Women with ADHD: How Estrogen Impacts Our Symptoms

On March 8th, 2022, I was lucky enough to speak to Dr. Patricia Quinn about women with ADHD and about how estrogen impacts our symptoms.
Dr. Patricia Quinn is a leading expert in developmental pediatrics and ADHD, who has written over 20 innovative books on ADHD and other learning differences.
She’s also the co-founder and director of the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD and has devoted most of her career to improving the awareness of issues that ADHD brings to women and children.
I was honored to have her on podcast episode 149, and am delighted to share the top three pieces of information and advice she gave us:

#1: Estrogen affects EVERYTHING. Not just our sex organs

Up until not too long ago, scientists thought that the hormone, estrogen, only affected our sex organs and monthly cycles. More recently, research has shown that estrogen actually affects more areas in our body than we originally thoughts — specifically, the brain.
Issues like depression, anxiety, and energy levels are all affected by estrogen’s impact on our minds because it is directly linked to the release of feel-good neurotransmitters.
Dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine are three neurotransmitters that are vital to helping us feel good and healthy. Right before our periods, estrogen levels naturally decrease, resulting in lower levels of these feel-good hormones.
And as you can probably guess, this means that many women experience issues like premenstrual syndrome (PMS), mood swings, executive dysfunction, and sometimes more severely, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
There is also a link to low estrogen levels, postpartum depression, and even, menopause in women. During these phases of our lives, we experience lower levels of estrogen which results in lower levels of dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine.
What all of this means is that as we go through lower levels of estrogen throughout phases in our lives, our wellbeing is also affected. And, because ADHD affects these feel-good hormones as well, many women with ADHD experience extreme levels of these symptoms.
This is why it’s so important for women with ADHD to talk to their doctors and get treatment during these stages of their lives.

#2: All women with ADHD are different. It’s incredibly important to seek treatment for your specific situation.

No two women with ADHD are identical. ADHD affects the body and brain differently for all women, so it is vital that we do the research, educate ourselves, and find professionals that can support and help our specific situation.
Some women with ADHD have little obsessive compulsive issues, while others have a lot. Some are well organized, while others really struggle with staying focused.
Before we can treat our symptoms, we need to know specifically how ADHD affects our bodies personally. Only after we have clarity on that can we find the right treatment that will fit our unique brains in the best way.

#3: It is vital that women with ADHD fully understand their symptoms, so we can plan our lives well and thrive.

We don’t talk enough about creating ADHD-friendly lifestyles.
Women with ADHD need to truly understand themselves, so we can craft lifestyles that fit our capacities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Some women with ADHD are able to have three kids without overextending themselves, while others might only have the energy for one. Some might be able to buy and remodel a farmhouse, while others might experience too much executive dysfunction to do that.
We need to know our capacities, our energy levels, and how ADHD affects our individual brains if we are to build lives that make us happy. Otherwise, we are going to set ourselves up for failure and live lifestyles that make us miserable.
Dr. Patricia Quinn talks a lot about self-awareness and not setting ourselves up for failure. She urges us to learn about ourselves, know our cycles, and how we are affected by ADHD, so we can live thriving lives.
We need to accept ourselves as we are, not just because we have ADHD, but because we are human and all humans have limitations.

Summary: Here are the three main points we learned from Dr. Patricia Quinn in podcast episode 149

Point #1: Estrogen affects EVERYTHING, especially our brains.
Point #2: It’s vital women with ADHD seek treatment because we are all different.
Point #3: We need to KNOW ourselves, so we can create ADHD-friendly lifestyles.

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