Is ADD/ADHD in Women and Girls Hereditary?
ADD/ADHD is strongly hereditary, and many women seek help as adults because a light bulb goes off when they have a child who is diagnosed. This was the case with Joy Carr. Watching her preteen son fill out his diagnostic questionnaire brought a flood of memories — of her own messy lockers, lost textbooks, and teachers who called her bright but lazy. Following a familiar pattern for young adults with ADD/ADHD, Carr, who lives near Buffalo, New York, dropped out of college as a junior, got married at 22, and had her first child one year later.
For many years, her domestic duties overwhelmed her. She’d start out on a chore, from a list her husband prepared, then get sidetracked, ending up with tasks half-done. “I’d throw a load of laundry in and forget about it for days,” says Carr. “By then, it would smell musty, so I’d wash it again. And then I’d forget about it again.”
In 2007, however, Carr’s life took a turn for the better after she got her ADD/ADHD diagnosis and started taking ADD/ADHD medication. “The roaring, racing thoughts in my head quieted down,” she says. That same year, she went back to college to complete her undergraduate degree. After coping with her son, she apologized to her mother for the grief she gave her as a child.
Women tell sad stories of showing up for diagnoses. Kathleen Nadeau, who diagnosed herself in her 30s, had been an undergraduate at four different colleges. Sari Solden, who was 42 when she figured out she had ADD/ADHD, says her diaries testify to decades of wondering what was wrong. Was she immature? Did she have a brain tumor? Narcolepsy? Trying stimulants after years without them was like “greasing my brain,” Solden says. “I remember going to a dinner that night. I was asked a question, and I actually told a story.”