Are you really going crazy?

4 million women have ADD, ADHD and don't even know it


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Karen Biscup, who lives in Clearwater, describes her house and herself as a "chaotic mess!"

"You don't want to tell people too much because it makes you sound like a crazy person," she said.

Her dog died months ago, but the dog dish still sits in her bedroom.

"Those are Christmas presents I haven't gotten to mail yet," Biscup explained about the gifts lying on the floor.

Suffering in silence has meant low self-esteem for her.

"I went to school, had three jobs, and I was doing an internship at the same time." Biscup said. "I had all these things and I accomplished all that, but to me it just felt like chaos."

She finally knows why she's felt this way. She has attention deficit disorder. Now medication is helping her get through the day.

"I just view the world more calmly," Biscup said.

Four million women have ADD or ADHD and don't even know it, according to the National Center for Gender Issues and ADHD.  Mental Health Counselor Deborah Day says it's a state of constant disarray.

"It's real [and] definitely not make believe," said Day. "It's within the brain and so there's really a chemical thing going on."

We asked viewers their thoughts about what else is going on in their minds. One woman wrote us:

"There are times when I think the unthinkable. I have two adult children and like most mothers, I worry about them. I've thought of scenarios where something bad happened to them. What if they were killed in a car accident?  Are these thoughts normal?"

Psychotherapist Tina Tessina, PhD, says the empty nest time is a particularly hard time when women feel like they're losing control of their children.

"One sleepless night is not a problem. Ten in a row is a big problem," Tessina explained. 

Many sleepless nights not only come from worrying about the kids, many people lie awake thinking about work as well.

"Nothing at work is important enough to do that to yourself, so you need to know how to shut it off," Tessina said.

First, don't use your brain as a memo pad. Write it down. If there's something you can do before bed to ease your mind, just do it. Most importantly, stop comparing yourself to everyone else.

"You have to know how to soothe yourself, how to encourage yourself, and how to keep building your sense of self so that you can stay on an even keel," Tessina explained.

If you fidget all the time, find it hard to sit still at meetings, or interrupt a lot, you may have a form of ADD or ADHD. 

"For the ones that don't know when they come in to me, it's so freeing for them to find out, that there's a name for what they have and there's a way to get better," Day explained.

The first step in addressing attention deficit disorder is behavioral interventions such as list making and file systems. If that doesn't work, medication is often needed.

Additional Information:

Attention deficit disorder is not just a problem in children. If you were diagnosed with childhood ADD/ADHD, chances are, you've carried at least some of the symptoms into adulthood. But even if you were never diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, that doesn't mean you can't be affected by it as an adult.

  • Be sure of the diagnosis: Make sure you're working with a professional who understands ADHD and has excluded similar conditions like anxiety, agitated depression, hyperthyroidism, manic-depressive illness, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Educate yourself: The single most powerful treatment for ADHD is understanding it. Read books, talk with professionals and others with ADHD.
  • Encouragement: ADHD adults need plenty of encouragement due to many self-doubts that may have accumulated over the years. More than the average person, an ADHD adult withers without encouragement and positively lights up like a Christmas tree when given it.
  • Give up: Stop trying to be the person you always thought you should be. Give yourself permission to be yourself.
  • Blow out time: Set aside time each week for letting loose and do whatever you like to do – blast loud music, have a feast, or go to the race track.
  • Exercise: it's one of the best treatments for ADHD. It works off excess energy and aggression in a positive way. It stimulates the hormonal and neurochemical system, and soothes and calms the body. By making it something fun, you'll stick to it longer.
  • Crack a joke: Have a sense of humor about your symptoms. Others around you will forgive you much more.