ADHD in Women Lawyers
Countless women lawyers with ADHD I’ve worked with remember wearing early labels like ”daydreamer,” ”space cadet”, and “underperformer.”
Later, as they progressed through undergrad, law school, and the early stages of their legal careers, they felt lazy, ditzy, dumb, anxious, and depressed. Some developed eating disorders. Almost all describe feeling completely overwhelmed more often than not.
And despite incredible gains in ADHD’s visibility and impressive improvement in how it gets diagnosed and treated, some professionals are still missing the boat. ADHD in women remains mysteriously undiagnosed, underdiagnosed, and misdiagnosed (particuarly when compared with their male counterparts).
And women with ADHD remain far less likely to receive appropriate treatment.
As we know, ADHD is a neurological condition marked by persistent inattention—with or without impulsivity and hyperactivity—that impacts how you function day to day.
Shockingly (not shockingly), diagnosis rates among American men is almost 70% higher than among American women (5.4% of men versus 3.2% of women.)
ADHD in women is still embarassingly understudied
ADHD isn’t gender biased. Its symptoms exist almost as often in women as they do in men, and it is hereditary. So, if you have a kiddo (or a parent!) with ADHD, there are at least decent odds that you do, too.
But it turns out we don’t have particularly reliable information about ADHD in women.
Why? Well, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but:
ADHD in women is still embarassingly understudied, overlooked, and misunderstood.
This much we know: women experience ADHD differently than their male counterparts.
How Does ADHD Impact Women Lawyers?
Because ADHD is underdiagnosed in girls, many women don’t get their ADHD diagnosis until adulthood.
In some cases, she is forced to get very curious about her own ADHD when one of her kiddos finally gets diagnosed. As she dives deep into the ADHD ecosystem to become the best caregiver possible for her kiddo, she starts learning more about ADHD. Maybe she recognizes patterns, signs, and symptoms in herself.
Some women get frustrated with ineffective or incomplete treatment for some other condition, like [[anxiety]], [[depression]], [[mood disorders]], [[dysregulated eating]] (like [[anorexia]] or [[bulemia]]), [[conduct disorders]], [[borderline personality disorder]], [[impulse control disorder]] (like [[trichotillomania]] or [[skin picking]],[[autism spectrum disorder]], [[social anxiety disorder]], [[obsessive compulsive disorder]], or [[sleep disorders]] (like [[sleep apnea]]).
Other women seek out ADHD [[diagnosis]] and [[treatment]] when their lives feel completely out of control. They have been balancing all of the spinning plates for years, but something starts to feel broken or irredeemable. Maybe their relationships are suffering uniquely. Or their feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, shame, and low-self esteem feel intractable. Perhaps they feel like their lives are out of control, their home is in a constant state of chaos, and their daily tasks at work and at home feel impossiby big.
Sometimes pregnancy is enough to disrupt routines.
Perhaps COVID and quarantine revealed worrisome patterns.
For some women getting curious about ADHD, difficulty managing money is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. For others, it is the seemingly perpetual inability to organize their billing, timekeeping, case management, email, paperwork, or routine client communications.
Maybe managing life’s daily tasks (laundry, food preparation, buying birthday gifts, refilling medication) becomes overwhelming.
Some women hide ADHD‘s nastier bits by working day and night to meet the the demands of being a badass lawyer, a badass mom, a badass spouse, a badass daughter, and a badass member of the book club. They take advantage of “free time” to get organized.
But whether they “hide” their ADHD or not, they all have one thing in common.
Women with ADHDl feel exhausted and overwhelmed.
The scant research that does exist describes women with ADHD facing down chronic sleep deprivation, compulsive overeating, and alcohol and substance abuse. They’re more likely to have unpleasant moods and anxiety and depression disorders. And as compared to men with ADHD, women are more distressed psychologically and have lower self-esteem.
Women with ADHD experience more shame and self-blame, and tend to measure their self-worth and self-esteem according to their success in conforming with two nearly impossible standards: gender expectations (what it “means” to be a woman/mother/spouse) and professional expectations (what it “means” to be a lawyer in a conservative, male-dominated profession)…
Research indicates that if a family has a member with ADHD, it stresses the whole family.
If the family member with ADHD happens to be a woman, though, those family stress levels are higher than when compared to a man. Undoubtedly, this is because we expect women to carry more responsibility for their homes and kids.
Adding insult, it turns out that if a man has a wife with ADHD, he is likely to be less tolerant of her ADHD than the wife would be of his. (Shocking, I know.)
Plus, stress impacts women uniquely, both psychologically and physically. Women experiencing chronic stress (from being a lawyer or having undiagnosed or untreated ADHD, for example) are at higher risk of developing diseases like fibromyalgia.
ADHD Symptoms in Women Lawyers
Do you feel overwhelmed in stores, at the office, or at parties? Is it impossible for you to shut out sounds and distractions that don’t bother others?
Is time, money, paper, or “stuff” dominating your life and hampering your ability to achieve your goals?
Do you often shut down in the middle of the day, feeling assaulted? Do requests for “one more thing” put you over the top emotionally?
Are you spending most of your time coping, looking for things, catching up, or covering up? Do you avoid people because of this?
Have you stopped having people over to your house because you’re ashamed of the mess?
Do you have trouble balancing your checkbook?
Do you often feel as if life is out of control, and that it’s impossible to meet demands?
Do you feel like you’re always at one end of a deregulated activity spectrum — either a couch potato or a tornado?
Do you feel that you have better ideas than other people but are unable to organize them or act on them?
Do you start each day determined to get organized, and end each day feeling defeated?
Have you watched others of equal intelligence and education pass you by?
Do you despair of ever fulfilling your potential and meeting your goals?
Have you ever been thought of as selfish because you don’t write thank-you notes or send birthday cards?
Are you clueless as to how others manage to lead consistent, regular lives?
Are you called “a slob” or “spacey?” Are you “passing for normal?” Do you feel as if you are an impostor?
Is all your time and energy taken up with coping, staying organized, and holding it together, with no time for fun or relaxation?
The diagnosis often comes after depression, anxiety, or a child being diagnosed.
Pressure to perform. Organized, self-controlled, keeping everyone else organized… and, in the case of kids with ADHD, probably the primary parent in charge of helping the kiddos. Keep the house in order, pick up kids from piano practice,
Financial costs. Tickets, locksmiths, losing glasses
If treating for depression but it persists (or is more complicated), explore ADHD. Procrastination, time management, forgetfulness.
The problem of (white) dudes as primary care providers… If not being listened to, point of view not acknowledged, doctor not curious, etc.
When you compare women with and without ADHD, those with this condition are more likely to experience depressive symptoms – they’re anxious, stressed, they tend to associate success with chance, have a lower self-image, and use emotion-oriented rather than task-oriented coping strategies. This means that they use self-protective measures to cope with stress instead of taking action to solve it. The impacts on their families
The Challenge of Getting the Right Treatment
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects the various aspects of our daily lives, such as moods, behaviors, and cognitive abilities. Dealing with ADHD in women may be characterized by the use of different approaches, some of these which include stress management, psychotherapy, coaching, professional organization, and medication.
Even for women who are lucky to get an accurate ADHD diagnosis, they often have challenges with getting a professional who can help them get through it. Only a few clinicians are experienced enough to handle this condition and only a fraction these know how to deal with ADHD in women. And because of this, most clinicians use standard psychotherapeutic approaches. While these approaches may be useful in offering better insights into interpersonal and emotional issues, they may not help an ADHD-affected woman learn how to manage her condition daily. Also, these approaches may not help a woman live a more productive and fulfilling life.
Professionals are developing therapies focused on ADHD, and they’re aimed at addressing a wide range of issues such as life management, managing daily stress levels, family and interpersonal issues, self-esteem, and daily health habits. Such therapies are often known as “neurocognitive psychotherapy.” It’s a technique which brings together cognitive behavior therapy and cognitive rehabilitation techniques. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps to solve ADHD’s psychological problems such as self-blame, self-acceptance, and self-confidence.
On the other hand, cognitive rehabilitation techniques are aimed at helping an individual improve their cognitive functions like evaluating problems and solving them, reasoning, remembering, using judgement, and understanding. Also, the techniques focus on helping individuals learn compensatory strategies and how to restructure the environment.
In women with ADHD, medications issues are sometimes more complicated as compared to men.
Any approach taken needs to consider all the factors in the woman’s life, not forgetting the treatment of other existing conditions, if any. ADHD-affected women are more likely to have other underlying issues like anxiety and depression. They may also have other conditions such as learning disabilities.
Before any medical approach is taken, it’s also critical that the clinician evaluates the woman’s history of substance abuse.
Another thing that may complicate a woman’s ADHD medication is their hormonal fluctuations. For instance, during their menstrual cycle, they have hormonal changes which may affect the medication. Additionally, hormonal changes at different stages of their lives such as puberty, perimenopause, and menopause may further affect the medication. That’s why a professional may need to incorporate something like hormonal replacement into the individual’s ADHD medication.
Other Treatment Approaches For Women With ADHD
Parent training Mothers are the primary parents in most households. They’re tasked with the responsibilities of managing the family and the home. These duties demand lots of focus, planning, organization, and juggling several responsibilities at once. When ADHD comes in, it disrupts the ability to perform these roles and hardens the job of a mother. And since ADHD is hereditary, women with ADHD are more like to have kids with ADHD, which further adds to their problems. That’s why parent training can be an effective approach towards helping these women. They can be trained on how to manage their home and family. While parent management programs for kids with ADHD are sometimes useful in training parents with ADHD, they may not always be effective. This is because the symptoms in the mother may be more severe. Therefore, it may be wise to include adult ADHD training and life management techniques into the mother’s training.
Females with ADHD start developing social issues early, and these issues increase as they advance in age. ADHD-affected females even have bigger issues when it comes to self-esteem than their male counterparts. Since these females may often feel rejected and ashamed, psychotherapy groups are excellent to offer a therapeutic experience. During group sessions, they feel they have other people who can understand them, and it provides a safe haven where they accept their condition and start their journey towards managing their lives.
This is a relatively new profession, and it was developed to offer support and help ADHD individuals structure their lives and focus better. If you have ADHD and need some coaching, it can take place through email or by phone.
In this modern life, we have to handle lots and lots of things. For women with ADHD who always find themselves disorganized at home, at work or both, they can take advantage of the organizer profession. A professional organizer can help you sort, store, file, and discard items in your office or home. They can also help you create an organization system that’s easy to manage and maintain.
Women with ADHD not only need guidance with parenting, but they also need help with their careers. Career guidance helps them know their weaknesses, take advantage of their strengths, and reduce ADHD’s impact on their performance in the workplace. Many jobs have lots of demands which may be difficult for an individual with ADHD. To get everything right, stay organized, manage paperwork, and pay keen attention. If you have ADHD and feel your workplace has lots of demands which are stressing you, going for a less-stressing job is a wise decision. If a job change is not possible, you can see a career counselor who can guide you in navigating the various aspects of your job.
How Can You Help Yourself If You’re a Woman With ADHD?
If you’re a woman with ADHD, you may consider seeing a professional to help you out. However, this is not the only solution; you can also play a significant role in helping yourself beat the impacts of this condition.
[[Seven ADHD Foundations for Lawyers with ADHD]]
Here are some self-help strategies you should keep in mind:
Don’t judge or blame yourself.
Accept that you have ADHD and have a positive mental attitude that things will get better.
Identify what’s stressing you and make changes to reduce your stress levels.
Get help from your loved ones
don’t feel afraid or ashamed.
Focus on what you love.
Take breaks even if you have a busy schedule.
Invest in yourself – exercise, eat well and sleep adequately.
People struggling with ADHD have different problems and needs, depending on their age, environment, and gender. If you’re not correctly diagnosed and treated, this condition may have devastating effects on every part of your life. Therefore, if you’re a woman law student, paralegal or lawyer, get an accurate diagnosis as fast as possible. This way, you’ll know to address the symptoms and get your life on track.