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Prioritizing Your Mental Health: I Spent My Whole Life with Undiagnosed ADHD

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bowling Green chapter.

I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in April 2023, just a few weeks after I turned twenty. The harsh reality of the fact that I had spent two decades overcompensating for issues that other people did not naturally experience bothered me. Why hadn’t anyone noticed my ADHD until I was halfway through college? How did this impact my learning experience and emotions over the years? If I were a man, would I have been diagnosed sooner?

These questions circled through my mind for weeks following my diagnosis. Since my ADHD is a combination of inattention and hyperactivity, I struggled with feeling like a huge part of my identity had been completely overlooked by everyone. If I were an elementary school boy talking out or running around the classroom, this issue might have been properly addressed years ago. However, after researching ADHD, I learned that women tend to internalize hyperactivity as a result of patriarchal norms. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me as a woman to interrupt others, so instead of talking out loud, my mind processed impulsivity by constantly engaging in (multiple) internal monologues. Similarly, it wouldn’t be considered appropriate to leave my seat during class, so I compensated by swinging my feet or fidgeting subconsciously at almost all times. ADHD is not typically regarded as a woman’s experience, and women who are diagnosed at a younger age tend to display symptoms commonly seen in boys with the disorder. 

The symptoms I exhibited before my diagnosis only raised red flags to mental health professionals who were well-versed in ADHD and its specific impacts on women. To other people in my life, I was just forgetful, dramatic, and easily unmotivated. While I have always managed to maintain good grades, I tend to forget to turn in assignments and procrastinate on tasks that require intentional time and attention. If someone told me three tasks audibly, they would consider it a win if I remembered to complete even two of those things. I’m emotionally reactive, always tired, talkative, unorganized, messy, and frequently distracted. My symptoms seemed to be excused by my past diagnoses of depression and anxiety, and I spent months in therapy trying to solve these issues. It was not until I met with a new therapist that ADHD was mentioned, and I learned it can be an umbrella for other mental health issues to fall under. Although I had received other diagnoses, it felt like a piece of the puzzle was still missing, and ADHD helped my other issues “click”. I hadn’t received the “wrong” diagnoses, but they hadn’t been completely right, and this set me back in my mental health journey. 

As much as my official diagnosis bothered me, it provided me with a sense of relief and clarity. Finally, these struggles I’d managed on my own had a name, and treatment options became more viable. However, evaluations, diagnoses, and treatments are privileges that not everyone is able to access, and I recognize how lucky I am to be able to utilize these tools for effectively managing my mental health. If my experiences resonate with you, I strongly encourage you to research ADHD. While medication is only administered with an official diagnosis, there are tons of strategies you can try on your own to manage symptoms. ADHD is not an easy or solo journey: you are not alone and there is no shame in prioritizing your mental health!

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Lindsey Graham

Bowling Green '25

Hi! I'm Lindsey Graham and I am an education major at Bowling Green State University! I like to read, write, shop, and go on walks during my free time.