But, sometimes within hours of talking, many women just as readily changed their minds and asked not to be included in the story after all. Or requested that I not use their names, saying they had acted impulsively. “I know how small D.C. is,” one said. “And this is still something of an embarrassment.” Some kept losing my phone number.
“Welcome to the world of ADHD,” says Patricia Quinn, a physician in Chevy Chase who was one of the first to work with girls and women with ADHD 30 years ago. She shrugged when I complained about my lack of progress.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder has variously been called “minimal brain dysfunction,” “hyperkinesis” or a “defect in moral control.” Its hallmark symptoms — the inability to pay attention, get organized; start or finish tasks; a penchant for spacing out, forgetting or losing things; and, for some, the inability to sit still, stop talking or be patient and a tendency to act or blurt things out impulsively — have long been thought to affect only children. Particularly boys. Particularly disruptive boys in school.
In the 1990s, studies to determine the causes of ADHD began to find that it ran in families. And that, far from disappearing as children grew up, as had been the assumption,, the disorder could last a lifetime.
Now, surveys by Harvard Medical School, the National Institute of Mental Health and the World Health Organization report that, conservatively, about 4.4 percent of adults in the United States, or 8 million people between ages 18 and 44, have ADHD, making it the second most common psychological problem in adults after depression. Though with only 15 percent having a diagnosis or seeking treatment, most of them, apparently, don’t know it.
Adults with ADHD have been found to be more likely to lose a job, change a job or not show up for work, costing an estimated $77 billion a year in workplace failure. They are more likely to get divorced, go broke or be arrested. They have four times as many accidents. They experience more relationship difficulties, sleep problems or substance abuse addictions. They have higher rates of eating disorders, depression and anxiety than the general population, and lower educational attainment and earning potential. Those with hyperactive symptoms have also been found to be at significantly greater risk for injury, nonsurgical hospitalizations and poisoning.