Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
In the eighties, a few women on the east coast formed a self-help group which they described as a self-help group for "self-confessed slobs." The word "slob" in the Webster's dictionary is defined as "a sloppy, stupid, clumsy person." They were acutely aware that they were more disorganized than other women around them and they judged themselves as slobs. They were none of that. What they had was "Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)," but in those days nobody thought women had ADD.
In the beginning of 1994, in this column, I wrote about children with attention deficit disorder. A lady who read that article sought out my wife and told her that the article changed her life. Her problem had a name. others also had this problem. I wonder how many women are out there who live their whole life in embarrassment and shame without ever finding out that it's not a defect of their character, will power, or gender identity, but that it is a neurochemical condition. It means that certain parts of the brain of an ADD person are underactive.
One way of measuring brain activity is to measure the level of glucose in the blood being supplied to the brain. The more the activity, the higher is the glucose level in the brain-blood. Specific parts of the brain become more active and use more glucose depending on the task in front of that person. More glucose goes to the parts of the brain that are called into action to perform a particular task. The brain imaging of glucose consumption show that during tasks that require concentration (e.g. working on a Math problem), the parts of the brain that are used in concentration are less active when compared with those without ADD.
Some symptoms of ADD, notably, the impulsivity, outspokenness, abruptness, impatience, etc., are not very "lady-like." Women with such characteristics are branded as "Tomboyish." A female teenager who daydreams and appears to be often lost in the inner world quickly invites the label of "space cadet," "weird," or "depressed." Professionals frequently mistake ADD for other disorders, notably, "cyclothymia (moderate version of manic-depressive illness)," "depression," or for "Borderline Personality Disorder" known for impulsivity, moodswings, and chaotic lifestyle.
As I mentioned in a previous article, more women have ADD without hyperactivity. Such women appear awkward and shy, feeling confused, and refer to themselves as being "in a fog." They may be highly distracted by outside and inside events, such as the noises and lights from the outside, and thoughts and feelings from within. For a distractible and disorganized woman, it is one heck of a challenge to finish the chores and routines on schedule. Her every morning challenge is to get the breakfast on table, get children ready and out for school, and be on time at her desk at work. Her every evening challenge is to get the dinner ready on time while keeping an eye on several different things, such as the pie in the oven, frying pan on the stove, and clothes in the dryer. If children are small, she has to keep an eye on the cooker, washer, and dryer as she comforts one child who is crying and changes diapers on another who is wet. As ADD runs in families, perhaps she takes care of an ADD child(ren) along wit the responsibility for her household and her job. Being disorganized for some women translates into looking helplessly at clothes piling up for weeks, unopened mail piling into huge stacks, and unpaid bills past their due date.
If ADD is severe, simple chores such as, getting dressed, planning a day, running a simple errand can overwhelm a person. The routine of getting ready in the morning, finding the keys, getting all the "stuff" together becomes an arduous task. A typical day may hold many frustrations because she "forgets" a lot of little things that others remember without any special effort. Example: she forgets to put cash in her pocketbook because she spent the last dollar-bill the night before at the grocery counter, so she runs to the bank to get some cash. When she opens her pocketbook at the cashier's counter, she realizes that she had forgotten her checkbook at the table where she wrote her last check.
I have known women with ADD getting into a panic when
they get a promotion on job, not because they have some
"neurotic fear of success," but the new
promotion requires them to be more organized and to
pay a close attention to a lot of details that they had
so far gotten by without being too concerned about.
1996, Mind Publications