MINNEAPOLIS — October is ADHD awareness month, and while many associate Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder with kids, this year, experts say they are seeing more adults.
Experts say they're especially seeing more women, who are seeking help after never being diagnosed early in life.
Lindsay Guentzel, who hosts local cooking segments, produces radio programs and curates a lifestyle blog, says she didn’t fully understand her ADHD until the pandemic hit and she began to feel overwhelmed.
She says she began to struggle with the massive change in her life and schedule.
“I’ve always felt like I can focus too much attention on too many different things all at once,” she said. “You know how when you walk into the room and you're like, ‘Why am I here? What was I doing?’ That's my brain all day long, and so I would get exhausted. During the pandemic I was getting even more overwhelmed."
For Lindsay, social media helped alert her to the potential issue.
"It was Twitter. There was a thread someone posted about their own experience being diagnosed and the things that stood out to them,” she said. "I just started sobbing because for the first time in my life, so much made sense."
Lindsay says she never thought she had ADHD because she did well in school, didn't have behavioral issues and could focus intently. But after high school, she struggled for years with a lack of structure.
She says she finally gained clarity after calling her doctor and getting a referral for an ADHD diagnosis.
"It wasn't until I sat down with the psychologist through Hennepin Health that I went, 'Oh! Okay.' You know, especially with ADHD, there is this misconception that ADHD means a lack of attention,” she said.
"The problem is not that people can't focus, it's that they don't have control as much, on what they're focusing on, and when to pull away,” said Dr. Becca Floyd, a clinical psychologist for Hennepin Healthcare.
Dr. Floyd says the pandemic has exacerbated ADHD symptoms in undiagnosed adults, and women are more likely to be missed as children. According to the CDC, nearly 13 percent of boys are diagnosed with ADHD, compared to just 5.6 percent of girls.
"The criteria had been really structured towards how things present in boys in childhood, which favors the hyperactivity symptoms,” Dr. Floyd said.
"There was just never attention put on to those of us who maybe were struggling, but doing it in silence,” Guentzel said.
Social media has begun to change that, especially during the pandemic, but in the process, mental health professionals say that social media has also created a different kind of issue, convincing many people that they have ADHD, when they are actually dealing with other issues.
"Overall, I would rather someone come in with a concern rather than it get left undiagnosed and untreated, and it's wreaking havoc on their lives,” Floyd said. “In general, as long as people have an open mind, that they might not have ADHD, then I would always support people looking into it.”
Guentzel says even if it's not ADHD, experts can offer tips that could still help.
"Even if you go down the path and it's not an ADHD diagnosis, maybe you'll learn tips and tricks for things that might help you," she said.
As for how getting that diagnosis and treatment has helped Guentzel up to this point?
"Oh gosh, night and day," she said. "It is really living a new life. I say that and people are like, well that's pretty dramatic. But it truly is."
She says although she wishes she would have been diagnosed at a younger age, she's happy to begin this phase of her life.
"I get this next chapter of life with all of these new tools and that is a gift in itself."