ADHD Diagnosis Provided Freedom, Answers for Michigan Woman
In children, the most common markers for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) include difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Those characteristics didn’t really fit for Betsy Thompson, who loved school and thrived as a student. She did have trouble sustaining focus when it came to chores such as cleaning her room or other tasks she found boring. Her mom, a reading specialist, suspected she might have ADHD, but there was never enough beyond that to warrant further investigation.
After high school, Thompson went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She married and had four children, and that’s when she started to feel like she couldn’t manage it all. Between keeping up a home, her children’s schedules and the never-ending to-do list that accompanies both, she struggled with time management and prioritizing what needed to be done. This led to a growing sense of anxiety and failure.
Thompson finally sought help. Working with a psychologist, she underwent testing for ADHD and was diagnosed in her early 30s. She said the diagnosis brought freedom and relief.
“I’m not just a lazy person who can’t get her act together,” the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan member remembers thinking. “My brain operates a certain way that makes it harder for me to do some of these things that take more executive functioning.”
Diagnosing ADHD in Women and Girls
Since her ADHD diagnosis, Thompson thinks her mom was probably right. It’s likely something she’s had since childhood. It’s not uncommon for girls like Thompson to go undiagnosed – research shows they are less likely to be referred for diagnosis and treatment.
Girls are diagnosed with ADHD at lower rates than boys and the condition often presents differently in girls. While boys tend to display hyperactive traits, girls with ADHD tend to be more inattentive. They also tend to be better at developing coping strategies and masking their ADHD symptoms. Whereas boys’ outward signs of ADHD are troublesome to others, meaning they’re more likely to get referred for help, girls’ symptoms are easier to chalk up to other factors if they’re recognized at all.
For women seeking an ADHD diagnosis, anxiety and/or depression are often blamed for symptoms. Both commonly co-exist with ADHD, which can make it harder to accurately diagnose. Thompson knows now that when her ADHD isn’t managed well, it can lead to signs of anxiety for her. She’s talked to many women since her diagnosis who have struggled to find answers.
“I think there are so many women who have gone undiagnosed,” Thompson said.
Getting Help for ADHD
Before her diagnosis, Thompson struggled with feeling like she didn’t measure up to her mom and sisters – all very organized and neat. Her family never made her feel like she had to be a certain way, but Thompson’s own thought process made her question why she wasn’t naturally as tidy as they were.
“As a woman with ADHD, what was hard for me … I sort of placed my idea of what a woman should be off of the way I grew up,” she said.
Now that she understands it’s her brain processing the world in a different way, she’s been able to hit her stride. Thompson takes Adderall and Wellbutrin to manage her symptoms and said support from her family and others experiencing ADHD has made a world of difference.
Symptoms of ADHD vary in children and adults. Inattention can show up as making careless mistakes, an inability to finish chores or engage in activities that require sustained attention, being forgetful or getting easily distracted. Hyperactivity or impulsivity can look like fidgeting, feelings of restlessness, excessive talking or interrupting others during a conversation.
“Often women with ADHD will have inattentive symptoms as opposed to hyperactivity and impulsivity, which can also lead to delays in diagnosis or attribution of symptoms to other disorders,” explained Dr. Kristyn Gregory, medical director, Behavioral Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
If you suspect you have ADHD, talk to your doctor. They can help rule out other health conditions that could mimic ADHD or refer you to a licensed mental health professional with experience diagnosing the condition.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network have expanded coverage for behavioral health services such as therapy. Learn more about how your behavioral health coverage works here. Blue Cross and Blue Care Network members are also able to call behavioral health access lines, staffed 24/7 (press 1 after dialing for immediate care):
- PPO members: 1-800-762-2382
- HMO members: 1-800-482-5982
Thompson shares her thoughts on when to get help in this video:
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Images courtesy of Betsy Thompson