Women are now talking candidly about their late diagnosis.
Why are so many women being diagnosed with ADHD and autism later in life? Every time you log onto social media, another woman discusses their diagnosis. The way they talk about their diagnosis is all too familiar. They struggle with mental health, the constant fear of not being good enough, and the constant feeling of being different.
When we think about ADHD or Autism, the general public often still imagines a stereotypical picture of active boys with boundless energy who can’t sit still. Or the savant boy who is socially awkward but highly skilled in music or math.
However, the reality is that the characteristic of ADHD and Autism vary significantly between individuals. Because of this, understanding the differences is key to closing these stereotypical views.
There are 3 types of ADHD
- ADHD, combined presentation: This is the most common type of ADHD. Characteristics include, impulsive and hyperactive behaviour. Getting distracted easily and struggling to maintain attention.
- ADHD, predominantly impulsive/hyperactive: This is the least common type. The person will show signs of hyperactivity and the need to move constantly, as well as display impulsive behaviour. They do not show signs of getting distracted or inattention.
- ADHD, predominantly inattentive: People with this type of ADHD do not exhibit signs of hyperactivity or impulsivity. Instead, the person will get distracted easily and find it difficult to pay attention.
We are only recently learning that many girls and women diagnosed fall in the Inattentive ADHD category. It has, in the past, been overlooked. With labels like “Daydreamer” or “lazy” being tossed around when describing girls with inattentive ADHD symptoms. Especially in the education system, where gender bias still exists, especially in Math and Science.
Autism in Women
Autism in women and girls also presents quite differently compared to boys. The diagnosis is still higher amongst boys. And, earlier diagnosis in boys is still common. Historically girls are very good at hiding their autistic traits, masking. They learn to mask quite effectively and copy their peers to “fit in”
Younger undiagnosed autistic girls may have trouble making friends. Reading facial expressions may be difficult. They may be labelled shy or introverted. Having a special interest may just be seen as enjoying pretend play or acting.
However it is only when a women is experiencing trauma and mental health struggles that Autism and ADHD are explored. Years of masking and trauma take their toll and masking becomes almost impossible to sustain.
Public figures are disclosing their diagnosis.
Em Rusciano is a comedian, presenter, and singer who has opened up about her diagnosis in a candid series of Instagram stories. Rusciano admitted,
“I was a kid in school that was constantly told I wasn’t living up to my potential.“
“So now I’m an adult who never feels good enough and is always overreaching.’only diagnosed last year, she said that ‘up until a year ago I just thought that I was a rubbish person with a broken brain”
She then went on to acknowledge her high level of functioning, saying she is ‘extremely creative’ and has ‘elite level problem-solving skills. Em is very open on social media about her late diagnosis.
@emrusciano Neuro-Diverse for attention 😶 #adhdtiktoks ♬ original sound – Em Rusciano
Em is not the only public figure to receive a late diagnosis. Via Instagram, Clementine Ford announced her diagnosis. In the statement Clementine shared;
“Last week I was diagnosed by a specialist psychiatrist with both ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)”
Ford went on to say “For years, I described my brain as “fizzy”. Now I know that it’s actually sparkling”
“The OCD was no surprise, because I’ve known that I’ve had it since I was 12. But the ADHD has been a new discovery, like it is for many women my age who were thought not to be able to have ADHD because it was a boy thing”
Ford is is a Melbourne-based writer, speaker, and feminist thinker. She is a columnist for Fairfax’s Daily Life and is a regular contributor to the Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
The burst on Social Media
You only have to visit TikTok and Instagram and release that thousands of older women are only now feeling comfortable in exploring their neurodiversity. This is partly due to those public figures like Em and Clementine speaking openly about their diagnosis and candidly speaking about their struggles as an undiagnosed ADHER or autistic. This can only be a good thing.