Understanding Neurodiversity & ADHD in adult women and why it’s only coming up now - Subtly Anxious

Understanding Neurodiversity & ADHD in adult women and why it’s only coming up now

Understanding Neurodiversity & ADHD in adult women and why it’s only coming up now

Understanding the intricacies of my own cognitive processes has been a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Although traditionally the distinction between neurodivergent and neurotypical brains was limited in medical terminology, today we aim to unravel these concepts in a way that's easily understood, particularly those women in their 30s, 40s and 50s who suspect they may have undiagnosed ADHD.

This is not medical or therapeutic advice - it’s simply my own experience with cognitive behavioural therapy and research to help me understand myself better.

Neurotypical vs. Neurodivergent: The Breakdown

First up, let's define our terms. 'Neurotypical,' a term originally coined within the autism community, generally refers to people whose brain functions align with what society deems 'normal.'

On the other hand, 'neurodivergent' – a term first used by the autism community but now broadened to include other conditions – involves a departure from the norm. Conditions under the neurodivergent umbrella include ADHD, autism, dyslexia and OCD.

Neurodiversity in Women with ADHD

ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – represents a common neurodivergent condition that remains underdiagnosed in adult women. Unlike in males where ADHD may portray as hyperactivity and impulsivity, women often exhibit less noticeable signs, such as inattentiveness, disorganisation, and high levels of anxiety. These distinctions have led to women not receiving a diagnosis until much later in life.

In women, ADHD tends to manifest in ways that might be written off as character traits rather than symptoms of a neurological condition. Women with ADHD might struggle with time management, emotional regulation, focus, or forgetfulness. Many women with undiagnosed ADHD may internalise these struggles, often interpreting these difficulties as their own failings rather than seeing them as symptoms of an actual neurological condition.

Figuring out your own coping strategies: The Key to Regulation

While coming to terms with a neurodivergent diagnosis, particularly as an adult woman with ADHD, can be challenging, understanding your neurotype is the first step in embracing the full spectrum of your unique mind and developing personalized coping strategies.

Strategies might involve making lists and setting reminders, using calendars and other visual aids for time management, setting small realistic goals each day, seeking emotional support, employing self-care techniques, and practicing mindfulness techniques. It could also include seeking professional therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which can be extremely effective in managing symptoms.

Medications: It’s a possibility for some but definite no for others

For some, medication may also play a role. Stimulants and non-stimulants, designed to enhance focus and reduce impulsivity, have proven successful for many with ADHD. However, medication is a deeply personal decision that should be made in conjunction with a trusted healthcare provider.

Why Understanding Your Neurotype Matters

Recognising whether your brain is neurotypical or neurodivergent, and understanding how it impacts your life, is critical in learning to advocate for yourself and your unique needs. It offers the chance to replace self-blame with self-awareness, fosters acceptance and understanding, and provides a platform for seeking effective strategies that play to your strengths and manage your challenges.


Ultimately, whether neurotypical or neurodivergent, every brain is unique - and in this diversity we can embrace our strengths. Understanding your brain empowers you to create a life that recognises your individual needs, promotes growth, and honors the wonderfully complex woman that you are.

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