ADHD Is for Women, Too

Children aren’t the only ones who wrestle with attention deficit disorder, and men aren’t the only ones who are hyperactive. A guide for women with ADHD.

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Living the ADD Life

At 44, Denise Difede was diagnosed with the combined subtype of ADHD. She began taking a stimulant, and it worked. The true test that her medication made a difference came while a friend was visiting Difede for a month. One weekend, she decided to take a meds break. “I didn’t tell him I had been on [then went off] medication,” says Difede. Come Monday, her friend remarked, “You’re so much more together today, you were out of it most of the weekend.”

ADHD Is for Women, Too

“It was a shock,” says Difede, who now works as an administrator at the Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance in Toronto. “I asked him to describe what he saw on the weekend. He just said he thought I was not quite on my game.”

Difede and I are in good company: Some of the most successful athletes (Michael Phelps), actors, and entertainers (Justin Timberlake), not to mention scientists, entrepreneurs, and academics, display traits of ADHD. On the other hand, being one of only 10 percent of women with the hyperactive form of ADHD, I 'present' entirely differently from Difede. Professionals tell me that having the “H” is actually a good thing: Hyperactivity can lead to earlier diagnosis and more energy later in life.

For me, it’s been a mixed blessing. Being hyperactive helps me when performing standup comedy, but it does me no favors when I come across as near-manic during a job interview. After learning that I had the disorder — and a euphoric moment of realizing that my apparent road to nowhere was not my fault — a sense of embarrassment and failure flooded in.

“People will say they’re addicted to crack, gambling, sex, but they don’t want to say they’ve got an inherited neurobiological condition, like ADD,” says Pete Quily, an ADHD coach in Vancouver, who has been diagnosed with the condition.

Next: Fighting the Stigma

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