The Effects of Hormones on Women with ADHD

By: Clinical Psychologist, Emma Spencer FAPS

For women and girls who also have ADHD, the interplay between hormonal fluctuations and ADHD symptoms can create a unique set of challenges. To effectively manage the effects of ADHD it is important that everyone understands the relationship between female sex hormones and ADHD. This blog explores the effects of hormones on women with ADHD and discusses the types of support that can make a significant difference to the individual’s quality of life.

Female Hormone Cycles: Impacts on ADHD Symptoms

The core female hormones that play crucial roles in women's health and significantly impact conditions like ADHD are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormones fluctuate throughout the monthly menstrual cycle as well as throughout a woman's life and can have profound effects on physical, emotional, and cognitive functions.

Estrogen and dopamine have a complex interplay that significantly impacts ADHD symptoms in women and girls. Estrogen influences the brain's dopamine system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter crucial for attention, motivation, and executive function, areas often deficient in individuals with ADHD. During periods of low estrogen, such as the premenstrual phase, postpartum, and menopause, dopamine activity can diminish, exacerbating ADHD symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and emotional dysregulation. This reduction in dopamine availability can lead to increased difficulties in concentration, memory, and emotional control, making the management of ADHD more challenging for women and girls during these hormonal transitions.

On the flip side, Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain, often acting as a natural sedative. For women and girls with ADHD, this calming influence can sometimes exacerbate symptoms such as fatigue, sluggishness, and brain fog, making it harder to focus and stay organized. Progesterone levels peak during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (around day 15), with many women with ADHD reporting an increase in symptoms like forgetfulness, emotional volatility, and difficulty concentrating. Additionally, the interaction between progesterone and neurotransmitters like serotonin can further affect mood and emotional regulation, compounding the challenges faced by women with ADHD.

Although commonly associated with male physiology, testosterone is also important in women for bone strength, muscle mass, and overall energy levels and is one of the core 3 sex hormones affecting girls and women.  Testosterone influences motivation, mood, and energy levels. For those women experiencing testosterone imbalances, they may experience challenges with cognitive function and mood stability, potentially exacerbating ADHD symptoms.

Getting the Right Support

For women managing ADHD, getting the right support to manage hormonal fluctuations can have a positive impact on their ADHD symptoms. Appropriate help involves a multifaceted approach.

  • Medical Support: Consulting with healthcare providers, such as General Practitioners, Endocrinologists and Gynaecologists, can help regulate hormonal imbalances through medical treatments like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or birth control pills.
  • Psychological Support: Working with a psychologist specializing in ADHD can provide strategies to cope with emotional and cognitive challenges during hormonal shifts.
  • Coaching Support: ADHD coaching offers personalized support, helping women develop effective organizational and time-management skills tailored to their hormonal cycles. Lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, can also address symptoms.
  • Stress Management: Mindfulness practices and stress management techniques, such as meditation or yoga, can improve emotional stability.
  • Naturopaths: Often provide herbal supplements that can balance hormones naturally. Many also offer meditation and stress management techniques.
  • Nutritionists: Nutritionists can design meal plans that stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, which are crucial for managing ADHD symptoms. They may discuss supplements that can support hormonal health and identify allergens that might be exacerbating symptoms.

By combining medical interventions with psychological support and lifestyle adjustments, women can better manage the impact of hormones on their ADHD symptoms, leading to improved overall well-being.

If you are a woman struggling with ADHD, consider reaching out to Spencer Health. Our experienced psychologists specialize in psychological therapy and ADHD coaching, offering personalized strategies to navigate hormonal fluctuations. Many of our psychologists also identify as ADHDers themselves or have lived experience as parents or family members of ADHDers. Contact Spencer Health today to take the first step towards a balanced and empowered life.

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