing things.

Social media platforms spreading ADHD awareness

The diagnosis and specialized doctors might not be an affordable option for all, keeping that in mind, here are a few social media platforms that can help with understanding ADHD further:

Just because your struggles are invisible to others, it does not mean it doesn’t exist. You are not attention-seeking, you are not lazy all the time, and you are not weak-minded with poor determination, ambition, or focus.

Think of it like this: you are a 16-string guitar in a land where people think playing with ektara is hard.

Recommended read:

Image source: CanvaPro

Liked this post?

Join the 100000 women at Women's Web who get our weekly mailer and never miss out on our events, contests & best reads - you can also start sharing your own ideas and experiences with thousands of other women here!


About the Author

4 Posts | 1,847 Views

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

All Categories