Exhausted on a Daily Basis

Ask Dr. Nadeau-

Dear Dr. Nadeau,

I’m 38 years old, married for almost five years (second marriage) and have an 18 month-old son. I have not held a job for more than six to nine months, except for one that was three years. Currently, I have been working at home since 2000 as a typist/transcriptionist after becoming so frustrated trying to work in office positions. I have a relatively high I.Q. and believe that is one of the reasons I have been able to “get by” for so long. However, the amount of energy it has taken me to “get by” is debilitating and leaves me thoroughly exhausted on a daily basis.

My frustration level is reaching its maximum overload, and I don’t know what else to do. I’m just so exhausted from trying to live life, while it seems so effortless for others. I’m discouraged and feel so misunderstood by those closest to me. I can’t manage even the simplest of daily tasks, that seem to come so easy to others. I’ve lived with clutter and being called a pack-rat for all of my life. I don’t like living this way, but feel so overwhelmed that I tend to give up before even attempting the tasks.

I have been diagnosed with dysthymia (unsure of spelling), major depression, anxiety, borderline personality traits, and obsessive compulsive tendencies and probably a few others I’m forgetting at the moment. I am in desperate need of finding someone to work with me who is familiar with adult women with AD/HD.

I have recently been diagnosed, after much research and persistence on my part. However, I’m finding it very difficult to find a primary care physician and/or therapist who is not only sensitive to adult women with AD/HD, but also familiar with the specific needs of women with AD/HD. I continue to be “dismissed” in one fashion or another.


Dear Julie,

Unfortunately, your experience is still a common one. Few psychiatrists or therapists have been trained how to work with women with AD/HD to help them manage the challenges of their daily lives. Your long list of diagnoses is also very common. Probably the majority of women with untreated AD/HD also suffer from some form of anxiety or depression. Most therapists and psychiatrists are more familiar with these diagnoses and tend to focus on them, ignoring the AD/HD issues.

Good for you for persevering and getting an appropriate diagnosis. It’s rarely easy to find a professional who truly knows how to help you deal with all of the challenges facing a woman with AD/HD.

One way to search for experienced professionals is to network at a local AD/HD support group such as CHADD. You can check on the CHADD website, www.chadd.org, to learn where the nearest support group is.

Contact student disability offices of local colleges and ask if they have names of people who treat adults with AD/HD. There are so many college students with AD/HD that most disability offices work with them and know who to refer them to in the local community.

Find a therapist you like who is interested and open to learning more about treating women with AD/HD – then work with them to become educated. Many women have presented their therapist with a copy of our book, “Understanding Women with ADHD,” and/or Sari Solden’s book, “Women with ADD.”

Physicians who prescribe medication for AD/HD are rarely trained to treat these women in psychotherapy. You’ll need to establish a team – a physician who prescribes medication who is willing to collaborate with your psychotherapist in your treatment.

My sense is that you need a number of things, in addition to AD/HD focused treatment, in order to feel that your life is more manageable and fulfilling.

You need the understanding and support of others. Check to see if there is a CHADD support group in your area. By attending a local CHADD meeting you can usually find a list of local practitioners and have a chance to network with other adults to find therapists and physicians who treat women with AD/HD.

Career counseling is certainly in order. Staying home as a full-time mom is often one of the most difficult tasks for a woman with AD/HD because you are forced to live with little structure in your own disordered environment 24 hours per day.

Help from an ADD coach could also be very helpful. If you search for the Optimal Functioning Institute on the web, you can learn of the online coaching services they provide for women with AD/HD – often, women can be coached through OFI at no fee or low fee by other women who are in training to become ADD coaches. To find a professional organizer in your area, look up the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) on the web and then do a search in your area. POs are more and more common and can be extremely helpful. But make sure that you find a professional organizer who has experience in working with women with AD/HD.

You also very much need the understanding and support of your husband. Ask him to read our book “Understanding Women with ADHD” and to attend a local AD/HD support group, if you can find one in your area.

If you can’t find a local support group, think about forming a women’s ADD support group. It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult – simply a group of women diagnosed with AD/HD who meet together informally once a week to share information, strategies, and offer support and encouragement to one another.

Don’t give up. Think of yourself as a pioneer. The women who follow you will benefit from your efforts to seek and create appropriate treatment and support.

Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.

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