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Empowering Women with ADHD: Strategies for Overcoming Burnout

Feeling a loss of energy, motivation, and confidence can all play a role in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) burnout. Whether you’re struggling to keep up with daily tasks, feel overwhelmed by responsibilities, or experiencing a sense of personal detachment from your goals and ambitions, the impact of ADHD burnout can extend to all areas of […]

Taylor Stranaghan By Taylor Stranaghan
Stressed mom works at a computer.

Updated on May 21, 2024

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Feeling a loss of energy, motivation, and confidence can all play a role in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) burnout. Whether you’re struggling to keep up with daily tasks, feel overwhelmed by responsibilities, or experiencing a sense of personal detachment from your goals and ambitions, the impact of ADHD burnout can extend to all areas of life.

ADHD burnout is a term used to describe a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion tied to ADHD. It arises out of prolonged or intense periods of stress or overexertion in managing ADHD-related symptoms. Hyperfocus, a condition that occurs when a person is completely absorbed in a task to the point where they appear to “tune out” everything else, is a common experience for women who have ADHD.

For women, this experience is particularly daunting as the demands of work, relationships, and self-care along with the relentless storm of ADHD symptoms can pose serious challenges to their mental well-being.

If this sounds like something you’re experiencing, you’re not alone.

Read on as we explore the unique aspects of ADHD burnout in women and discover the importance of recognizing these factors in seeking tailored support and effective strategies for managing burnout.

Understanding ADHD Burnout in Women

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental condition that causes inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and various other challenges.

The challenges linked to ADHD often result in feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted, and burnt out, exacerbating the impact of symptoms on daily life and functioning. Adults with ADHD burnout describe feeling mentally drained and emotionally exhausted, having little to no energy to complete even the simplest of tasks.

Burnout in women is often caused or affected by trying to mask symptoms and fit the mold for what society says how a woman “should” function, but it takes a lot of effort and energy to do this if your brain is not wired to operate naturally in that way. In other words, ADHD burnout does not come from ADHD but rather is a result of trying to function within systems that are not accommodating to the ADHD brain.

Characteristics of ADHD burnout include:

The specific demands placed on women can significantly shape the manifestation of ADHD burnout.

Gender Differences in ADHD Symptoms

ADHD in women can present differently than it does in men. Compared to men, women with ADHD face additional challenges from gender role expectations and fluctuating hormones, while also balancing numerous responsibilities including family, friendships, and self-care.

These factors can heighten feelings of burnout, leading to even greater emotional sensitivity, chronic fatigue, and an increased sense of disconnection from oneself and others.

Feelings of ADHD overstimulation, defined as an experience where certain stimuli can cause sensory overload, are particularly common in women.

A 2020 study found that females women are less likely to be identified and referred for ADHD assessment due to differing behaviors, symptoms, and comorbidities compared to males. Further, women who do seek treatment for emotional complications may have unrecognized ADHD, while also presenting with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other complications.

Duration of ADHD Burnout

ADHD burnout can be incredibly pervasive. Without proper treatment, symptoms may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, sometimes longer!

Three common factors that influence the duration of ADHD burnout include:

  1. The severity of ADHD symptoms
  2. Personal and professional demands (i.e. chores, high-priority project deadlines, etc.)
  3. Availability and effectiveness of coping strategies (i.e. therapy, self-care, boundary setting, etc.)

ADHD can trigger a recurring cycle of burnout due to these three factors. For example, with persistent difficulties with attention mixed with numerous household demands and no time to focus on ourselves, the ADHD reaction and burnout cycle continues to spin out of control.

It is not uncommon for women with ADHD to avoid or overlook their symptoms of ADHD, further contributing to a buildup of stress and burnout. As the cycle persists, the symptoms of burnout intensify, making it far more difficult to break free from.

ADHD Burnout Coping Strategies and Recovery

Being mindful of how your symptoms are affecting you is a critical first step toward ADHD burnout recovery. Fortunately, there are numerous effective coping strategies to recover from ADHD burnout.

Build a Foundation for Well-Being

Establishing a consistent routine, focusing on healthy eating, scheduled exercise, and proper sleep hygiene are all foundational to the recovery of burnout.

Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction

Prioritizing mindfulness and stress-reducing exercises is another important way to combat burnout. Some helpful practices include journaling, meditating, deep breath work, yoga, and running.

Therapy and medication

Therapy offers a valuable avenue for women who experience burnout caused by ADHD, providing a space to normalize their experiences, explore coping strategies, and cultivate resilience for long-term well-being.

With more acute instances of ADHD-related burnout, prescribed medication may be beneficial in regulating symptoms and improving your sense of control.

Time Management and Organization

Establishing a structured daily routine with a short list of tasks to accomplish can help ward off ADHD burnout and improve focus.

Helpful strategies to increase predictability and organization include:

It may also be useful to consider helpful tips such as turning off notifications for messaging apps, social media, and emails, creating and focusing on to-do lists with no more than 3 items on them, and prioritizing sleep and rest.

Social Support

Connecting with friends, family, and other supportive networks in the community can be influential in recovery from ADHD burnout. Social support can provide much-needed encouragement, understanding, and practical assistance.

Social networks are particularly beneficial in helping women prevent and recover from burnout.

Self-care and Boundaries

Making yourself the priority is often an important coping strategy to prevent ADHD burnout. Engaging in activities that bring joy such as creating art, dancing, taking a walk outside, or listening to an insightful podcast are all excellent ways to recharge.

An essential part of self-care involves setting boundaries and learning to confidently say no as a way to protect one’s mental and emotional well-being amidst the stress of ADHD symptom management.

The Role of Therapy in Managing ADHD Burnout

In managing ADHD burnout, professional help serves as a vital tool to help individuals better recognize and understand their emotions. By gaining insight into their emotional states, individuals can develop more effective strategies for regulating their symptoms and establish a sense of control over their lives.

According to Amber Gossert, a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) with Grow Therapy, “Therapy plays a vital role in empowering women with ADHD to effectively manage burnout by providing education, skill development, emotional support, and personalized strategies to address their unique challenges. It is essential for therapists to tailor treatment approaches to meet the individual needs and goals of each woman experiencing ADHD burnout.”

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Among the different interventions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) stands out as an effective approach for helping women manage ADHD burnout.

CBT offers tools to reframe negative thought patterns, manage impulsivity, and incorporate positive behavioral changes and coping skills. This intervention helps individuals recognize patterns that lead to burnout and develop healthier, more adaptive ways to respond.

Specialized Coaching and Support Groups

Specialized coaching and support groups tailored for women with ADHD offer a safe space to share personal experiences and coping strategies, as well as learn from others facing similar challenges.

In a group therapy space, individuals can receive practical advice and encouragement, which is a tremendous motivation for women to navigate the unique intersections of gender-specific issues and ADHD symptoms with other like-minded individuals.

Mindfulness and Stress Management

Techniques that help build emotional resilience and improve coping further empower individuals to manage the risk of burnout more effectively.

Mindfulness-based strategies and therapeutic interventions help individuals cultivate greater awareness of their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, allowing them to respond more skillfully to stressors and filter distractions.

Stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation, help reduce physiological arousal and promote a sense of calm and control amidst the chaos associated with ADHD.

Emerging Research and Alternative Perspectives

In recent literature, there are numerous promising avenues to help us better understand and address ADHD burnout in women.

Hormonal Influence on Women with ADHD

Recent studies have begun to explore the hormonal influence on ADHD symptoms in women, particularly looking at the impact of hormone changes on attention, mood, and cognitive functioning,

A 2023 study on female-specific pharmacotherapy in ADHD found that progesterone and estrogen, sex hormones excreted during a woman’s menstrual cycle, can influence the effectiveness of ADHD medication, with women showing reduced response to psychostimulant drugs during their luteal phase.

Neurodiversity and Strength-Based Approaches

According to the American Psychiatric Association, neurodiversity is related to cognitive diversity which refers to the different ways people think.

Based on a strength-based model of neurodiversity, experts recommend neurodivergent individuals to explore creative outlets for work and hobbies, seek dynamic environments, develop strong interpersonal skills, and embrace innovation and problem-solving to harness their unique strengths.

The Bottom Line

ADHD burnout in women is a significant cause of stress, frustration, and overwhelm. Since many women are left undiagnosed, they may struggle in silence, unaware of the underlying reasons for their difficulties.

You are not alone in facing these challenges, and there is a wealth of resources available to help you navigate through them. Seeking personalized support and treatment for ADHD burnout is a courageous step towards reclaiming your well-being and living a more fulfilling and productive life.

Start your wellness journey with Grow Therapy today.

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  • ADHD can add a layer of complexity to everyday tasks. Women with ADHD may struggle with additional challenges such as heightened emotional sensitivity, perfectionism, and the constant effort to manage symptoms while meeting societal standards, contributing to a distinct experience of burnout compared to individuals without ADHD.

  • Common symptoms of ADHD burnout in women include mental exhaustion, increased forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating or completing tasks, bouts of hyperfocus, feeling overwhelmed due to daily responsibilities, low motivation, and high emotional sensitivity.

  • ADHD burnout in women arises due to a combination of factors such as difficulties concentrating, impulsivity, hyperactivity, hormonal fluctuations, meeting multiple responsibilities, and so on.

  • Some of the best ways to reduce the risk of burnout include prioritizing self-care, establishing more organized routines, seeking professional help, engaging in stress management and mindfulness exercises, and learning to set clear boundaries.

  • Therapy provides a safe space for the exploration of emotions, behaviors, and underlying challenges associated with ADHD. A therapist or other mental health professional provides personalized strategies to manage ADHD symptoms, assisting in the development of healthier coping mechanisms. This fosters greater resilience and empowerment in effectively managing symptoms, enhancing overall well-being and functioning.

About the author
Taylor Stranaghan Taylor Stranaghan

Taylor is a spirited writer, dedicated to exploring various layers of mental wellness, mindfulness, and personal growth. With a background in clinical research and pursuit of a Master’s in Counselling Psychology, she is passionate about crafting engaging content to empower and uplift individuals navigating their unique mental health journeys.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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