Episodes of forgetfulness and distraction happen to all of us, and for most that’s all they areepisodes. But nearly 5 million American women have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a neurobehavioral condition marked by poor memory, the inability to concentrate on important tasks, and a tendency to fidget and daydream, among other symptoms. For them, this kind of distraction isn't temporary at all and can actually be crippling.
"They may feel as though they're constantly being judgedas flighty, inept, late, disorganized, scattered," says Tracy Latz, MD, a psychiatrist and associate clinical professor at Wake Forest University Medical Center. And even if women seek help, the condition may go overlooked or be misdiagnosed.
Because women are less likely than men to be classically hyperactive, their symptoms can be more subtle and easily missed. For instance, a woman with ADHD may come off as chatty, peppy, or extroverted, or even as a dreamy, artistic soul. In reality, she may feel deeply frustrated by seemingly simple tasks, from picking out clothes to grocery shopping to keeping files organized at work. And her condition may lead to fights with her spouse or difficulty on the job.
Hormonal changes can exacerbate the effects of ADHD too. When a woman enters perimenopause, she may be even more likely to forget names or key bits of information.
The good news? When women do receive a diagnosis of ADHD or ADD, many feel relieved to have discovered the answer to a frustrating question: "Why am I like this?" What's more, treatment usually brings greater productivity, better organization, and a newfound sense of control. Here, meet three women who have found their focusand learn how to get the help you need if you suspect you have ADHD.