ADHD Counseling: women diagnosed midlife

The author of this essay describes the feelings she had about getting diagnosed in UK with ADHD midlife, at the age of 39.

“I’m neurodivergent; I have moderately severe ADHD and I’ve only just found out, at the age of 39. I’ve always felt different, out of place, like I’m inhabiting my own separate planet… now I have proof that this is indeed the case. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world.”

“After that first conversation, I felt euphoric. When you spend a lifetime trying to comprehend why you’re always completely overwhelmed when others are not, hearing that what you’ve been dealing with has a name (and potential treatment) is nothing short of magical. After filling out all the assessments – one of which gave me a score of 70+, compared to my neurotypical husband’s eight – it felt conclusive. Finally: that last piece of the jigsaw satisfyingly slotting into place, a perfect fit. (Incidentally, I’ve never been able to do jigsaws ‘the right way’. Why sensibly find edge and corner pieces when you can throw yourself in with abandon and let colours or facial features be your guide?)”

“ADHD is not one straightforward disorder: there are many different combinations and iterations of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and attention deficit disorder, as well as the hugely varying symptoms and how they present. ADHD is often linked to other disorders, especially in childhood: dyslexia and dyspraxia, mood disorders, autism spectrum disorder.”

“According to the CDC, boys are still getting diagnosed at more than twice the rate of girls (12.9 per cent versus 5.6 per cent), and, since much of the research that’s been done on the topic has looked at boys primarily, it’s easy to miss the symptoms that girls display: they might overcompensate for being fidgety by volunteering to be the class helper or whispering to a friend. For girls, the ADHD struggle is often a quiet, internal one as they deal with increased anxiety, fatigue and ruminating over whether they did something correctly – or not.”

“As for the perfectionism, low self-esteem, feelings of failure and emotional outbursts that have accompanied me pretty much every step of my life? Professor Kirby’s given them a name for me: rejection sensitivity dysphoria, another common feature of ADHD, and one that plagues females.”

“I suspect most are trying to be helpful with their responses – as a society, we’re still getting used to speaking candidly about mental health, and people may not realise that a behavioural disorder diagnosis can be a really good thing. Also, we can all relate to that feeling of being disorganised, overwhelmed or forgetful at times, and assume that’s what ADHD must be like. But that’s only one small aspect of the ADHD experience. ‘It’s pervasive and has an impact on your participation and your functioning,’ says Professor Kirby.”

Elaine Korngold offers ADHD counseling and is a Certified ADHD Clinical Services Provider: Evidence Based Strategies for Managing ADHD Across the Lifespan. She frequently works with adults diagnosed midlife and offers assessments for ADHD as well. Contact Elaine for more information.