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  • Writer's pictureEmily Linder

Let's Talk About Shame in Women with ADHD

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

You know the feeling... that feeling of failure because you don't understand why you can't bring yourself to break down the pile of Amazon boxes in the corner or organize the piles of papers that are taking over your dining room table. That feeling that you're somehow less than because you've forgotten "that thing you need to do" again or you look at all the women around you and wonder why they seem to have it together and you just can't keep up. You are not alone.




A person's hand coming out of the water, as if they are drowning

Today, I want to talk about a topic that's close to my heart as both a therapist and a woman with ADHD who was diagnosed in adulthood—shame in women with ADHD. As a professional, I have had the privilege of supporting numerous women on their journey to self-discovery and acceptance. ADHD is a condition that affects people of all genders, but there are unique challenges that women with ADHD often face, especially when it comes to shame and self-doubt. My aim in this blog is to shed light on these struggles and offer guidance on how to embrace your true self and overcome feelings of shame.


 

The Hidden Struggles:


ADHD can be particularly sneaky in women because it often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Girls with ADHD tend to exhibit symptoms that are less disruptive in a classroom setting, leading to underdiagnoses or delayed diagnoses. Their symptoms tend to be more internal, such as difficulties with inattention and organization/planning. As a result, many women grow up feeling different, misunderstood, or "not good enough." This can be a breeding ground for shame as they internalize societal expectations and perceive themselves as failures.


 

The Shame Spiral:


Shame is a powerful emotion that can eat away at one's self-esteem, creating a vicious cycle that reinforces negative beliefs about oneself. For women with ADHD, this cycle might start with feeling overwhelmed or disorganized due to their ADHD symptoms, leading to a sense of failure. They may then compare themselves to others who seemingly have it all together, fueling their belief that they are fundamentally flawed.


The shame spiral can intensify further as women with ADHD may resort to perfectionism as a coping mechanism. They may push themselves to meet unrealistic standards, fearing that any slip-up will confirm their perceived incompetence. However, the more they strive for perfection, the more likely they are to encounter setbacks due to their ADHD, leading to even more shame and self-blame.


 

Compassion and Self-Awareness:


As a therapist, my role is to create a safe space for my clients to explore their feelings and thoughts without judgment. I encourage women with ADHD to cultivate self-compassion and self-awareness as the foundation for healing. Understanding that ADHD is a neurological condition, not a character flaw, is crucial. It is not a matter of lacking discipline or willpower, but rather a difference in brain function. A difference in brain function that is not supported by a society that is built for and run by people who are neurotypical.


By recognizing and validating their struggles, women with ADHD can begin to challenge the shame they carry. I often work with my clients to reframe their self-perception, emphasizing their strengths, resilience, and unique qualities that are often associated with ADHD, such as creativity, intuition, and empathy.


 

Breaking Free from Shame:


Breaking free from shame involves challenging negative thought patterns and embracing self-acceptance because frankly, carrying the shame and constantly fighting against our ADHD is exhausting.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful for women with ADHD, as it addresses the negative messages that we tell ourselves. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can aid in identifying triggers for shame and developing healthier coping strategies to manage difficult emotions. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help us to accept who we are and learn to work with those differences instead of against them.


Additionally, support groups or connecting with other women who share similar experiences can be incredibly empowering. Sharing stories and insights can create a sense of belonging and reduce the isolation that shame often brings.


 

To all the wonderful women with ADHD out there, know that you are not alone, and you are worthy of love, acceptance, and understanding. Embrace your uniqueness and consider seeking professional help if feelings of shame become overwhelming. Remember that seeking support is a sign of strength, and with the right tools and guidance, you can embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery, self-compassion, and empowerment.


My hope is that this blog has shed some light on the challenges you might face and the potential for growth that lies within each of you. You are not defined by your ADHD, but by the beautiful soul that shines within you. Let's break the stigma, build a supportive community, and uplift each other on this journey towards embracing our true selves.


In conclusion, (excuse my language) fuck society. You are and will always be good enough.


If you are in Ohio and find yourself struggling with ADHD and feelings of shame and low self-esteem, I would love to work with you to help you embrace the wonderful person that you are. Give us a call at 330-203-1098 or send an email to info@calibrationscc.com


-Emily


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