Woman diagnosed with ADHD at 44: 'I thought it only affected young boys'
Anna Price was in her early 40s when she began to feel as if life had turned into a never-ending rollercoaster.
"My job as a strategic marketing consultant meant that I was flying to Berlin and London from my home in Leicestershire all the time and while it was exhausting, I absolutely loved the ‘high’ of working," says Price, now 46, and a mother-of-two.
"But when I came home, I would crash into a ‘low’ for several days. My marriage was not in a great place and it was full on with my young daughters – one of whom has Down’s syndrome.
"My memory was poor, I was always losing things and felt overwhelmed and anxious, but I’d hide those lows by drinking more than I should and being the ‘life and soul’ of the party.
Watch: Concerns of ADHD among adults
"Things came to a head one day in 2014 when I woke up and I couldn’t stop crying. I was in such a mess that I phoned my best friend and said: ‘I just can’t do this any more. I need to go to the doctor, something is wrong.’"
After hearing her story, Price’s GP suspected bipolar disorder, which turned out to be a misdiagnosis. It took another three years – and several psychiatric assessments – before she finally discovered the truth: at the age of 44 she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Read more: Why so many women are only diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood
"I was shocked because although heard of ADHD, I always thought it was a condition that only affected young boys who couldn’t control their wild behaviour in the classroom," says Price. "I had no clue that girls and women could also have it."
ADHD is a complex neurobiological condition thought to affect 1.5 million people in the UK, only around 10% of whom are diagnosed.
Like Price, many people think the condition only affects boys who show typical hyperactive or disruptive behaviour. But research suggests that just as many females – if not more – are affected, yet they are not as easily diagnosed. This can have a huge impact on their lives.
Watch: Helping women with ADHD live boldly
Campaigners say women with ADHD are at an increased risk of suicide and cite a Canadian study that found 24% of women with the condition have attempted to take their own lives, compared with 9% of men with ADHD and only 3% of women without it.
"Women with ADHD are usually diagnosed later in life and aren’t spotted at school because they are less disruptive in general than their male counterparts," says Leah Leaves, the lead behind the campaign #iamADHD, which is hoping to raise awareness.
"We tend to internalise our symptoms and put a lot of effort into ‘fitting in’, which is called ‘masking’, and this has an impact on self-esteem and confidence."
Read more: Three reasons your to-do list is not getting done if you have ADHD
Price recognises that typical female behaviour.
"ADHD means I’m a very ‘big picture thinker’," she says.
"Like Richard Branson – who also thinks he has ADHD – I’m very creative and have no problem networking, whether it’s with business leaders or politicians at Number 10. I’m great at working under pressure too.
"But the small things like admin absolutely kill me. I can spend three hours wondering how to fit in meetings in my diary.
"It leads to ‘overwhelm’, where I avoid work altogether for weeks, making me more anxious. I suffer from chest pains, can’t get my breath and then I blame myself for being so stupid.
"At my very lowest point – when I was trapped in a new but psychologically abusive relationship – I briefly considered suicide.
"I don’t think I’d ever have gone through with it but there were times when I was driving home and wondered about crashing the car, just to escape from it all."
Read more: How ADHD affects adults
Her diagnosis meant that Price – who is now a successful businesswoman and founder of the Rural Business Group – got the help she so desperately needed.
"I’m on methylphenidate, a stimulant that enables me to produce more dopamine which has helped me focus and do my work," she says.
"Sadly, it can’t help the emotional highs and lows and there is some research to suggest that ADHD is affected by hormones so it’s a challenging time for women of my age who are approaching menopause.
"But I’d advise any woman who feels she might have ADHD to do an online test in the first instance. It may lead to a diagnosis and more help.
"Although it’s still a challenge, I wouldn’t swap having ADHD for the world – it makes me very good at what I do."
Watch: The first FDA-approved prescription video game is designed for kids with ADHD