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Women with ADHD reveal how they've learned to flourish

It’s most commonly found in men and children, but growing numbers of women are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, studies show that men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than women.

Earlier this year, according to the New York Times, the CDC reported that ADHD prescription rates steeply increased in women aged 30 to 34, by a whopping 560 percent, from 2003 to 2015. There was an even greater increase of 700 percent in women aged 25 to 29.

ADHD, which can include attention difficulty, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, requires medical testing and can be improved with treatment. More than 3 million cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. Common symptoms include chronic forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, lack of organization and chronic boredom.

We asked women how they’ve learned to manage everyday life with ADHD, and here’s what they had to say.

Make lists

“I need written lists for everything. If someone gives me directions with more than two steps, I will immediately forget everything. Post-It notes and my Apple watch are my best friend. I use them constantly to remind myself of little things. I need to work harder than my neurotypical peers to do the same amount of work.” —Cara

Do cognitive behavioral therapy

“In addition to medication that helps block out excessive stimulation, I began cognitive behavioral therapy to help me with organizing, stress management and planning. In short, I spent 10 weeks working toward goals I wanted to achieve. For example, I tend to have a hard time staying calm during a test. In CBT, I learned a little motivational speech and breathing exercises. Now, when I start to feel panicked during a test, I do those steps and I am calm again.” —Julia

Set timers

“Getting started on something that feels overwhelming is nearly impossible for someone with ADHD — we are master avoiders. One ADHD hack that I love to do is set timers. If there’s a task that feels too big and I know I’m avoiding it, I’ll set a timer for 15 or so minutes and tell myself, ‘You can do anything for 15 minutes, just start,’ and I usually wind up being very productive.” —Kristen

Stick to a schedule

“At this stage in my life as a single mom of three, I’ve decided to not take medication. I’ve switched gears in trying to find a purpose in life. I spend more quality time with my kids. Sunshine is one of my favorite things to get in and helps me a ton. I meditate, go to therapy and set small goals for myself. It’s a fine balance of all of those things that’s working for me. One thing I need and try to obtain is a schedule. Some kind of structure to keep me grounded and not off in the clouds. Any time I veer off, my life gets unmanageable.” —Chelsea

Form habits

“If I can get a habit established — though it’s like going uphill in wet concrete — I’m golden. Even in seasons when I’m struggling, I find that I thrive when my schedule is busy. As a mom of three, there are a bazillion things I need to do. But when I have deadlines and appointments, I seem to be able to focus better.” —Natalie

Use a task app

“I have to dredge through my ADHD any time I need to reach the real world. It’s everywhere. Late bills, dirty dishes, leaving laundry half done, realizing midsentence that I’m not hearing someone even though I’m going through the motions of listening. The best strategy I’ve found is finding a way to store information outside of my brain. For me, I use the Notes app on my phone. I know I’m at risk of forgetting, so as soon as I think of something, I write it down.” —Samantha

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