ADHD symptoms are sometimes uncovered when women reach their mid-40s and older. Dr. Brown talks about the role changing hormones play in executive function.
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ADHD Awareness Month 2022
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Another thing that I ran into years ago, and I’ve written several papers on it, is I’ve had a number of very well-educated business and professional mothers who have brought their kids in, who have listened to the evaluation and the questions asked in it, and who have said to me:
“You know, I never had those problems when I was a kid or even when I was in college. However, over the past few years, I find I’m having a lot more trouble with my short-term memory, and things don’t stick in my head the way they used to, and I find that I get distracted much more easily, and it’s awfully hard to prioritize the things I need to do, and it makes me wonder if I’ve had ADD all along and nobody noticed it, or if that’s just all a mistake.”
And one of the things I noticed is that most of these women were between the ages of about 45 and 55. And what it turned out is that what they had in common was that they were in the process of menopause, they were perimenopausal. And the fact is that the estrogen changes that occur during menopause impact the amount of dopamine that’s available in the brain. And for not every woman, but for many women at that time, they begin to have some of the deficits that go with ADHD.
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Women with mild or subclinical ADHD (they have symptoms but not enough for a diagnosis) can have ADHD symptoms uncovered or made worse by estrogen levels.
When estrogen levels drop, the brain is less able to release the neurotransmitters that are needed for executive functioning.
Fewer neurotransmitters means it is harder to focus, pay attention, and keep ideas in short-term memory.
These hormone changes can make symptoms, whether previously mild or moderate, more noticeable and impairing in daily life for the first time.
About the speaker
Thomas E. Brown earned his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Yale University and served on the Yale faculty for 25 years. He is now Director of the Brown Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders in Manhattan Beach, CA, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the University of California Riverside School of Medicine. He is an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and has published numerous articles and seven books on ADHD. His website is www.BrownADHDclinic.com