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ADHD -- Not Just for Boys

Girls Get ADHD, Too
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In the January 2002 issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders, researcher Jonathan Gershon of Emory University confirmed what Nadeau has found -- that compared with afflicted boys, girls with the disorder don't show the same degree of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsive behavior. An earlier study in the October 1997 issue of the same journal found that women with the condition who were not diagnosed as children have more symptoms of depression, are more anxious and stressed, have low self-esteem, and have fewer coping strategies.

Because women with attention deficits show more signs of depression, they also may be diagnosed -- correctly or incorrectly -- as depressed, while their attention deficit hyperactivity problem may be missed, says Linda Katz, PhD, president of Landmark College in Putney, Vt. Her school offers educational programs for students with attention deficit disorders, dyslexia, and other learning disabilities.

Children with the disorder may fidget, squirm in their seat, walk around the classroom, jump and run at inappropriate times, and talk too much. Adults who have it may feel restless, be unable to take part in quiet activities, have a hard time waiting their turn, or intrude on others, Nadeau says.

Adults may also have problems concentrating on what they're doing for any length of time, she adds. They may make careless mistakes. Their work is frequently sloppy or careless, and they may jump from one activity to another. They are easily distracted and forgetful.

Having an attention disorder is hard enough, but being a woman makes it even harder, Nadeau says. "Being a homemaker and mother is an ADHD job from hell." Too little structure, too many interruptions, and a seemingly endless list of tasks can lead a woman with the condition to feel her daily life is out of control. Fluctuating hormones only make the problem worse.

This is in addition to medications commonly prescribed for the disorder, such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Cylert. [Note: In March 2005, the manufacturer of Cylert, Abbot Laboratories, discontinued this drug due to declining sales.]

Medication may be helpful but it is not a cure-all. If you do have an attention disorder, two lifestyle changes are essential, says Nadeau: Lower your stress and increase your structure. "When stress levels go up, ADHD symptoms shoot up like a Geiger counter."

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