The Strives, Struggles, and Successes of Women Diagnosed With ADHD as Adults
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSage Open. 2017, . 10.1177/2158244017701799
The objective of the study was to aid an understanding of women’s experiences of living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with special consideration of the role of stigma and gender-specific issues. Semistructured in-depth interviews were conducted with five women aged 32 to 50 years, all diagnosed with ADHD as adults. The interviews were analyzed in accordance with thematic analysis. The data analyses were centered around five core themes: (a) from unidentified childhood ADHD to adult diagnosis, (b) present main symptoms and challenges, (c) conflict between ADHD symptoms and gender norms and expectations, (d) stigma of ADHD: “People think it’s a fake disease,” and (e) managing ADHD symptoms and identifying strengths. Despite their difficulties, all participants are highly educated and employed, and differ from common portrayals of individuals with ADHD as observably hyperactive, disruptive, or globally impaired. The participants are reluctant about disclosure of their diagnosis, due to fear of negative judgment and lack of understanding from others. The findings highlight the importance of recognizing and targeting ADHD as a serious disorder that yields continuing, and even increasing, impairment in multiple areas into adulthood. Gender-specific issues of ADHD need to be examined further, particularly challenges associated with motherhood. Stigma and the conflict between ADHD symptoms and gender norms complicate women’s experiences of living with ADHD, and should be essential areas of focus in research, educational settings, and the media.