When you think of someone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you may picture a rambunctious child in a classroom. But there are many other ways it can look, especially in adults and especially in women. And because of the stereotype of someone with ADHD, many people may not realize they have it and may attribute their symptoms to a different condition or, worse, a moral shortcoming.
"Women tend to be under-diagnosed with ADHD because boys tend to display more of the external hyperactivity symptoms that alert teachers and parents to ADHD. This can leave a lot of women frustrated and misdiagnosed," Dr. Charlynn Ruan, Ph.D., Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist and founder of Thrive Psychology, tells Bustle. "Women who don't know they have ADHD may just have a sense that something is wrong with them but not know what. They may label themselves as lazy, crazy, or undisciplined. There can be a lot of shame that creeps in over the years from feeling like you are different. Women in particular are expected to be studious, disciplined, and reserved, which can be challenging with ADHD."
Here are some signs experts say you could have ADHD, even if you've never been diagnosed with it or suspected it.
1. A Warped Perception Of Time
For people with ADHD, a minute sometimes feels like an hour and sometimes feels like a second, Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., M.S., an internationally known ADHD coach and the host of the ADHD Essentials podcast, tells Bustle. For this reason, it can be challenging for people with ADHD to get places on time.
2. A Different "Time Horizon"
Similarly, people with ADHD may have a different "time horizon" — that is, the point in the future you can imagine and plan for, says Mahan. For most people, this is around three months. For people with ADHD, it may change from moment to moment, so that one minute, you're planning for next year, and the next, you can't think about tomorrow.
3. A Low Tolerance For Boredom
“The ADD/ADHD mind craves constant stimulation, so boredom is one of the least things that people with these disorders can tolerate,” licensed counselor and life coach Monte Drenner tells Bustle. “Boredom for someone with ADHD is very uncomfortable and can actually make them anxious." Nobody likes being bored, obviously, but if the slightest lull in the conversation makes you reach for your phone, that could point toward a number of things including ADHD.
4. Excessive Impulse Buys
People with ADHD are often impulsive, and one way that can come out is through impulse buys, says Mahan. They may not be constantly buying new cars, but they may have trouble resisting many small, unnecessary purchases, like candy or magazines.
5. Trouble Controlling Your Emotions
You may be afraid to have tough conversations because you know you'll break down crying or get angry and lose it. Or you may be called "sensitive" a lot. "Either way, a person whose emotions regularly get the best of them may be showing less recognized signs of ADHD," says Mahan.
ADHD limits your ability to filter out irrelevant information from your environment, which means you constantly have sensory input coming in, says Ruan. This can be overwhelming and cause a lot of anxiety.
7. A Constant Itch For A Change
People with ADHDs' difficulty keeping their attention on one thing may manifest as always wanting to switch jobs, locations, or partners, says Ruan. Another consequence of the impulsiveness of ADHD is that you may find yourself taking these big steps without thinking it through.
8. An Addictive Personality
ADHD symptoms can create the perfect storm for an addiction. "People with ADHD tend to have higher levels of addiction due to a mix of impulsiveness, heightened brain response to the reward hormones released when engaging in addictive behaviors, and lower self-esteem," says Ruan.
Obviously, none of these signs alone (or even all eight) mean you definitely have ADHD. However, if this sounds a lot like you, it's nothing to be embarrassed about. It just may be worth getting a screening from a doctor or therapist.