It's thought that 75% of women with ADHD go undiagnosed.
You’ll likely remember Team USA gymnast Simone Biles stepping down from competing at the Tokyo Olympics last month. After the athlete bravely opened up about the reason for doing so – her ADHD symptoms – we thought it fitting to bring you an expert-led guide to the condition.
Wondering what ADHD actually stands for, how you get it and how common it is? A bit like depression or anxiety, it’s a common mental health condition, and one that still doesn’t get enough airtime, according to doctor Naomi Humber, clinical psychologist and head of mental wellbeing at Bupa UK.
“2% of adults in the UK have ADHD,” she shares. That’s 1.5 million adults affected by the neuro-developmental disorder. Although it’s historically been understood to be more common in males than females, Clinical Partners report that its growing fastest in females – in particularly, new mothers – rather than men.
“Female ADHD is somewhat overshadowed by male ADHD,” their site reads. “We know that boys are three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as girls, but the fact is women still do have ADHD and a staggering 50% to 75% of women with ADHD go undiagnosed.”
Read up on the need-to-know symptoms and treatments now.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, otherwise known as ADHD, is a condition that affects people’s behaviour, explains Humber.
“A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control,” she continues.
Do note here: both adults and children can have ADHD, however symptoms tend to be noticed at an early age.
ADHD symptoms: 7 to know about
Signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults can actually be pretty hard to spot. It’s more noticeable in children or when symptoms appearing early in life.
There are many different symptoms associated with ADHD, but some of the more common ones include:
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Being easily distracted
- Acting on impulse
- Trouble sleeping (read our guide to insomnia treatment, here)
- Other psychological conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
All sound pretty familiar? Yep, they will do. “Almost everyone experiences ADHD-like symptoms at some point in their lives,” explains Humber. Only if these occur regularly or are impacting your daily life do you need to start looking into it.
Do speak to speak to your doctor if that’s you – untreated ADHD in adults can have a negative impact on your work, home, or relationships, the doctor emphasises.
How do you develop ADHD?
Interestingly, the exact cause of ADHD is still unknown, however there are certain factors that may be involved in the development of the condition, Humber explains.
“Some studies have shown a link to genetics, as ADHD can run in families. Research has also shown being born prematurely and smoking or alcohol abuse during pregnancy increases the risk of developing ADHD,” she explains.
ADHD treatment: how to manage ADHD symptoms
Feeling like you yourself may have ADHD and keen to know how to manage your ADHD symptoms? Fear not: there is treatment available, the doctor shares.
First things first: remember that a medical professional will be best positioned to help you, so it’s important to speak to your GP or specialist as soon as possible for advice. “Your doctor will discuss medication, talking treatments and educational support, depending on your age,” she shares.
From there, they’ll likely explain that, while there’s no cure for ADHD, many people find medication relieves symptoms and helps them manage the condition in everyday life.
Whilst there’s little scientific evidence to support this, some people with ADHD also find reducing their intake of certain foods and taking supplements can relieve symptoms. “However, it’s best to get medical advice before making any changes to your diet or taking supplements, as they may react with your medication,” stresses Humber.
5 tips for dealing with ADHD, if you think you may have it
1. Seek support
ADHD can have a negative impact on your everyday life, so it’s important to find a good support network, the doctor shares.
“Always speak to your GP if you’re worried about your symptoms, as they will be able to refer you for a specialist assessment. Remember that there is treatment available, too,” she explains.
Not confident with going to a doctor just yet? Utilise your support network – ‘don’t underestimate the value of opening up to your loved ones about how you feel, as it can be a huge relief,’ says Humber. There are also several organisations that support those with ADHD, such as the ADHD Foundation.
2. Follow a familiar routine
ADHD is unique and can affect everyone differently, but this may help some.
“You may find it helpful to set a familiar routine, as this can help ease your symptoms. Make a list of tasks to accomplish each day but avoid taking on too much – break down tasks into small, manageable steps,” advises Humber.
3. Take things one step at a time
ADHD can mean everyday tasks, such as keeping up with work and social commitments, can feel overwhelming.
Try this: Avoid putting yourself under too much pressure and practice self-love. “Make time every day to give yourself some space to reflect on how you are feeling. If you’re overwhelmed or are struggling to concentrate, speak to your friends and colleagues about how you’re feeling, as they’ll be able to help,” shares the doctor.
4. And… breathe
In other words, practice calming techniques every day. When you feel overwhelmed, it’s important to slow your mind down and avoid any negative thinking.
Research suggests that mindful meditation can train the brain to better concentrate and hold focus. Practicing mindfulness and taking deep breaths in and out when you’re particularly stressed may ease your symptoms. Our guides to self care ideas and meditation benefits may help.