Grief - why so many women late diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD experience grief… - Subtly Anxious

Grief - why so many women late diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD experience grief…

For the longest time, societal misconceptions and inadequate research contributed to the underdiagnosis of mental health conditions, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and anxiety, in women. These late diagnoses often leave women grappling with a range of complex emotions, including grief, due to the sudden revelation and recognition of the challenges they've faced. In our blog, we shed light on why women are frequently overlooked for ADHD and anxiety diagnoses, explore the impact of such late diagnoses (such as grief) and emphasise the importance of support and empathy for those navigating this journey.

Societal Expectations and Gender Bias:
From an early age, societal expectations tend to mold women to exhibit different symptoms compared to men when it comes to mental health conditions. Conventional stereotypes portray women as calm, organised, and detail-oriented, making it easier for their symptoms to go unnoticed or attributed to other factors. Consequently, this gender bias often obscures their genuine struggles and leads to missed diagnoses.

Challenges of Self-Recognition:
The societal emphasis on appearing "put together" and the lack of awareness surrounding the unique ADHD and anxiety symptoms experienced by women make it even more difficult for them to recognise and acknowledge their condition. Years of internalising feelings of incompetence and inability may contribute to a sense of “grief” once a diagnosis is finally established.

Historically, medical research predominantly focused on ADHD and anxiety symptoms as they manifest in males, further perpetuating the misconception that these conditions predominantly affect boys. However, more recent studies have highlighted significant gender differences in symptom expression and the increased use of social media. Women with ADHD, for instance, may exhibit primarily internalised symptoms, including excessive worry, emotional dysregulation, or struggles with impulse control, as opposed to the hyperactive behavior typically associated with ADHD diagnoses (boys in classroom throwing chairs).

What happens when you have anxiety and ADHD? Anxiety symptoms may mask or overshadow ADHD symptoms, leading mental health professionals to primarily address anxiety-related challenges, potentially neglecting the underlying ADHD diagnosis. This situation often leads to delayed or incomplete treatment, leaving women feeling frustrated and invalidated.

The Impact of Late Diagnosis and Grief:
The recent increase and recognition of ADHD and anxiety in women comes with a mix of emotions including grief, relief, and validation. Grief is from mourning the loss of the time, opportunities, and relationships affected by their undiagnosed conditions. It is important to acknowledge and support women as they navigate these complex feelings, providing a safe space for them to express and process their emotions.

As society's understanding of ADHD and anxiety in women continues to evolve, it becomes crucial to raise awareness, educate, and empower girls and women about the full spectrum of symptoms experienced by their gender. Providing support through therapy, medication, and other resources can help women manage their conditions effectively while also addressing the grief, frustration, or challenges associated with late diagnosis.

Late diagnosis of ADHD and anxiety in women represents a significant issue resulting from societal misconceptions, gender biases, and limited research. Acknowledging the complexities surrounding women's experiences is essential to foster empathy, understanding, and appropriate support. By promoting awareness, pushing for increased research, and ensuring accessible mental healthcare, we can enable women to navigate their late diagnosis with resilience, paving the way for a more inclusive and compassionate society.

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