Do you remember the classmates when you were younger that were always disruptive in class? Maybe they talked the whole class or made comments throughout the class to get a laugh to derail the lesson plan. In elementary school did you have a male classmate who had their desk in the corner because they were considered “naughty” and also very disruptive? On a broad term from my personal experience, most of those students had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. I am very familiar with these all too familiar scenarios because I have ADHD.
I pointed out male students in particular as many do not think about a girl that was disruptive or “annoying” in classes. Therefore, many parents and teachers do not think to have girls tested for ADHD if there are not those stereotypical behaviors. There is a 4:1 male:female ratio with ADHD being less common in girls. However, that statistic may be the result of girls mostly going undiagnosed. Unfortunately, most girls never get diagnosed or are much later in their educational journey. I was a student who was not diagnosed until I was 22 and already graduated from undergrad.
My symptoms are typical of what are seen in girls. For example, I am unable to navigate social norms, have overwhelming emotions of defeat when I miss my goals, I have incredibly impulsive behaviors which include impulse buying. One weird quirk that I also exhibit, which is fairly normal in girls, includes hating grocery stores. The crowded store makes it hard to focus and make decisions on what I need to buy. Even though I make a grocery list, I always end up making a second trip to get what I missed.
I also have very “normal” symptoms many associate with the behavior of boys. I am disruptive in classes and distracted by everything around me no matter where I am. I am also unable to relax as I always have to be doing something. With that being said, I am distracted by random activities, which personally tend to be organizing everything and DIY projects. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be a symptom in girls as many use compulsive tasks such as cleaning and organizing to distract themselves from the task at hand and I am absolutely guilty of this. In addition, I take multiple breaks while doing work and end up working on a different assignment, starting a project, or cleaning. It is impossible for me to stay on one task.
As you can see, these behaviors are very different from what people associate with ADHD and are generally seen as quirks in one’s personality. For these exact reasons, I went undiagnosed for many years. I was lucky enough to have gone to a psychiatrist for a different issue who then pointed out my undiagnosed ADHD, which had been staring me right in the face for years. My therapist then went on to explain that ADHD in girls also gets misdiagnosed as anxiety as many of the symptoms overlap.
My purpose here is to display my symptoms and get my readers to think about how their habits may be something more than just their personality as I had always thought mine were. Likewise, getting diagnosed has been nothing but helpful and has allowed me to get accommodations through my universities and be properly medicated. ADHD was affecting my educational performance and I had no idea (I admit, I had moments where I simply thought I was stupid.) Today, I am a PhD student working toward my career goals. I promise getting diagnosed is not the end of the world. A diagnosis only means you have to get creative in how you carry out your school work, career, and lifestyle. I am only one example displaying the success of students with ADHD in higher education. I encourage you all to take the time to reflect and consider if you may be dealing with ADHD because it can be a challenge to manage when you do not have access to help. A diagnosis may point out what you are unaware of and how it may be affecting you.