Celebrating Woman and Girls and the Different Types of ADHD

Hello everyone, as today is the 1st of October and the beginning of ADHD awareness month, it is also the beginning of my awareness project, ‘31 Days of ADHD.’

This year the focus of ADHD Awareness Month is women and girls. Why are women and girls the focus? Traditionally we are a group that have been underdiagnosed, as we tend towards the “Predominantly Inattentive type” of ADHD as opposed to the “Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type,” which has more of the typically recognisable symptoms.

So, what does that mean?

ADHD symptoms are usually divided into three different categories or “types.” Predominantly Inattentive type, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive type and Combined Type. The symptoms and descriptions of each are described below:

Predominantly Inattentive Type:

  • having a short attention span and being easily distracted
  • making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
  • appearing forgetful or losing things
  • being unable to stick at tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
  • appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions
  • constantly changing activity or task
  • having difficulty organising tasks

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

  • being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
  • constantly fidgeting
  • being unable to concentrate on tasks
  • excessive physical movement
  • excessive talking
  • being unable to wait their turn
  • acting without thinking
  • interrupting conversations
  • little or no sense of danger

Combined Type

Combined type means that your symptoms are not Predominantly Inattentive or Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive, but a mixture of both.

(NHS, 2017)

While most people will experience some of these symptoms, they are far more severe in people with ADHD. The symptoms are part of your daily life and often interfere with how you function at home, school, work, and in social situations. I’m going to talk more about the diagnosis process in a blog later this week so will expand a bit more about that then.

I have the ‘Predominantly Inattentive Type’ of ADHD and in the past, this was often described as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and you will still see it being referred to as ADD in some publications or blogs. As time has moved on, so has our understanding of what is meant by “hyperactivity” and we now recognise that it does not just mean physical movement like getting out of your chair, or running around full of energy. Talking a lot is also a symptom of hyperactivity and is something quite common amongst girls that have ADHD- as is interrupting others.

I have often talked to my Psychiatrist (every adult with ADHD has a Psychiatrist, I will explain that in another blog) about whether I am really combination type as; I talk incessantly, I used to interrupt people a lot (much improved), I fidget constantly with my hands and have very poor concentration. I also think that I am very impulsive-decision making wise- and most of my close friends would agree. But as I am not physically impulsive, my Psychiatrist still thinks I am Predominantly Inattentive Type- ADHD diagnoses are complicated.

I’m pretty sure that every school report I ever had said that I talked too much. I’m also pretty sure that anyone I have ever met would agree, and a boss of mine even said to me once, “Do you ever shut up?” (As rude as that was, and it was rude, he was actually a very nice boss and I’m not holding it against him).

Talking a lot means that I’m personable, I’m good at meeting new people, I’m fun at parties and can always be relied upon to entertain on social occasions. I’ve lost count of the times that people have remarked on how confident I am and that they, “wish they had my confidence.” What they don’t know is that I talk a lot because I’m constantly nervous and anxious and talking is the way I react to anxiety.

ADHD is like living in a constant state of anxiety and there are very few times I can think of where I have truly relaxed. Talking is part of that anxiety and I find myself making self-deprecating comments about how much I talk before someone can say something rude about it. Even when I’m with people I know quite well and my family, I still talk a lot as the anxiety is still there. In fact, the only people I can enjoy silence with are my son and my boyfriend because they are the only two people that I’m not worried about criticising my character.

I also see that same anxiety in a lot of the children I teach who have either been diagnosed with ADHD or are suspected of it. I once taught a girl who was (still is) very much like me, in fact I was constantly amazed by how much she reminded me of myself. That little girl struggled with her school work and whether she was working with me, the Support for Learning teacher or in groups with other adults, EVERY adult remarked that she talked all through the group lesson and did not complete the tasks. I know that I used talk- just like this girl- to avoid work, as a tactic to mask that I didn’t really know what I was doing, not because I was incapable, it was mostly because I was not listening to the instructions. Faced with something challenging and too afraid to ask for help for fear of being told I was not listening (I wasn’t), I would become anxious and used talk as my response.

I think that this is something we need to be mindful of in the young girls in our class that we think are chatterboxes- why are they talking so much? Are they using it as a distraction to mask something else?

That said, talking a lot is not necessarily an indicator of ADHD in girls itself. I’ve also taught many inattentive girls who do not have that additional hyperactive symptom, in fact I taught one who was so inattentive and lost in her own thoughts that she could have been mistaken for being a selective mute at times. This little girl often used to catch bits of what I said and drifted in and out of her own thoughts. I could always tell what bits of my lesson she caught when I read her written work- once she wrote a beautiful story about the famed Robert the Bruce and the Spider… who took his dog away on a campervan holiday. I know that dogs and campervans definitely were not in my lesson, and I found out later that day that her family had recently bought a campervan and she was getting a puppy! Her brain had been flicking back and forth during the lesson and task- it was a great story and I’m sure Robert the Bruce would have enjoyed that particular adventure!

Dreamy, lost in thoughts, staring out the window, not listening to you and looking past you to the display on the wall are all very common traits of inattentiveness. You think they are not listening and they often aren’t, but it’s not because they are wilfully ignoring you- they aren’t choosing to ignore you- it’s because their brain moved them on to something else, it is in their neurology.

What does this mean for the classroom? I’m going to dedicate a full blog post to classroom strategies and explain WHY they are good for children with ADHD, rather than just list a few without proper explanation, so look out for that later this month.

What about our other girls?

Not all girls are inattentive, some are Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive type and while they do tend to be identified much earlier than us Predominantly Inattentive types, they don’t always have an easy time of it at school.

Boisterous behaviour is not seen as girly and that can lead to problems in the playground as female relationships are quite complicated. Girls who aren’t acting like “girls” get rejected more than others in friendship circles and while some boys’ Hyperactive-Impulsive behaviour is often written off by adults as, “just boys being boys,” girls acting the same way can find themselves more excluded (Additude, 2017).

An important thing to add is that girls with ADHD, no matter the type, and whether they are diagnosed or not often have a tendency towards other very serious mental health conditions which I will be talking about in a blog later in the month. I know these additional hardships all too well and it is one of the reasons that I want to raise awareness this month. If just a few more people know about ADHD they can pass their knowledge on and that will help some of the little members of my ADHD family.

Hopefully you found this post beneficial, please share it, comment on it (constructively) and I hope you will join me for my other posts this month!

Tomorrow my post is about the history of ADHD and is titled, ‘“Never existed in my day.” A History of ADHD.’

Laura