20 Women Share The Signs That Made Them Realize They Had Adult ADHD

Diagnosing ADHD in women and girls is difficult. The symptoms of ADHD can be very different from those found in men — notably, women tend not to “overact” or act out in classrooms. The average age of diagnosis for women is in their late 30s and early 40s because the symptoms have not been studied as much as those of men.

So how will you know to get checked out? Any of these signs might be a good indicator.  u/VisceralCheddar asked the r/AskWomen sub:

“Women diagnosed with ADD/ADHD later in life, how did it make sense?”

And while the answers are in no way medical advice, they might be a good place to start.

1. Accidental

“I found out accidentally at my general practitioner’s appointment my senior year. We were talking about my antidepressants not working, and she stopped and pulled out this chart. She asked me like 6 questions out of 20 and put the chart down. She didn’t need to finish asking me everything because it was painfully obvious I had ADD. I told my parents, and apparently I’d been diagnosed as a 5-year-old, but my parents didn’t put me on medication because they didn’t think I needed them.” —u/bipolar-butterfly

2. Falling behind

“It took me four years to finish a three-year bachelor’s degree, and it took me three years to finish a two-year master’s degree. I quit my PhD halfway through. This is something I was deeply ashamed of. Dating is also hard for me because I have a hard time regulating my emotions. I always felt like there was something wrong with me, like everyone always knew what was up and I somehow missed it. Falling behind in my high-stress job led me to seek help, which led to my diagnosis at age 34. Everything started to make sense.” —u/Christabel1991

3. Medication is wonderful

“I got diagnosed in my late 20s. I’m almost three weeks into medication, and I can already tell you that it has helped significantly with my emotions. The Adderall slows my brain down enough to give me time to think about and process my emotions. Also, the first day on medication, I just sat on the couch. That was it. No fidgeting, no thousands of thoughts running through my head. It felt like when you take a nice bath and submerge your entire head underwater.” —U/peacholantern

4. It all makes sense now

“I got diagnosed this year. I’m in my early 20s. Recently, I remembered that I said to a friend in high school that I felt like I have a sheath or some layer over my brain that just never went away or dissolved, and I couldn’t absorb information or function to the same extent as everyone else. I always knew; I just didn’t know what it was. Now my entire childhood, relationships, and academics all make sense.” —u/scarjohannson

5. Attached to people too easily

“I got attached to people way too easily and was a total people-pleaser. I was too much of an open book; I was so afraid that people would find me annoying or unlovable, so I overshared a lot. However, I had no idea all of this had to do with ADHD. It wasn’t until I read about rejection-sensitive dysphoria did my diagnosis actually make sense to me. The general understanding of ADHD is so damagingly wrong, especially how it affects women. Going on medication was incredibly jarring; I had no idea it was actually possible to focus without training myself how to do it. It’s weird discovering that basically every aspect of my being boils down to ADHD. It was a weird mix of having an identity crisis and imposter syndrome, but it also felt good to finally be able to work on myself.” —u/mid90smyarse

6. Lose all interest

“I would lose all interest in a job once I had ‘mastered’ it, and I was either quitting or hoping they’d fire me. This was the same with high school. It was too boring, so I didn’t go. I was spending ALL of my money. I was not being aware of other people’s boundaries. I was hyper-focused on the huge realm of possibilities, to the point of not being able to make a decision. I was rarely finishing non-essential projects. I was also tired all the time, to the point where I’d call in sick so much, it put my job at risk. I was having so much pent-up energy that I’d always be bouncing my leg, picking at my cuticles, or biting my lips to the point of drawing blood.” “Once I was medicated, it all made sense. Like, you mean not everyone is a giant, unproductive ball of stress all the time? That I’m actually not an irresponsible failure of a mother because I struggle to stay engaged in a boring job? You mean my snappy temper and boundary-pushing aren’t because I’m just a giant butthead who doesn’t care about other people’s feelings? You mean that some things do actually come easier to other people?” —u/kgb0484

7. Groceries and purposes

“It’s hard for me to even go to the grocery store. I can barely order food at a restaurant. I’ve changed my ‘purpose in life’ a million times. I want to do everything ’cause it all sounds like something I would love.” —u/mollymarine17

8. “Bad at Life”

“I always said that I was ‘bad at life.’ I was very bright as a kid, so everyone viewed me as the stereotypical ‘academic type’ who is book smart but has no practical skills. It wasn’t a problem until adulthood, when I had less external structure and family support. Then I existed in a constant state of disorganization and lack of focus. I was constantly doing damage control on my finances, relationships, work, chores, and basically every part of my life.” —u/lkr01

9. Ups and downs

“I got diagnosed in my last year of college. I had cycles of extreme motivation or no motivation at all, I couldn’t sit through lecture without doing something simultaneously either on my phone or laptop (I could still hear and absorb the lecture but only when I was multitasking; otherwise I zoned out). I felt like I could only be extremely low-performing (but not stressed) or extremely high-performing (but stressed all the time). With my friends, I was either all-in all the time or went off the grid for days or weeks. Eating was similarly all over the place: I either ate everything and anything in my path for a few days, and then I would eat maybe 1,000 calories over four days.” —u/kewpiemayo-o

10. All the problems

“The procrastination, money spending, inability to shut up, emotional mayhem, sleep disorder, eating disorders, depression. I really just thought I was a disappointment to all of humanity and a worthless scum. Turns out: I just really, really, really lack dopamine. It does explain why coffee never woke me up, though. So innocuous mystery solved, I guess.” —u/uriboo

11. Outgoing, talkative, smart

“I am a transgender man, but I believe that being raised female as a child directly impacted the lack of diagnosis that is so common with young girls. I’ve noticed it most with procrastination and feelings of worthlessness when it comes to completing work or feeling passionate about anything for more than 10 minutes. I am very outgoing and talkative, and generally smart (?), so I think these signs were dismissed.” —u/eatmygymshorts

12. Not Losing It

“I was diagnosed at 27. I realized I wasn’t ‘losing it’ or having early memory loss issues. It explained why I react so strongly to things, why my emotions overwhelm me every time. It explained why I talk so much, why I have trouble knowing what to say in social situations, despite being painfully self-aware. The awareness always comes after I’ve already behaved weirdly or said something stupid. It explained why weekends and free days are so difficult when I have no schedule. It explained why I can’t force myself to start things without external pressure. This applies to projects and hobbies; to work and school; and also to basic things at home like chores, eating, or taking care of myself.”

“It explained my disappointment in myself because, despite all of these things that I did, or didn’t do, I’ve always tried to better myself by planning, using multiple alerts and alarms, calendars, notes, reminders, and planners. I put a LOT of effort into even just doing the most basic things at home, and yet I always failed.” —u/MoonFlamingo

13. On time

Inability to sleep at a normal time, stick to any kind of schedule, be on time for anything, keep track of anything I actually needed, constantly spending money, constant eating, difficulty maintaining friendships/relationships, mood swings, being incredibly quick to anger, depression, anxiety and being kicked out of school/uni despite being of above-average intelligence.


14. Forgotten diagnosis

I was diagnosed as a child but my mother forgot about it, so after having huge depressiv phases and an anxiety disorder, quitting college and having so many mental breakdowns, I got back to my childhood psychiatrist and she just went “yeah all your problems are because of your ADD” and I just sat there and stared at her.


15. Social situations

Why social situations were so difficult – I was either party meth addict or terrified to the point of literally shaking where I stood- school was an overstimulating social mess, causing me to vigorously bounce between these. Caused horrible habits like tapping someone’s shoulder to get attention, having my hair cover my face fully, and being way too needy due to anxiety. Combine that with spontaneous meth addict and you can probably see why I wasn’t popular Also homework and grades that seemed randomly generated – as well as plenty of absences


16. Just stopped doing stuff

I got diagnosed at 25. There was always ‘something’ going on with me; bills i wouldn’t pay, various addictions (shopping, gaming), studies i wouldn’t finish. Every time i would get so mad at myself, because there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me. People would always think i’m indifferent because i forget appointments, always late, always procrastinating.

I was so relieved to hear the diagnosis. But the late diagnosis also makes me feel like what is my adhd and what is me? I always thought it was normal to experience emotions this way, or process information this way.

And lately i’ve found that my adhd is sort of like a catch-22. I know what i have to do to get things done with adhd, but god doing those thing are boring. And not boring like everyone else’s without adhd boring but you know adhd-boring. Boring is almost a physical feeling. And people wthout adhd will never understand that.


17. Couldn’t do a 9 to 5

I couldn’t hold onto a 9-5. I’d break out on hives, lose my mind with cabin Fever on like, a Tuesday. I crammed myself into a job that was expected of me because it was the norm. Now I have two part time jobs that I absolutely love and that keep my attention while paying the bills. No two days are the same and I am stimulated as much as I need.


18. Behavioral Specialist Caught It

I got diagnosed last year (28F). I’m a special education teacher and work closely with a behavioral specialist. I was having a particularly stressful day and running. Around like a crazy person (which wasn’t really uncommon ha) but my desk is covered in post-it notes because I forgot everything if it isn’t wrote down, I carried a small notebook in my pocket because if I would leave the room and more then 2 people talked to me I would forget what I was trying to do. Well I stopped by the Behavioral specialist room to ask a question and she responded well that’s because of your ADHD. I was like what?! And she said oh you didn’t know? It’s obvious! So I reached out to my doctor, ran tests and was diagnosed in about a week. I didn’t know until I read other comments that caffeine doesn’t work for people with ADHD and that is literally me. I literally drank a Red Bull at 11pm last night and was in bed by 11:30pm and slept like a rock haha it’s crazy how the brain works sometimes!


19. Stupid Impulses

Always felt a freak and couldn’t understand why I did or said certain things. Drs kept saying it’s just stress made to feel like a hypochondriac after so many treatments had no effect. Caffeine doesn’t wake me up just balances me. It was my partner after a few months of dating brought up that have I ever been seen about adhd or autism. When I started researching and seeing others experiences my confused life finally made sense and the dr actually agreed after 28years of not knowing why I felt so broken and a failure. It also runs in the family which makes me even more annoyed no one ever took me to the drs for help when it was clear I was struggling. Still struggle with feeling dumb a lot but it’s been set in me from childhood now. I’m kinda bitter but I’m happy I’m finally getting to know what’s been wrong for so long especially when you feel so frustrated at why you impulsively do stupid shit haha


20. Organizing

Oh man. My memory, organizational skills, and logistical skills have been trash since I was a kid. My teachers told my parents in elementary school that my desk was “the messiest we’ve ever seen.” Ironically, my younger brother exhibited much of the same behavior (plus more gender-sanctioned hyperactivity) and was diagnosed in early teens.

In my teens, I struggled with an eating disorder and self harm, despite being relatively confident, happy, and socially well-adjusted. What I didn’t understand is that ADHD inhibits proper emotional regulation. I had no idea how to identify or process or even feel any negative emotions.

In college, I was essentially winging it at all times. I would lose my belongings (phone, keys, paperwork) constantly. I felt like I was permanently jumping from crisis to crisis. Somehow, I was decently successful and played a varsity sport at top college. Sometimes I feel like I handled that environment well because I was so accustomed to intensity and uncertainty. In some ways, I think living with undiagnosed ADHD for so long made me a more flexible and resilient person. I finally went to get an evaluation when I started an office job, and my usual strategies to “get by” weren’t gonna fly. I’ve been on medication for 2 years now, and it has absolutely transformed my ability to get the little things done that used to paralyze me.