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ADHD & the Menopause

ADHD and the menopause

For years now I’ve known I was peri-menopausal, but there was something else, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t until I started to study ADHD because of the boys diagnosis, that things started to make a little sense. Some of my symptoms that I had put down to the peri-menopause (but had been around in some for or another for a lot longer) could in fact be because I too had ADHD. But if that was so, then why recently had the symptoms got so much worse, is there a connection between ADHD and the menopause.

So whilst I’m waiting on the referral from the doctor for official diagnosis, I thought I’d find out if indeed there was a connection. It turns out there is…

Menopause

Menopause is the stage where an individual has not had a period for 12 months or longer. Peri-menopause is the stage before this. You can suffer from a variety of symptoms in the years leading up to the menopause. Hormone levels during the peri-menopause fluctuate and there are actually 34 different symptoms that an individual may experience. Peri-menopause lasts on average 4 years, but can last up to 10 years or more.

ADHD

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) is classed as a mental health condition. Essentially it affects an individuals behaviour, as their brains learn in a different way than the majority (also referred to as ‘neurotypical) of the population. There are three presentations:

  • Hyperactive/Impulsive – click for symptoms
  • Inattentive – click for symptoms
  • Combined – click for symptoms

Women in particular tend to present with either Inattentive or Combined, read more about this in my previous post, Women and ADHD.

ADHD and the menopause

So what is the connection? Firstly it is worth noting that actually quite a few symptoms of ADHD are similar to peri-menopausal symptoms. Furthermore, misdiagnosis of ADHD in older women as anxiety and depression, or worsening menopause symptoms, is common. In actuality lowering levels of oestrogen (approx. 65% by time of menopause) means that our ‘feel good’ dopamine and serotonin levels are also decreasing. This causes the symptoms that we associate with ADHD, such as difficulty concentrating, memory issues and reduced mental clarity. Therefore if you have ADHD, the further decrease of dopamine, from your already-low levels, means that existing symptoms get worse and new ones pop up.

The early years

So recognising the symptoms in me as I learnt about the boys, I’ve looked back through my life. From as early as school when my reports every year said ‘enjoys her own conversation to that of the class’. To being financially inept, unable to ever balance finances or save (don’t ask me about a pension). Misplacing items, walking into a room and not knowing why (since I was young). Oversharing everything about my life to people I’ve hardly met. And literally sitting on my hands to stop myself interrupting others. The labels I still cut out my clothes, the bright lights in supermarkets I can’t stand. The wanting to scream ‘shut up’ to everyone if I’m listening to someone and anyone dares to have another convo in the room, or talk to me at the same time. Always taking on too much and never knowing when to stop, even when I tell myself to. Zoning out during conversations and realising that I haven’t been listening and suddenly have to snap back ‘into the room’. To huge chunks of my life that I simply can’t remember…

Coping Strategies

Over the years I realise now that I developed coping strategies. Became super organised to cover the complete disarray in my mind. Bit my lip, inside of my cheek and latterly scratching of my hand to try and stave off anxiety and lack of confidence. Happily handed over the majority of finances to my OH so I had one less thing to worry about. Laid out outfits for work the night before. Just a few of the ways I made life easier without realising.

However the gradual reduction of oestrogen, dopamine and serotonin. Along with the addition of the pandemic and subsequent diagnosis of two of my boys with ADHD, and the day to day of dealing with their needs. Meant my coping mechanisms started to fail, the mask slipped and essentially I was burnt out.

So wish me luck as I attempt to go back to work after Easter, taking things one day at a time, but I’m really worried about how I will cope with the added pressure. I need to be kind to myself and I need to be honest with those around me. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Fay x

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women and adhd - hyperactive & impulsive