Hormonal Fluctuations Exert Outsized Influence on ADHD Symptoms: New ADDitude Survey
In first-of-its-kind research published by ADDitude, more than 2,700 women and men with ADHD reported enduring their most severe symptoms during menopause and andropause, respectively. Two-thirds of women experienced severe PMS or PMDD — well over the national rates for those comorbidities — and hormonal fluctuations were tied to marked changes in symptoms.
April 25, 2023
New York – ADDitude magazine, the world’s most trusted resource on ADHD, is honoring Women’s Health Month with the publication of groundbreaking research on the impact of hormonal fluctuations on female ADHD symptoms during each life stage, from puberty and pregnancy to menopause. The upshot: Wild swings in estrogen levels dramatically worsen ADHD symptoms, and the severity grows more pronounced with age, according to more than 2,000 women surveyed aged 18 to 82.
ADDitude’s new survey also found that men with ADHD were equally affected by the rise and fall of testosterone levels during distinct life stages, and that andropause (often called male menopause) seemed to incite the most dramatic life changes. The survey included more than 2,711 men and women with ADHD between the ages of 18 and 82.
Women and men alike reported the greatest symptom severity from ages 50 to 59 — during menopause and andropause, respectively. Women reported that plummeting estrogen levels during menopause magnified the effects of ADHD, echoing the results of a 2022 ADDitude survey of 3,930 women that found hormonal changes exerted an outsized impact on ADHD functioning during this life stage.
How did the ebb and flow of hormones affect other life stages?
ADHD Link to PMS, PMDD
A staggering two-thirds of women surveyed said they experienced premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and/or premenstrual dysphoria disorder (PMDD) — well over national rates of PMS and PMDD. The overwhelming majority of women surveyed cited irritability, mood swings, cramps or discomfort, anxiety, and lack of concentration as the most impairing symptoms.
“For me, PMDD meant suicidal ideation, increased meltdowns and shutdowns, a decrease in emotional regulation, extreme sensitivity to rejection, and intrusive thoughts,” a woman, 39, who was diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, and autism, told ADDitude.
Postpartum Depression and ADHD
The hormonal drop associated with postpartum depression, cited by 61 percent of women surveyed, was debilitating and, for many, lasted about one year. Worse, many women said they were not forewarned by their healthcare providers of the potentially debilitating effects of plummeting hormone levels after birth — and almost half said they were offered no treatment options, such as antidepressants or recommendations for therapy.
“The nurses I spoke to did not recognize my postpartum depression and told me it was probably a normal hormonal drop, but things never improved,” a 36-year-old mother in Pennsylvania told ADDitude.
Another woman, now age 50, said she thought she was a “bad mom” for feeling as she did, “so I masked my issues.”
ADHD in Puberty
During the hormonal swings of puberty, men were more likely to report illegal drug use, hypersexuality, and anger-management problems than were women, according to the ADDitude survey. Testosterone levels typically reach their peak around age 20, when challenges shift to procrastination, emotional dysregulation, and relationship problems, the men reported in the survey.
ADDitude will be publishing and promoting insights from its research, as well as other content chronicling the female experience with ADHD and its comorbid conditions, during the month of May at ADHD in Women: In Women We Trust.
For more information on ADDitude’s proprietary surveys of women and men with ADHD and possible interviews with patients, medical review board members, and/or ADHD experts, please contact Carole Fleck at [email protected].
About ADDitude magazine:
Since 1998, tens of millions of readers have trusted ADDitude to deliver expert advice and caring support, making us the leading media network for clinicians, educators, parents, and adults living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADDitude is the world’s most trusted source of strategies and information about ADHD and related conditions, such as learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, and oppositional defiant disorder. In 2021, ADDitude, the voice of and advocate for the ADHD community, joined the WebMD family of health brands.