How to Manage ADHD in the Workplace

women adhd workplaceIt sometimes feels like half of the people I know have a diagnosis of ADHD, and I think managing ADHD in the workplace can take some finesse — so I asked my friend A to write a guest post for us. Thank you and welcome, A! – Kat

Managing ADHD in the workplace (which encompasses ADD, an older term) can be very difficult, but what makes things even worse for women (and girls) is that they are underdiagnosed. Misdiagnosing women is common, too — for example, they’re often told that their problems are caused by anxiety or depression.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in early 2016, not long after my son’s diagnosis. I had done well in school, but academic success doesn’t necessarily mean that a girl doesn’t have ADHD. If a woman with ADHD manages to graduate from college without finding out she has the condition, getting a promotion at work can be the trigger for an eventual diagnosis, as can becoming a mom. The new pressures and responsibilities that come with these situations may be beyond what her previously-successful coping skills can handle, and she may feel that she has to seek help. A change like this can bring her from barely keeping her head above water to feeling like she’s drowning. When a child receives a diagnosis of ADHD (which frequently runs in families), it also can lead to a mom with undiagnosed ADHD to wonder if she has it too.

In my first job — after the initial “honeymoon period” — I found myself spending hours procrastinating in my cubicle, unable to force myself to work. This wasn’t a simple case of “Ugh, I don’t want to do this project — it’s boring,” but an incredibly frustrating (and shameful) feeling that my own brain was working against me and I just could not make it do what I wanted. Luckily, my boss (who wasn’t the most organized person) was happy with the work I did do, which allowed me to fly under the radar while lamenting how much more I could accomplish if I could just do my f—ing job.

Years later, that sort of predicament was just one factor in a long list of things that made me suspect I had ADHD: an inability to prioritize (which sometimes prevented me from accomplishing anything), serious difficulty focusing, avoidance of tasks that required concentration or that seemed overwhelming, frequent distraction (for example, I hit two parked cars within two years … not so great for my insurance rates, ouch), certain impulsive behaviors, hyperfocus, a feeling of being scatterbrained/”ditzy,” difficulty organizing my thoughts to express myself clearly (things made sense in my brain but didn’t come out of my mouth that way), looking all over the place when talking to someone (to avoid being distracted, probably), self-medicating with binge eating, and more.

Initially, I was prescribed a stimulant (Vyvanse), which helped. Now I take Wellbutrin, which is a non-SSRI antidepressant often used to treat ADHD. Being self-employed has helped me, too, as does my smartphone — in fact, I once had so many reminder alarms set up that Siri told me I couldn’t add any more. What has also been useful is learning more about ADHD — and I’ve listed some online resources below.

If you have ADHD, how and when were you diagnosed? Did you have trouble in school? Did you suspect you had ADHD beforehand? Were you ever misdiagnosed? Do you take a stimulant or other medication for managing ADHD? What kind of difficulties have you had in your personal life and at work because of ADHD? What advice would you give other readers who have ADHD or think they might — particularly when it comes to managing ADHD in the workplace? 

Further reading/resources:

Image: Shutterstock / Photographee.eu.women adhd workplace

 Managing ADHD in the workplace can take some finesse -- particularly for women, who may be misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, or diagnosed later in life. What are best practices for working women -- particularly ones like women lawyers -- and what should they know about managing ADHD in their workplace and careers? (Don't miss the comments section!)

Comments

  1. Kat, this is so TIMELY! We had this issue with Mason, who could NOT stay “on task” for more then an hour or so. Despite my attempt’s to train him, he would usually go off track before completing whatever I asked him to do. With him, he did, however, have a focus on women, and would ALWAYS gravitate toward Lynn, and stare at her when he should have been focusing on the work I asked him to do for ME. He would carry my pumps to court, but one time, he was with me, but when he got out of the 6 train with me, he wound up getting lost b/c he said he saw someone he thought he knew and went after them. I wound up goeing into court wearing my NIKE Air’s, and the judge thought I looked very sloppy. Mason showed up 20 minutes later, after my cases were called. I was about to go back to the office without him, but wanted to see if he EVER showed up. When I told the manageing partner, that did NOT help his case to stay with the firm, tho he DID manage to stay on the payroll until we found him haveing s-x with Lynn on the Conference Room Table! FOOEY! So ADHD is a big problem, even in law practices like our’s! We fixed it by getting rid of the problem by firing him! YAY!!!!!

  2. I was diagnosed at 32, and it did not cross my mind until I was about 31 that I might be ADHD, when I read an article about how frequently girls/women are not appropriately diagnosed. Once I talked to a therapist about it, it was so obvious in retrospect – did great in school just by being a smart kid until I was about 12, when things went suddenly and dramatically downhill. I couldn’t keep my homework organized, forgot all the time about tests and quizzes, spent a lot of class time daydreaming.

    As an adult, I started to follow a repeated pattern at jobs: I would start out GREAT! And be a superstar for a while. And then slowly get overwhelmed and consumed by an inability to do anything – like days of sitting at my desk just unable to start any tasks – until I would panic right before a deadline and suddenly be laser-focused. Then, I would eventually get burned out and decide I needed to leave the job after a few years. My apartment was always a huge mess and I would forget things like paying bills even though I had more than enough money to do so. And, of course, I was deeply ashamed of all of this and would mentally berate myself that if I just Worked Harder, I could resolve everything.

    After my diagnosis, I was given a prescription for a fairly low dose of Adderall. I don’t love taking it and mostly take it when I can feel myself sliding into a rut where I really just can’t get anything done. But more than anything, just having a diagnosis and understanding myself a little better (and forgiving myself for my shortcomings) has made a world of difference. My specific non-drug management techniques include:

    – One List to Rule Them All – I used to attempt to manage multiple to-do lists for work/life/specific projects/etc. Not anymore! Everything goes on one list, in a small notebook that is always with me.
    – Exercise – intense workouts (I like OrangeTheory) help a LOT. Running helps as well. Especially if I have an important and/or long meeting, I make sure to fit in a solid workout that morning.
    – Getting stuff done in the mornings – morning is a good time of day for me to focus and I try to start the day with whatever needs the most/best attention
    – Avoiding the phone – Phone calls are terrible for me; I just cannot seem to get myself to pay attention to what’s being said. Especially if it’s a conference call, I hang up and realize I have no idea what was said. So I try to have in-person meetings whenever possible, or ask people for a follow-up email confirming next steps after a phone call. If I have to be the one documenting next steps, I know I have to make a specific and concerted effort to take notes during the call.
    – Just being understanding – reminding myself that it might be hard to focus on a task right now, but that’s nothing to mentally berate myself over and it’s just something to work through – “we can do hard things!”

    • guest poster A :

      AnonZ, are you me? I could have written your “repeated pattern at jobs” description almost word for word. (And then upon leaving the job it’s like, “Ummmmm, hey guys, here’s a list of things I never got to.”)

      • Oh I KNOW. “Well, here’s a bunch of stuff I didn’t do; now I shall flee under cover of darkness to hide my shame.”

    • Thanks, AnonZ :

      This seriously hit home for me, and I needed to read it. At age 30, it hadn’t occurred to me until today that ADHD explains my behavioral and mental health struggles perfectly. I have adopted several of your coping techniques already in the name of curbing anxiety/depression, but this perspective puts so many things in place for me.

      Thank you, AnonZ. Seriously, I’m getting ready to start a new job and was already starting to dread the inevitable beginning of the things I will never manage to get around to. It’s the first time I will be beginning a new job since adopting most of these coping techniques, so I am optimistic that it will be at least somewhat better this time. And I will keep reminding myself that it’s okay to be imperfect and not to let that stop me from trying to just be better.

      • I’m so glad you found it helpful! ADHD/depression/anxiety can be an interesting trifecta – for me, I think the ADHD was the key driver of the other two but that can definitely vary per person.

        I will not pretend that I never let things pile up at work anymore, but I think a big difference is that it doesn’t happen to the same levels as before, and also I can deal with working through a backlog. Before, the daunting combination of the work itself PLUS debilitating shame and self-loathing created a vicious downward spiral that I couldn’t break free from. Now I try to be much more gentle and supportive of myself when it’s time to slog through some accumulated work.

    • The one list in one book thing was a huge turning point for me too.

  3. I really appreciate your candor and honesty in how you’re dealing with this, OP and AnonZ. My eight-year-old received an ADHD diagnosis in March, and while I am so relieved to have an answer for why he’s struggling, I am somewhat overwhelmed by what it could mean for his future. He is a bright kid, and I’m hopeful that if he learns to manage it and find ways to cope early on, he’ll manage to get through the tough spots OK — especially when academics get harder. As a “slow and steady wins the race” type of person, I am fascinated by his ability to hyperfocus when he’s truly interested in something. That can be a real asset, IMO.

    • Dealing with the diagnosis as an adult, I have had to spend time processing some very strong feelings of shame that are tied up in all of this. My parents (my mother in particular) spent a lot of my middle and high school years making me feel that I was just lazy and needed to try harder. She did try hard to help me be more organized but it wound up being super frustrating for both of us. Also, my parents are both of the “mental illness is weakness” mindset – they would never have taken me to be evaluated, and I have not told them about the ADHD diagnosis nor the mild depression that I struggled with prior to getting a diagnosis. (Which I now understand as triggered by the deep feelings of shame related to all of this.)

      All this to say – in addition to there being lots of coping mechanisms and treatments out there, being supportive and an advocate for your son will help him immensely. It sounds like you are already off to a great start!

      Also, yes, I have to admit that I do enjoy the hyperfocus aspect of things – the ability to be “in the zone” sometimes is great and also primarily responsible for me being able to advance in my career.

    • I’m a PhD level scientist with ADHD- it’s important to remember that ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence. There’s some good things that come with it, like hyperfocus, willingness to try new things aka impulsivity and a natural aptitude for multitasking. Getting my diagnosis was a huge turning point because I could tell teachers that what they perceived as ‘careless’ mistakes were just my brain working differently. Being fidgety is a coping mechanism, not maladaptive- so if your son seems to vibrate in his seat, that’s a sign that he’s trying to focus. Exercise, especially something individual like running or martial arts has been necessary for me to sit still. Likewise organization systems that worked for many people like 3 ring binders were disastrously bad for me- the chance that papers would actually make it into the binder approached 0. Getting a single (blank) notebook for the master to do list, and a single bag with pockets for all the things, and bound notebooks also helped.

  4. THANK YOU for that self-test. I took it, and while some things resonated for me (my mental issues are depression/anxiety, but I just wanted to check), it absolutely sounds like my mother. I think she could answer yes to every question. I’ve been begging her to go see her doctor for about a year now – hopefully these results will motivate her to seek assistance.

  5. Can I ask how you went about your diagnosis? I have raised the issue several times with my PCP, and every time she tells me that it is anxiety/depression. I am obviously not a doctor, but I disagree. I have been treated for depression in the past (years ago), and this feels completely different. Also, to the extent I have anxiety, it is self-induced by the exact behaviors that A listed in the article. I just cannot seem to get a doctor to move onto any sort of formal evaluation.

    • You may not be a doctor, but the average PCP is not the most qualified person to assess adult ADHD. Do you need a referral for your insurance or can you self-refer? If you need a referral, have your PCP refer you to a psychiatrist for the anxiety/depression. Tell the psychiatrist why you think it’s ADHD. Every mental health care professional I’ve seen pushed me to be evaluated for ADHD (no PCP I’ve seen has ever shown interest).

      • Thank you so much for this advice. I can self-refer, but it is difficult to get an appointment as a new patient. I will ask for a referral to see if I can get in to see someone sooner. I really appreciate your response!

  6. anon for this :

    My experience was a bit different in that I easily got an ADHD diagnosis but both Aderol and Ritalin made my heart feel like it was about to explode, and my focus on both was much, much worse. So he changed the diagnosis to anxiety and wanted to put me on an SSRI, but I was about to TTC so I didn’t want something I needed to wean off of. That was a long time ago — almost a decade. I found some good techniques for coping in books (there’s one called something like “you mean I’m not lazy and dumb”?) and I still wonder if my fractured attention might be ADHD. I just read Kids in the Syndrome for one of my kids and the ADHD chapter really sounded like me.

    • I couldn’t tolerate Ritalin (to the point that I didn’t even try Adderall). It worked better at a child’s dose, but it was still kind of hit or miss. Strattera worked BEAUTIFULLY for me–but I’m one of the people who gets total insomnia on it. I would 100% take it otherwise; it was like a cure. Now I take Wellbutrin (which is off-label for ADHD), and it helps (though the on-ramping was a little intense). I’m curious about Namenda (memantine) for ADHD, but it’s still being studied.

      If you are doing fine without medication, that is awesome, and I am jealous. But if you haven’t seen an actual psychiatrist, you may not have discussed medications beyond the amphetamines. No one ever suggested to me that my diagnosis should be changed based on my reaction to Ritalin–we just switched to another class of medication.

  7. One thing I don’t think we can discount here is that autoimmune issues arising from food intolerance…you know, that sort of thing…can cause these symptoms. It’s a long, difficult road to straighten things out, but at least we sort of know a cause.

    • Anonnnnnnnnnn :

      Well. Lots of people with various conditions benefit from identifying food intolerances, but I’m not sure that pinpoints a cause? I have ADHD, a spectrum disorder, several autoimmune conditions, and a serious gluten intolerance. But I’m nervous about the chicken/egg question. For instance, I have typically experienced very severe reactions to vaccines, and there are people in my family who got caught up in the “vaccines cause autism” scare. But it seems clear to me that my conditions made me more susceptible to negative reactions to immune stimuli–the vaccine reactions were more of a result than a cause. I guess I think of food intolerances the same way.

  8. Anonymous :

    What score is indicative of issues with ADHD on that self-test? I got 52% but it’s not clear what that means, besides “answering yes to a significant number could indicate ADHD”

  9. Partner has ADHD :

    How about living with a partner who has ADHD? DH did well in school and is hyperfocused at work, but at home he is a slob, can’t prepare meals or even pack a lunch for himself. He binge eats, is a couch potato, and exhibits other ADHD-like behaviors. (He has some good qualities too!) We have talked about it recently and he is working on doing more chores and generally cleaning up after himself. But I can’t help but wonder how his ADHD affects his work. Is his lack of organization the reason why he is overwhelmed and works long hours? Anyone else have experiences with a spouse who has ADHD?

    • Hmm, my husband has ADHD, but has none of the issues you’re describing. Is your husband taking meds and treating it otherwise? Mine just applies the same coping mechanisms at home as at work (makes lists, stuff goes in the same place, does things immediately so he doesn’t forget, etc. – in other words he has a lot of processes so he manages everything just fine. I hate to say it, but sounds like your partner may be using it as an excuse for his home behavior. Or just isn’t treating properly and might be just as impacted at work.

    • gquaker07 :

      My husband wasn’t diagnosed until his mid-30s. Funny enough, it wasn’t until my mother was diagnosed that he sought help. Earlier in his career, he definitely exhibited what you described; extreme long hours and then ‘crashing’ at home. A few things that helped:

      – Be smart about chores. My husband struggles with the daily chores (Brother doesn’t even know where he puts his socks half the time) but is great at tasks that require hyperfocus, like scrubbing the kitchen cabinets. We’ve learned to divide accordingly.
      – Help prioritize where you can. My husband makes ultra long to-do lists constantly and then gets anxious when not every task gets done. This cycle is very common but it can be really frustrating to live with. It helps when I say things like: “Looking at your list, it seems like X and Y are the most important. What do you think?” And then later on: “Wow, we made progress on X and Y! Let’s talk about next steps for Z.”
      – Be clear on what you need and let the other stuff go. My husband used to stay super late at the office because he literally couldn’t focus during the workday well enough to answer emails or do much work, besides attending meetings. I had to let the “we’ll have dinner together every night” dream go, but we worked together to spend quality time on Saturdays instead.

  10. Collegiate ADHD :

    I was diagnosed after my first semester at college, where I was a college athlete at a very competitive academic college. The doctors told me a lot of the same things that are written about in this post about highly intelligent women being profoundly under-diagnosed. One thing that made me particularly atypical is that I actually am a highly organized person. I’ve always had a day planner and organized filing systems – the issue is that a lot of things on my to do lists remained unchecked, and a lot of my forgetfulness manifested itself more in areas outside of academics (forgetting to pay parking tickets or return things). But the very, very worst thing about my diagnosis was that it set up this expectation that since I was a high achiever without treatment, I *must* be an absolute prodigy at all things now that I was receiving treatment! These expectations turned out to set me up for a lot of really unnecessary anxiety.

    I had…a bit of a challenging experience in trying to treat my ADHD. I was prescribed with behavior therapy coupled with amphetamines. The behavior therapy wasn’t super helpful since I was already doing everything that they suggested and I ended up dropping off, which was a huge mistake. The amphetamines didn’t seem to do much for me and rather than changing course or addressing what was definitely at least in part an anxiety issue (it was my first season of a D1 sport and I had immense parental pressure to perform well in school), the Dr. kept upping and upping my dose, which made things a lot worse. I have a very distinct memory of revising the Introduction of a Biology lab report for 8 full hours and basically sobbing afterwards with shame. I was so unable to meet deadlines that I would turn work in late that was almost perfect and receive C’s for lateness. I ended up spiraling into a really dark place, told no one about any of it and had a terrible GPA that semester. I didn’t realize that it was the amphetamines that were causing the problems until the summer when I “detoxed.” The resulting anxiety about pulling my GPA up led me to quit a sport that I loved. The whole situation was really the confluence of a lot of adults failing me in rapid succession, and I think it was really unfortunate, but the good news is – I’m okay!

    I guess I’m sharing because although I think my situation is probably pretty rare, I think there are some takeaways:
    1. If you think you might have ADHD and you want to get treated, it’s great to be excited about treatment, but be realistic and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be “fixed.”
    2. If you elect the pharma route, please please consider doing this in conjunction with some type of behavioral therapy, even if you are positive you don’t need it. Psychoactive drugs affect people differently and it’s helpful for someone to generally monitor. If I had kept my therapy appointments, I think there’s a chance the school therapist would have seen the downward spiral coming and intervened, but we all thought that I didn’t need it.

    Because of the horrible time I had with pharma treatment, I haven’t gone on pills for my ADHD since then. Who knows, maybe I just needed a different formulation? But at this point, I think I’m pretty scarred by the experience. So for those that don’t feel comfortable or can’t take pills to treat, I’ve found some things helpful:
    1. Might be too late for some, but I intentionally tried to pick a career that is more incompatible with procrastinating. I’m a transactional deal lawyer, so rather than very far off deadlines, we generally have items that need to move immediately and be addressed at once. So while this pacing drives a lot of people crazy, it’s actually suitable for me because if I had too much time I might end up procrastinating. Don’t get me wrong – I still find ways! But I think it’s important to think about the structure of work and requirements if you know that you have issues with certain types of tasks.
    2. Like others, I have a master to do list that I keep up and I’m an inbox zero person. Organization doesn’t cure ADHD, but it keeps it manageable.
    3. I take notes a lot, even if it’s not necessary. Especially on calls it keeps me paying attention.
    4. Like others I set a lot of alarms and reminders. I do this in my personal life and for transaction deadlines/obligations
    5. I try very hard to accept myself for who I am and try not to beat myself up about it too much. As a lawyer, one thing I’ve always struggled with is billing, and there’s a part of me that acknowledges that it’s partially because of my ADHD. I’ve spent a lot of effort trying to increase efficiency and billing specifically, and it’s something that I accept I will probably always have to do.
    6. People who have ADHD are more susceptible to common “attention to detail” errors that every single lawyer gets hounded about (I suppose in that sense contract law was not a great pick after all!), so I take every piece of advice given on the topic: I print things out and read them, I make sure to always, always spell check before sending anything out, I really never ever send out anything without reading it at least 3 times. Maybe this is something everyone does, but I think for those with ADHD you have to just realize that you’re much less likely to catch your own mistakes and you have to build in more of a cushion.
    7. Sleep. Who knows if this is just a me thing or not, but when you are sleep deprived, attention is the very first thing to suffer. The way that I think about it, if I’m already at a handicap, there is no sense in self sabotaging to exacerbate this thing. This alone is so. damn. helpful.

    I love that we’re talking about this. ADHD is really stigmatized and you really only ever hear about the over-diagnosis epidemic from people. It’s bad enough that I actively hide my diagnosis from most people and certainly don’t bother trying to explain that it’s actually under-diagnosed in women in general and especially in intelligent women. It’s comforting to hear from others going through the same thing.

    • ADHD Lawyer :

      Yes, yes, yes, to all of this. Thanks so much Collegiate ADHD. I especially echo the suggestion about taking notes all the time. I have been to so many conferences where the presenter goes out of his/her way to tell the audience/me that he will be sending out the power point so there’s no need to write it all down. (I just smile and keep writing.) I cannot pay attention AND internalize what I’m hearing without writing it down. It helps a ton. (And just helps with not forgetting, too.)

    • Anon Baby Laywer :

      Thank you so much. I feel like you are me…in a few years, if I manage to get my stuff together. (down to the struggling with billing as a transactional big law attorney!)

  11. ADHD Lawyer :

    I’m a public defender in my 10th year of practice and I was diagnosed just after law school when I was studying for the bar. I was in therapy at the time for an unrelated issue. I remember telling my therapist that I felt like I had to study so much harder than my peers and that my study techniques were sooo different from my peers. She used that opening to explain that she had been watching my ADHD behaviors for quite some time. Ha. Part of the reason I think it never occurred to me is that I didn’t have trouble in school until law school when the subject matter was sufficiently challenging.

    Initially I took stimulants (adderall and ritalin) and I loved them. Really. Even after the honeymoon period I felt like life was so much more manageable. However, I developed a serious allergic reaction to them and I can not take any amphetamine. (Doctors always look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I’m allergic to amphetamines. But, man. Those hives were no joke.) I was unmedicated for a long time – too long. Now I take provigil, which is a nonstimulant. It helps but it’s not as effective as the stimulants were for me. I’ve also changed from an antidepressant that was not ideal for me (cymbalta) to wellbutrin. My ADHD is more manageable when my depression is under control.

    In the beginning my work suffered most from ADHD but now I think my home life suffers more. The biggest help for me is having a structured day. Being a public defender is ideal for that – I see a ton of clients in one day, I’m in court a ton, I’m jumping from issue from issue within seconds. But on the weekends, that structured day falls apart and I get overwhelmed about what to do next or why I should. The One List to Rule Them All is my go-to at work but it doesn’t seem effective with open blocks of time at the weekend. I need the motivation to use those open blocks of time and I can’t figure that out right now.

    Here’s my advice:
    * Write everything down (or send yourself an email). Do not rely on your memory. I often ask folks who need something from me (probation officers seem to grab me as I’m leaving the courthouse) to send me an email of what we just discussed so that I can remember to followup.
    * I echo the earlier comments about one list that stays with you at all time. For me, it has to be hand written. Of all the productivity apps, not a single one jives with me. (An amended “bullet journal” style calendar is what has worked best for me over the past year and a half or so.)
    * Have a place for everything so you know exactly where your stuff is.
    * Schedule a time for email. I’m still fine tuning this one but I’m learning that responding to emails when they come in can seriously derail my attention span for what really needs to be happening.

    Thanks for the conversation. I’ve never responded to a Corporette post before but this one is just too close to home. I love knowing I’m not alone.

    • Collegiate ADHD :

      Yes! Thank you so much for sharing! I also use an amended bullet journal and have never had luck with productivity apps!

      I have recently been trying to deal with my own challenges with weekends. When I have a free weekend, I end up drawing a blank about what I should do, and then when I inevitably “waste” it by sitting around the house watching Netflix, I feel a lot of shame for not having done something more productive. My doctor attributed this to the pace of a weekend slowing as compared to big law work and me struggling with that slowdown. It did not even occur to me that it could be at least in part an ADHD-related issue with dealing with unstructured time, and I think you’re 100% right! This really changes the way that I look at things. I can’t even tell you how much you’ve just helped me. *Thank you*

  12. This post and the comments resonate so much. I’ve always wondered if I’ve struggled with ADHD but chalked it up to being lazy and unorganized. Over the years I have found ways to keep myself on track at work (of course I ended up in project management) but any major change in workload or life throws me off completely.

  13. Anonymous :

    I don’t know if this is a regional thing but I don’t know anyone who might be ADD/ADHD where I live in Asia.
    Or maybe they are and undiagnosed! I didn’t even know what it meant till I got on this site.

    Similar to things like Alzheimer’s – incredibly rare where I grew up in South Asia. But I read that that is due to turmeric (contains curcumin ) usage in food prep which cuts the Incidence of Alzheimer’s.

    https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/11/12/where-are-the-lowest-rates-of-alzheimers-in-the-world/

  14. Quiet Space Desired :

    I have many of the symptoms of ADHD without quite meeting the diagnostic threshold. I also think there should be a conversation about workplace environments. In college and law school, it was really hard for me to study in loud places, and so when I really had to focus (particularly writing) I would hide in a library carrel and shut down my email for a few hours. Problem solved and these symptoms were no barrier–I just got to know library basements better. But in the non-profit office spaces I’ve worked in, the level of noise and distraction is really difficult. I had accommodations that worked great (including siting at the front of the class and priority for a quiet space to work as a small child) throughout my education. If I were to have my own office, and not be expected to instantly check email, I would have been such a better and productive lawyer in these positions. I’ve done fine, but it strikes me as so stupid that we–particularly high functioning and academically accomplished women who are likely to be underdiagnosed–work for 12-16+ years on figuring out how we best learn and work, then are shoved into an environment that doesn’t allow us to use these self accommodations.

    • Anonymous :

      I’ve heard the term “universal design” used in contexts like this. So many “accommodations” would be improvements for anyone.

  15. I was diagnosed with ADHD when my girls were diagnosed when they were in Kindergarten/1st grade. Doc said “take a Ritalin, if you slow down – you have it, if you speed up – you don’t”. I slowed to a crawl. I hated it. I have grown so incredibly accustomed to my brain moving 100 MPM so to slow to 10 MPM it was tough. I stopped taking it, and didn’t force my girls to be medicated either. I have since earned both a BS and an MBA and my girls both graduated high school – with zero medication. What helped us was caffeine – yes my girls started drinking coffee in high school whenever they needed to focus. I still don’t drink coffee, and now I don’t drink any caffeinated beverages. What helped us was a lovely website called flylady.net. I swear I couldn’t have done all that I did without the principles she teaches. Sounds super hokey, but 15 minutes at a time I can do anything – including writing big papers. I am now a C-level manager where I work and I do it 15 mins at a time.

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