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Why more woman have ADHD?

Ladies, do you want to be more like the man in your life? Razor sharp, focused, calm and intrepid. Put down that smart phone and read the Spritzler Report cover to cover with no distractions. Shut off anything in your home that makes noise, remove the cat and FOCUS!

Oh, your husband is a portly beer drinking, idiot who watches ESPN instead of paying attn to you. Or you find men personally unattractive. You have a point. Never mind.

Don't complain to me this is offensive. You signed up for this.

Distracted, Forgetful and Hooked on Smartphones: Why More Women Are Being Diagnosed With ADHD

Many who have the disorder are overly hooked on tech, but they also need it to get through the day

By Julie Jargon, WSJ

Jan. 26, 2024 9:00 pm ET

Diagnoses of ADHD are surging in a surprising group: adult women. Doctors who treat them are looking at smartphones as both a contributor and a cure.

The attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis rate is much smaller for adults than it is for children, and it has traditionally skewed male. But it has nearly doubled from 2020 to 2022, fueled by a surge of women, according to an analysis of nearly four million U.S. patient records by medical-record software company Epic Systems. Although less than 1% of U.S. women have an ADHD diagnosis, the gap with men has narrowed significantly, the research found.

The constant distraction of social-media and communication apps can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, and add stress on top of responsibilities they typically shoulder: working, caring for children and managing a home. There are school emails to read, co-workers to respond to on Slack, text messages from friends—and of course the temptation to scroll Instagram.

Columnist Julie Jargon, a mother of three, helps families find answers and address concerns about the ways technology is impacting their lives.

Victoria Dunckley, a psychiatrist in Los Angeles, says limiting technology can ease ADHD symptoms, which is why she asks patients to take a four-week screen break to help calm their minds.

Twenty years ago, she says, people who had a predisposition for ADHD might have functioned fine because there were fewer distractions. For many of those people, she says, symptoms become more pronounced as tech steals their attention.

In her youth, Rachel Fuehrer was constantly losing and forgetting things. She struggled in school and was labeled bipolar at 15. But she stopped taking the medication after just two weeks because she didn’t like how it made her feel. Her distractibility and impulsivity worsened over time—coinciding with the increasing role of the smartphone in her life.

Nearly 15 years later, a doctor told her something that clicked: She had ADHD.

“With women not accepting the status quo anymore, we’re saying, ‘No, we’re not just forgetful, something is wrong with our brains,’ and we’re reaching out for diagnoses,” Fuehrer says.

I interviewed 10 women in their 30s to 50s who were diagnosed with ADHD as adults. They all described a complicated relationship with technology: Their phones help keep them on top of daily tasks and deadlines, but they’re also a source of constant distractions.

The tech dilemma

Lori Etheredge, an oncology nurse and mother of two in Indianapolis, had three panic attacks a little over a year ago. She was 48 at the time, and her doctor said the attacks were a symptom of ADHD, brought on by the shifting hormones of menopause. As part of her treatment, her doctor advised her to limit her phone use.

“I would have Facebook up, be watching my ‘Housewives’ and be looking at my calendar at the same time,” Etheredge says. “I’m trying to only do one thing at a time now.”

Studies have shown that such media multitasking slows our ability to process and retain information, decreases our ability to filter out extraneous information and shortens our attention span.

Rachel Fuehrer streams shows at work because she says the background stimulation helps her focus.

The reasons for the rise in adult female ADHD diagnoses include greater awareness of the symptoms and changes in diagnostic criteria, doctors say.

Many doctors say ADHD often goes overlooked in girls, since they can compensate for their symptoms. For women who have carried ADHD with them since childhood, the responsibilities of adulthood—along with hormonal changes in pregnancy and menopause—can bring the disorder to a head later in life.

Amy Rivers, an engineer in Virginia Beach, Va., was 48 when she was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020. She had been in a go-go-go sales job, but she was shifting to a more strategic role at work where she had to sit at a computer and focus for hours at a time.

What got her to seek a diagnosis was a car ride with her husband. As he drove, she would read three pages of a Kindle book, then switch to her phone, then switch back to the Kindle. He asked, “Can you really not read more than three pages at a time?” She couldn’t.

A five-year study of nearly 4,000 adolescents, published last October in the journal Nature, found that social media, TV and gaming increased ADHD symptoms in teens. Frequent users of social media showed lasting increases in ADHD symptoms, impulsive behavior and impairment in cognitive functioning.

Skepticism lingers in the medical community about the validity of many ADHD diagnoses. Some doctors believe technology creates behavior that looks like ADHD, while others think patients could avoid a full-blown mental-health diagnosis by dialing back their tech use.

23 alarms

Fuehrer’s forgetfulness and emotional swings grew severe at age 29, when she was expecting a baby. She was diagnosed with ADHD in 2019, shortly after giving birth.

Now 33, the paralegal in Marshfield, Wis., takes a generic version of Adderall, which she says has helped quiet her racing mind. Fuehrer says she couldn’t function without technology.

She has 23 alarms on her phone. One goes off every day at noon to signify that she’s halfway through her workday, and to remind her to eat lunch. Another alarm rings every Sunday and Wednesday night to indicate it’s time to bathe her daughter. Another alarm reminds her to look at her calendar.

During the workday she streams shows because she finds it hard to focus without background noise and visual stimulation. She listens to audiobooks while driving and calming sounds to fall asleep.

“If I’m in silence, it’s really loud in my brain,” Fuehrer says.

Rachel Fuehrer sets alarms to remind her to bathe her 4-year-old daughter, Margo.

Studies of people with ADHD show they have a greater hunger for activities that provide immediate rewards, such as social media or videogames, says Beata Lewis, a Brooklyn psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD treatment.

“For someone with ADHD, there’s this incredible discomfort with boredom and a constant searching for stimulation,” says Lewis.

She advises patients to track their phone use and delete or set limits on the apps that suck the most time. But she also recommends that her patients keep a calendar on their phone.

“The trick with ADHD is to develop strategies to cope,” says Lewis, who has mild ADHD herself. “Technology helps manage things.”

How do you balance the benefits and distractions of smartphones? Join the conversation below.

Scattered attention, difficulty focusing and trouble sleeping all worsen with excessive screen time, whether someone qualifies for an ADHD diagnosis or not, says Dunckley, the Los Angeles psychiatrist. So when people come to her seeking help, she first takes an inventory of their tech habits.

If they can’t follow her recommended four-week screen break, she recommends they remove their phones from their bedrooms at night, turn off notifications when they need to focus and remove apps like Instagram from their phones. During moments of down time, try to focus on breathing rather than reaching for the phone, she instructs.

Fuehrer struggles with that. She sets a 30-minute timer when scrolling Facebook, but usually her husband or her daughter tells her it’s time to put down the phone.

“If I was left unattended,” Fuehrer says, “I would scroll until my phone dies.”

—For Family & Tech columns, advice and answers to your most pressing family-related technology questions, sign up for my weekly newsletter.

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