Menstruation and ADHD: how menstruation affects neurodivergent women

Have you ever felt like your brain works a little differently from what people consider "typical"? Well, you might be experiencing what's called neurodivergence.

This term refers to when someone's brain processes, learns, or behaves in ways that aren't considered the norm. It's a diverse way of experiencing the world, and it's totally okay! Neurodiversity often includes conditions like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, and many other learning differences.

But it's not just limited to these. Think about conditions like Tourette's, dyspraxia, synaesthesia, dyscalculia, Down syndrome, epilepsy, and various mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and depression. All of these fall under the umbrella of neurodivergence.


Let's focus on ADHD for a moment. ADHD is a condition that can make it challenging to concentrate, pay attention, or control impulses. While the exact cause of ADHD is still a mystery, experts believe it's related to how certain brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, are processed in the body. Two key players in this scenario are dopamine and norepinephrine.

Interestingly, research suggests that hormones might also play a role, specifically oestrogen. Oestrogen influences various receptors in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin receptors. Oestrogen levels go through changes during the menstrual cycle, and this might be connected to how ADHD symptoms vary in intensity for some people.

Menstrual cycle and ADHD

Speaking of the menstrual cycle, it's worth noting that hormonal shifts during this time can have an impact on ADHD symptoms. Oestrogen levels rise & fall, and these changes could affect dopamine levels too. This might explain why some folks with ADHD experience a double whammy of symptoms during their menstrual cycle. Imagine dealing with worsened ADHD symptoms along with the usual premenstrual syndrome (PMS) challenges like irritability, forgetfulness, and impulsivity.

When ADHD and low oestrogen levels collide, it can lead to a range of intensified symptoms. Think depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, memory problems, and even trouble sleeping. These symptoms might mirror those of PMS, but for individuals with ADHD, they can be exceptionally challenging to handle.

ADHD in girls and women

If you're a woman with ADHD, you might notice that your symptoms are different from men's. Girls and women tend to experience more problems with focus and concentration rather than behaviour and impulse control. This is often referred to as predominantly inattentive ADHD. Along with ADHD, depression and anxiety also tend to tag along more frequently in girls and women with the condition.


So, how can you manage these challenges? First and foremost, remember that you're not alone. Many girls and women with ADHD face similar struggles, especially when dealing with the rollercoaster of PMS. Here are a few tips to help you cope:

1. Talk it out: Consider discussing your symptoms with a counsellor or therapist. They can provide valuable strategies to manage your challenges effectively.

2. Mind-Body techniques: Practices like breathwork, meditation, and yoga can do wonders for reducing stress. Give them a try during those tough times.

3. Physical health: Taking care of your physical health goes hand in hand with your mental well-being. Prioritise sleep, eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and cut back on stimulants like caffeine and alcohol.

4. Take breaks: Regular breaks are essential. Engage in activities you enjoy, be it art, meeting friends, watching a movie, or playing with your pets.

Remember, neurodiversity is a beautiful tapestry of minds, and your unique way of experiencing the world is something to embrace. So, whether you're managing ADHD, PMS, or both, there's a supportive community and strategies to help you navigate these challenges without feeling alone.

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