Is ADHD Making You Moody, Anxious and Exhausted?

By Sue Varma, MD Board certified Psychiatrist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center

Posted on | By Sue Varma, MD | Comments ()

So many women have ADHD but never know it for a variety of reasons. ADHD can mimic and co-exist with many other conditions and mood disorders.

Women with ADHD always think it’s something else at first, most commonly depression, fatigue, and anxiety. If they even make it to a mental health specialist, their symptoms may get diagnosed as another condition or get minimized as “just being a part of your personality.” Moreover, they may think, “I’m just disorganized and I’ve always been that way.” Or as some of my patients put it, “It’s a part of my personality, I’m just spacey or easily distracted.”

It’s seen as within the range of normal, but we don’t realize what a significant impact ADHD has. I find that this condition may not be viewed as seriously as others, but the truth is, it’s just as impairing.

Another reason we don’t pick up on ADHD as often is that it presents differently in males than females. You may not be like the hyperactive boy bouncing off the walls, getting in trouble at school – but you can be drowning in worry. Girls with ADHD may be more of the quiet or shy type; they’re perceived as daydreamers. You might be easily distracted or restless and can’t keep up with the bills or appointments. You can’t relax and are always anxious or frustrated. You may have trouble controlling your temper. Women tend to brush these warning signs off and think it’s a part of the stressful nature of life or as a result of juggling one too many things – raising kids, holding down jobs, keeping a household together.

Some of my patients have had ADHD their entire life, but it doesn’t come to the surface until they are hit by a major change or stress, or when expectations increase. They were able to get by for a long period of time, that is, until they were faced with a new job, challenge, promotion or added pressure and responsibility. These individuals are smart, and may get by in meetings using social skills. However, this can just mask their disorganization. This is also another reason why women are under-diagnosed – they’ve learned how to cope with it, hide their struggles, and overcompensate in other ways.

Sue Varma, MD

Article written by Sue Varma, MD
Board certified Psychiatrist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center