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Undiagnosed ADHD in Women: Financial Struggles & More

By: Gianna D’Onofrio, Guest Writer

Undiagnosed ADHD in Women: Financial Struggles & More

Finances & The Male Mindset

Many women write themselves off as “financially incompetent” or financially less competent than their male counterparts. As a society, we are conditioned to view finances and the financial industry as a whole as “male-dominated” and while that may be true, we carry with that view an assumption that men are more financially-apt than women. However, this may not be the case.

With the rise of new social media apps and their increasing popularity during the COVID era, people began sharing more and consuming more content online. The dramatic halt to our everyday lives paired with the unexpected gift of endless free time left our minds to wander like never before. During this timeframe, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or A.D.H.D., became an increasingly popular topic of conversation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, boys are more likely to be diagnosed with A.D.H.D. than girls during childhood because boys display the well-known hyperactivity trait. This has led to two myths: ADHD is a male disorder and ADHD is a childhood disorder. Thanks to the rise of social media transparency, especially during the pandemic, as more women began posting about their A.D.H.D. symptoms, more felt empowered to seek help. From 2020 to 2022, the incidence of A.D.H.D. diagnoses in women between the ages of 23 and 49 nearly doubled.

For many women, this had led to an epiphany in multiple areas of their lives in which they consistently struggled. From completing work tasks to managing their finances, women were experiencing a lack of focus and a lack of impulse control, without understanding why.

Gender Role Expectations

As noted above, men are typically viewed as the financial masterminds or the providers of the household and/or the work world, whereas women are expected to manage themselves, the family and the home. These tasks however, are incredibly difficult to manage when a woman is suffering from ADHD. Women are further expected to embody a “do-it-all” attitude, leaving them with little room for unproductivity. In the workplace, women with undiagnosed ADHD are often blamed for under-performance and retaliated against by employers, but are too ashamed to speak up about their misunderstood symptoms. In the home, this may look like women feeling pressured to stay in an abusive relationship because of the self-doubt that society has thrust upon them—that they cannot get by without male guidance.

ADHD in Women & Hormonal Impact

The brain is an organ target for estrogen, protecting the brain through enhancement of neurotransmitter activity, which effects functioning, attention, motivation, memory, sleep, and concentration. The result of this interaction as it relates to ADHD is varying symptoms with hormone fluctuations. As estrogen decreases, ADHD symptoms increase. Low estrogen levels cause low dopamine levels, resulting in the impulse to spend money in search of a dopamine rush. While this impulsivity related to the female cycle affects most women, women with ADHD need even more stimulation than the average person—thus, an even more intense itch to scratch when it comes to chasing a dopamine high. This impulsivity in women with ADHD often leads to not-well-thought-out credit card charges, regret, and a mindset that they are incapable of managing their finances.

Overcoming ADHD Setbacks

There are several ways in which women with ADHD can overcome the setbacks it may cause them. An initial step women can take is unlearning the neurotypical expectations that have been forced upon them. Recognizing that it is common to experience ADHD symptoms as an adult woman is essential to accepting one’s diagnosis and viewing it positively, rather than negatively. Just as important is letting go of the stereotype that women are poor at handling money, and recognizing that there are plenty of resources available to guide you through the process of learning how to manage your ADHD symptoms and your finances.

This may impact upon perceptions of women in the workplace. It may be a condition that requires a reasonable accommodation from an employer, or a change in an employer’s misperception of women’s capabilities on the job.

“It certainly worth a conversation with a lawyer,” says Mike Farhi, partner at Kates Nussman Ellis Farhi & Earle. “The conversation would be free and it may be helpful for a woman employee experiencing the symptoms to ‘brainstorm’ with someone about her rights.”

To get started on managing your ADHD symptoms and building financial management skills, visit
Gianna D’Onofrio is a third-year law student at Seton Hall University School of Law with a passion for Corporate Law. Upon graduating in the Spring and taking the Bar Exam, she will serve as a law clerk to Judge Cynthia Santomauro in Essex County, Civil Division.

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