#YesSheCan Explores: ADHD in Women 

In this #YesSheCan blog, we will be exploring the struggles which women with ADHD may face in the workplace.
We look at the key symptoms in women with ADHD, the barriers they often experience and how employees can create a path to a more inclusive workplace.
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is the most common neurological disorder which affects development, behaviour, and mood. It’s often diagnosed in childhood and can last until adulthood.
ADHD is often missed in girls and women. Experts estimate that about half to almost three-quarters of women with ADHD between the ages of 18-65 in the UK (United Kingdom), remain undiagnosed.
Women with ADHD often have a host of other health issues such as depression and or anxiety and a late diagnosis is because of these mental health issues.
Women with ADHD are no different from other women – they are as competent and successful in their chosen careers as women without ADHD.
They excel in their professions, and they are innovative and creative. They also have great resilience and make the best out of any adversities they may face, often due to their diagnosis.

Key Symptoms in Women

The key symptoms of ADHD that affect women in the workplace are the everyday symptoms that individuals with ADHD have to deal with:
Inattentiveness – an individual has difficulty staying on the task given, sustaining focus, and staying organised. These problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
Hyperactivity – In adults, hyperactivity may mean extreme restlessness or being talkative, or oversharing. It is not intentional but, it happens quite often.
Impulsivity – This is manifested in the fact that the individual does things without thoughtfulness, acting without giving it much consideration or forethought, and not being able to control oneself.
Feeling overwhelmed – Often, women with ADHD may feel overwhelmed with situations or tasks in their lives. This can be in the form of not being able to start or complete a task, pinpoint specific feelings or emotions or become non-responsive and left with no motivation due to being overwhelmed.
Studies into women with ADHD are growing, but it’s not as extensive as it should be. However, there are now more on-going studies and new research being made into how female hormones may play a part in ADHD and how women express ADHD symptoms.

How can women with ADHD be supported in the workplace?

Environmental adjustments
The most recent UK professional recommendations for the diagnosis and management of ADHD state that changing an individual’s environment can help them experience fewer symptoms. This can be:
  • Changes to seating arrangements.
  • Lighting and filtering noise can reduce distractions.
  • Focus may be enhanced by giving work with shorter periods of high concentration with stretching exercises, seated or standing.
  • Re-enforcing verbal requests/instructions with written ones.
Formal support for employees
It should be normal for co-workers to take the time to get to know one another, discuss responsibilities, and discuss interests and hobbies.
Managers can use this as an opportunity to identify and discuss issues that might be harming their employees’ well-being, and employers can utilise it to build diverse and committed teams.
Offering help
Employees with ADHD who exhibit indicators of mental health issues should receive the same assistance and guidance on where to seek professional care as other employees.
Employers should be prepared to refer impacted workers to appropriate professional assistance and recognise the warning signals of an individual who is struggling.
Support between peers
Many employees with ADHD may find it useful to talk to other people with similar or near similar neurodevelopmental conditions. This will be possible when there is honest and full disclosure by everyone. Employers must support these advantageous networks.
A more varied and effective workforce is fostered by raising awareness of the issue and making accommodations for women with ADHD in the workplace.
Psychological safety is a huge factor in supporting those in your team with ADHD. This means they feel safe and comfortable to be their authentic selves without negative repercussions or discrimination.
Most importantly, recognise the bravery needed by someone with ADHD to disclose their condition and bring up the subject, given the misunderstanding, stigma, and overall lack of awareness around neurodevelopmental conditions.

“Making friends with your brain is the only way to find your success” – Amanda Perry

This blog was written by Zanele Mlambo during her work placement with #YesSheCan.
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