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Navigating the Connection between Female Hormones and ADHD: Insights for Women with ADHD



Hey there!


ADHD presents itself differently in everyone, from person to person and from day to day for each person. For women with ADHD, hormones play an important role in these changing symptoms of ADHD. Research shows that that female hormones, like estrogen, play a role in influencing ADHD symptoms. This article is all about giving women with ADHD a better understanding of the connection between estrogen and ADHD, focusing on how it relates to the menstrual cycle, menopause, and peri-menopause.


Okay, first things first, let's talk about estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that's super important for the female reproductive system. It's mainly produced in the ovaries, but small amounts are also made in other parts of the body, like the adrenal glands and fat tissue. Estrogen does a lot of things, like developing secondary sexual characteristics, regulating the menstrual cycle, and keeping our bones healthy.


But here's the cool part: estrogen also has broader effects on our body. It can affect our mood, cognition (that's how we think and learn), and even our cardiovascular health. Throughout our lives, estrogen levels change. They're highest during our reproductive years and decrease during menopause. These changes can interact with other systems in our body, like the dopamine system, which influences conditions like ADHD.


During our menstrual cycles, estrogen levels go through different phases. They gradually increase during the follicular phase, then they drop suddenly around ovulation, and after that, they continue to decrease during the luteal phase. If pregnancy doesn't happen, both estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, and that's when menstruation occurs. These changes impact ADHD symptoms in women with ADHD, and many women notice their ADHD traits like impulsiveness and focus troubles are stronger near the beginning of their period.


Now, let's get into some examples of how estrogen can make ADHD symptoms worse.

First, emotional sensitivity can be heightened during the premenstrual phase. Estrogen fluctuations, combined with ADHD, can make it harder to control our emotions. So, we might feel more irritable, have mood swings, and feel overwhelmed. This sensitivity is pretty common, but it might be more intense for women with ADHD.

Next, declining estrogen levels can affect our cognitive functioning during the menstrual phase. Tasks that require sustained attention, working memory, and executive functioning might become more difficult. So, we might be more forgetful, have trouble concentrating, and be less productive.


Here's a tip for coping with these symptoms: use a menstrual tracking app like "Flo" or "Ovia." These apps give us information about where we're at in our cycle, so we can understand what's going on internally. They also help us feel validated when we notice intensified ADHD symptoms. For example, if we're having an extra hard time focusing, we can check our app and see that we're in the premenstrual phase. It's good to cut ourselves some slack during that time.


Oh, and, estrogen can also make impulsivity and hyperactivity worse! So, during our luteal phase, we might feel even more impulsive and hyperactive. It's a good thing to be aware of so we can be cautious about making important decisions during that time.

Another thing to note is that low estrogen levels can mess with our sleep patterns. We might have trouble falling asleep, restless nights, and wake up feeling unrefreshed. And we all know that lack of sleep can make ADHD symptoms worse, like difficulty with focus and attention.


Now, let's talk about menopause and peri-menopause. During this transition, estrogen levels decline, and that can lead to an increase in ADHD symptoms. So, women with ADHD might experience a higher level of symptoms, similar to what they experience during the premenstrual phase. It's important to recognize the impact of hormonal changes during this time and find ways to manage ADHD symptoms.


To manage our ADHD, it's crucial for us women to understand how estrogen affects our symptoms at different stages of life. By understanding this connection, we can come up with strategies to navigate through these hormonal influences. Working with healthcare providers and staying updated on research will help us improve diagnosis and find treatment options tailored specifically to our needs.


Want to learn more about this topic?


Check out Regulate, a one of a kind ADHD Group Therapy & Education Program, is releasing APRIL 1ST, 2024. In it, we deep dive into ADHD related topics, and have an educational module and group specific to women with ADHD.



Regulate is jam-packed with information on HOW your ADHD brain and nervous system impact your life, and WHAT to do about it. Providing education created by mental health practitioners with the ADHD brain in mind, use evidence-based resources to understand how your brain, nervous system, and emotions work, whether you’re formally diagnosed, wondering if you’re ADHD or just starting your journey. 


Designed by ADHDers for ADHDers, you can flow through content from start to finish or jump to modules that are most relevant to your unique challenges. 


Whether you just need some strategies to get your laundry done, or you want to learn how to accept yourself, Regulate has the information and strategies you need to succeed in your daily life. 



Regulate will help you

  • Feel more calm and confident 

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It has:

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  • Bite-sized videos filled with easy to understand, evidence-based education so you can understand how your brain, nervous system and emotions work

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  • This needs names for things + value of stuff (value needs to be 10x asking price) 


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Who it’s not for

  • People who are unwilling to try new strategies 

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And if you want to read more, check out these awesome articles:

  • Hormonal Fluctuations Affect Women's ADHD Symptoms: This article digs into how hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can affect ADHD symptoms. It also explores how treatments like birth control or hormone replacement therapy can help manage these symptoms. You can find it here.

  • Understanding Hormones and ADHD in Women: This article summarizes recent research on how hormonal fluctuations impact ADHD symptoms in women. It covers the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. Plus, it provides practical tips for managing symptoms during these phases. Check it out here.

  • The Complete Picture: How Estrogen Affects Women with ADHD: This article from "Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)" delves into the impact of estrogen on ADHD symptoms throughout a woman's life. It gives an overview of recent research on the topic. Find it here.


Disclaimer: This post isn't meant to replace medical advice. It's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any medical decisions.


References:


ADDITUDE Magazine, 2024.

Nussbaum, N. L. (2012). ADHD and Female Specific Concerns: A Review of the Literature and Clinical Implications. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16(2), 87-100. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054711416909


Quinn P. O. (2005). Treating adolescent girls and women with ADHD: gender-specific issues. Journal of clinical psychology, 61(5), 579–587. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20121


Roberts, B., Eisenlohr-Moul, T., & Martel, M. M. (2018). Reproductive steroids and ADHD symptoms across the menstrual cycle. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 88, 105–114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.11.015


Reed BG, Carr BR. (2018.) The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation. Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Blackman MR, et al., editors.




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