Yes, there is a difference between females and males with ADHD. Why?
Hormones play a significant role in how ADHD manifests, not only between the sexes but throughout a woman’s life cycle.
Your medication may have been working swimmingly for years, and now it’s not working as well. What’s the deal?
Puberty: The increase in hormonal activity and more intense school demands may cause the medication to be less effective as it metabolizes more frequently. Studies have shown that increasing medication dosages may help teen boys, it’s not nearly as effective for teenage girls.
Reproductive years: During a typical 28-day cycle, the levels of estrogen and progesterone vary. During the first two weeks, estrogen plays the leading role, releasing serotonin and dopamine (feel-good neurotransmitters). During the second two weeks, progesterone takes the lead and diminishes the effects of estrogen. Consequently, the third and fourth weeks of a cycle may result in less effective stimulant medications’ metabolism.
Childbirth: Studies are underway on the safety of taking ADHD medication (largely stimulants) while pregnant. Consequently, many women stop taking medication during pregnancy. However, what’s interesting here is that many women with ADHD report that they feel better during pregnancy due to the higher estrogen levels experienced during pregnancy.
Menopause: By the time women experience menopause, their estrogen levels drop about 65%—the loss of estrogen results in a drop in serotonin and dopamine levels. A woman with ADHD may have less cognitive energy to begin with, so estrogen loss may make things even more challenging than before menopause.
So, what’s a woman to do? It’s essential to pay attention to your cognitive abilities and moods. Take notes. Talk these shifts over with your medication manager and be firm about finding solutions. There may very well be medical and non-medical solutions to put you back in the driver’s seat and living the life you deserve to be living.
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