Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

Who are the Famous, Successful Women with ADHD?

Why don’t we hear more about them?
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This is my attempt at guessing part of the reason:
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I do not entirely know the answer. However, I do know that for a long time it was thought that ADHD was only an issue for males, but we now know that is simply not the case. Women have ADHD, too! And, I am certain there are many who have overcome, succeeded and who are thriving with ADHD.
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But why don’t we hear more about them?
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Two of the most successful movie franchises at the moment have women in the lead, doing action flicks as used to be only done by men (Underworld / Resident Evil). Some highly successful women are also becoming self-made millionaires and billionaires, leaving most men in the dust (J. K. Rowling / Sheryl Sandberg).
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So what’s notable about these women and their success stories? They are women!
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Those are stories about ‘women’ succeeding. Any issues, conditions or disorders might be far less important than the fact that a ‘woman’ has ‘succeeded’ or ‘overcome’ the odds for, well, being a women. Credit they rightly deserve! The world hasn’t been exactly fair to women, but they are taking control of their destinies and they are making it, some are far out pacing their male counterparts!
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Kate Beckinsale, the star of the highly successful movie franchise ‘Underworld’, even with her success, recently was quoted as saying in an interview:

“There’s part of me that goes ‘Blimey, I can’t imagine playing the same role four times. That seems insane.’ But the slightly feminist part in me says ‘Well, if Bruce Willis can do it, so can I.’

And she’s right, so can she! (Examples of successful women, not to indicate these famous women have ADHD. A list of famous women with ADHD is below.)
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The point is that many women are still fighting the gender battle and ADHD takes a backseat, if they have it. Although many tend to think woman have won the gender battle, there are still areas where they are striving to prove themselves.
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So I am guessing that the gender issue might play a major role in why we don’t hear too many famous women talking about ADHD, if they have it, because there is a more important issue that has been more significant for a longer time. In other words women have had more to overcome for just being a woman. But that doesn’t mean that ADHD does not impair the women who have it or disrupt their life and cause them more hardships, because I am willing to bet that it does.
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Ultimately though, the focal point for ADHD has been on hyperactive young boys and the type of symptoms associated with them. It’s only within the last two decades that ADHD has been seriously researched in adults and an even shorter period of time that ADHD has been researched in women. I believe that most women with ADHD, famous or not, do not know they have it. And, unfortunately, most women with ADHD are suffering in silence, believing they are not good enough and I think they are more likely to be depressed and many may have symptoms of PTSD from childhood trauma.
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It’s kind of a paradox, but even though women have been battling the gender issue they are often considered more capable at academics, so when they struggle and fail in school I believe it is more likely they are treated harshly, punished, ridiculed and much better is expected of them, too often without consideration of any difficulties or challenges they might have.
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I’d also like to mention something interesting from my own experience with publishing One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir: women relate very closely to my story. I grew up with undiagnosed ADD (ADHD inattentive) and over the last few years I have literally had hundreds of women write me messages, letting me know that I had somehow written their story! It seems to me that women are more likely to have inattentive ADHD than the hyperactive type and many others, like me, have had any hyperactivity traits subdued psychologically and/or perhaps physically.
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When creating the cover for my latest eBook, How to be Happy Every Day – Even if you have ADHD, Joan and I decided it was very important to bring awareness to the fact that women have ADHD, too! That’s why there is a woman on the cover and the majority of the pictures inside the book are of a woman (with ADHD). The book is of course for both genders of all ages; however, it is still important to let any women who come across the book, who suspect they might have ADHD, know that it is okay to seek help. And YES, women can, and many do, have ADHD, too! I know of a lot of readers who have sent the free eBook to their female friends and relatives. So I think, in a very small way, the eBook is helping spread the word.
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Here is a list of famous women who have spoken up about their ADHD:
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(Hopefully this list will grow!)
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- Karina Smirnoff
- Mary-Kate Olsen
- Paris Hilton
- Roxy Olin
- Solange Knowles
- Katherine Ellison (Pulitzer Prize Winner at age 27!! Also, author of an outstanding book about her son with ADHD: Buzz)
- Michelle Rodriguez
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I am sure there are more to add to this list and you can do so in the comments, if you like.
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It is absolutely fantastic that people want to hear and read more about famous, successful women with ADHD, but in order to do that I think it is just as important, or even more so, to spread awareness that ADHD is not just an issue for young, hyperactive boys – it’s an issue for people of all ages, including women!
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Lori Amlee February 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Bryan,
I hope you can hear my applause wherever you are! Thank you for your affirmation and respect of women AND women with ADHD. I agree with you that since ADHD is a fairly new paradigm in women, there are not a lot of famous female names out there yet for us to support and cheer on! J.K. Rowling? Now I know why she was able to imagine such wonderful characters and ideas! Thank you for your insight and encouragement!
Lori Amlee

Bryan Hutchinson February 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Thank you, Lori! I also just want to clarify that I do not know if J.K. Rowlings (would not suprise me), Kate Beckinsale or Sheryl Sandberg have ADHD, I only used them as examples of successful “women”. Now let’s raise more awareness of women with ADHD!
:)

Julia March 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Actually, I think Kate Beckinsale has ADHD. I read this somewhere, don’t remember where. Jennifer Connelly also has it :
http://www.starlounge.com/index.cfm?objectid=101881

Judy February 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

You are right when you say that women are busy overcoming the obstacles facing them in their path to success. That leaves very little time to mention things like ADD/ADHD.
I think that women are quicker to adapt to their circumstances and make it work for them instead of trying to change the entire circumstance.
When I think of a famous/rich/powerful “successful” woman, my mind immediately leaps to comediennes like Ellen Degeneres and even the legendary Oprah. When I see them or read about them I can see the “busy, busy minds”, the innovative ideas and the fearlessness to live with the impulsive actions of trying new things all the time.
We don’t know if they are actually organized or if that is just an illusion. Both are certainly rich enough and creative enough to find ways around that obstacle.

Bryan Hutchinson February 10, 2012 at 3:53 pm

So true, Judy, when people get rich enough and are creative enough, those ‘obstacles’ pose less of a problem. It is the ‘getting’ there that is inspiring. Sometimes we forget the overnight successes that we see usually were ten or twenty years of hard work overcoming challenges in the making!

Bests,

Bryan

Alicia February 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I absolutely agree with you that most women who have ADHD probably don’t know it, since when I was a kid the only kids being diagnosed were boys. I mean that, I don’t think if you were a girl it even crossed anyone’s mind to explore the possibility of ADD, since it was considered “only for boys,” and because I think girls tend to compensate for their symptoms a bit better, at least when they’re young. I did not receive a diagnosis with ADD till I was 27, even though, looking back, it seems so obvious! In fact one of my teachers even told my parents she suspected I might have ADD in 3rd grade, but my parents never pursued it, because at that point my grades were fine and, besides, I was a girl.

My husband and I have have been reading a book about dealing with the effects of ADHD on marriage, and although in many ways it’s a good book, its biggest flaw is that it focuses very heavily on couples where the HUSBAND has ADHD. Clearly, ADHD effects men and women in somewhat different ways, simply because there are differences between the genders to begin with. For instance, the book assumes most of the male ADHD spouses are not stay-at-home parents…I, however, am I stay-at-home ADHD mom, and there is practically nothing in the book that addresses the added stressors that come with being solely responsible for the kids and the house all day. The author defends this slant by saying that it’;s simply because more men have ADHD than women but a) that makes no difference if you’re a woman with ADHD reading the book, and b) I actually don’t believe those statistics one bit. I think the figures are only slanted that way because most women with ADHD never receive a proper diagnosis.

I applaud you for bringing this issue to light and I truly hope this begins to receive more attention from the mental health community, particularly those responsible for diagnoses!

Bryan Hutchinson February 11, 2012 at 7:02 am

Hi Alicia,

You have some very important, valid points and I think there will be more books and information for women with ADHD in the future. It’s going to take a while. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 37 because I didn’t fit into the symptoms of a hyperactive young boy and my situation was unique, too.

About the book you are reading, I think I know which book you are referring to and it is an outstanding book and I know from personal experience it is very difficult to write about any and every scenario, but the good news is that if you visit the author’s website and post questions about the topics that concern you I know she will be happy to reply and share her thoughts. She may even be writing a follow up book and your input might be much appreciated. It’s information sharing like what you just explained that helps us not only consider those perspectives but also research and help find solutions or at least food for thought.

Keep on keeping on, the light of day is dawning :)

Bryan

MrsHm February 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Is that book “Is it you, me, or adult ADD?” by any chance? Because my husband & I have been reading that and I had exactly the same feeling that it was written about men rather than women, which put a particular slant on all of the advice and made it feel less relevant to my relationship & it’s problems. For instance, I realise this is a horrible generalisation, but I have a suspicion that lack of empathy and a tendency to take less personal responsibility for failures (both of which were emphasised as big issues in the book) are more male than female problems, on average. Women seem more prone to over-empathise, if anything, and feel guilty & inadequate as women for their ADHD related failures. As I say, it’s a horrible overgeneralisation but I’m sure there’s more than a grain of truth in it!

MrsHm February 11, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Is that book “Is it you, me, or adult ADD?” by any chance? Because my husband & I have been reading that and I had exactly the same feeling that it was written about men rather than women, which put a particular slant on all of the advice and made it feel less relevant to my relationship & it’s problems.

Judi Knight February 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Interesting post, Bryan! I’ve wondered also about why we don’t hear more about the women with ADHD. One thought that strikes me is that so many of the symptomatic manifestations of adhd correlate to many derogatory stereotypes of women in general. So if it’s not bad enough to be negatively judged because you’re a woman, add to it being a woman with ADHD whose symptoms are now being attributed directly to her gender rather than a condition! My hyperactivity, for example, manifests verbally more than anything else. I’m a talker! And it’s been suggested by folks in my life that I talk too much because I’m a woman and women talk too much. Well, okay, then why do my ADHD-affected dad and son–who could outtalk me in their sleep–talk so darn much? I’ve been called “ditsy girl” or “airhead” for forgetting or misplacing things. I’ve never heard a cutsey insult used to refer to a man who loses his wallet. I could go on and on with examples.

Bryan, I’m wondering if you know the statistics related to adults being diagnosed with ADHD for the first time as adults. Maybe this is just my perception, but it seems as though more boys are diagnosed than girls as kids, but that more women are diagnosed than men as adults. I’m basing that on nothing but my own sense. But it would stand to reason because women are so often the ones keeping all the balls in the air at home and at work that, it’s in that context, that women decide to seek help because they’ve been pushed to their limits. Perhaps there are no cutsey words for a guy who loses his wallet because behind him there is a frazzled ADHD wife keeping track of his and all the other wallets in the house! LOL

Oh, well. Maybe someday I’ll be famous, and then you can put me on a list. : D

Have a great day and thanks for your insights!

Bryan Hutchinson February 11, 2012 at 7:13 am

I’ll do that, Judi! :)

I read that it is estimated that 50 – 70% of girls go undiagnosed. The problem is the same as it has been for boys, too – that if they are not causing serious problems in the classroom or at home with hyperactivity then kids in general are less likely to be diagnosed, but few realize that girls can have it too, so of course that leads less girls even more so that are not diagnosed until their adult years.

Marr February 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Thanks for highlighting women. There isn’t nearly enough info for us or support out there. I would sure like to know more about women who are famous and their experiences who have ADHD — especially Inattentive type (which I am). I would like to know more about the positive traits of Inattentive women.

Even though this is about women, but Inattentive boys and men also have not been given their due either. I was for a time an Aide in elementary classroom and noticed one particular boy, before I was offically diagnosed, that I thought he was a very likely candiate as an Inattentive. I actually spoke up to the teacher and total her that not all who have ADHD are hyperactive including boys, and that I wonder if he might have it. I saw shades of my own self in him,and similar classroom experiences.

Thanks again for the recognition. ~Marr

Bryan Hutchinson February 11, 2012 at 7:16 am

THank you, Marr. Yes, I agree and I think you hit the point as to why so many women relate so closely to my memoir. We are not as different as we sometimes think we are.

Sarah Gogstetter February 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Very well written Bryan. Whoopi Goldberg is openly ADHD. I think many female scientists are ADHD. Also, I really believe females have ADD/ADHD as frequently as men. It’s just not recognized as much, but that also points to the gross misunderstanding of ADD/ADHD.

Bryan Hutchinson February 11, 2012 at 7:17 am

So true, Sarah!

triggerhappyvampire February 11, 2012 at 7:44 am

Ok, when I clicked this link, I was sorta expecting a list of some kind.

Me: Yay! AT LAST! *click*
Article: HAHA NO LIST U SUCKA
Me: DANGIT

So I’m not quite sure where this article was going, it’s kinda all over the place. (Not necessarily a bad thing, I just had trouble following, lol. But then, this tends to happen with any article that doesn’t have helpful bullet points, etc.)

I’m certainly aware that K-Beck and JKR are awesome, successful women–but as neither has been (officially) diagnosed with ADHD, what do they have to do with this discussion? (Not that I’m complaining; I’ll take any excuse to talk Kate Beckinsale–’Underworld’ is my favorite movie!)

Personally I don’t consider being a woman something to ‘overcome’. It’s just what I am. However, I’m going to assume that you’re talking about the BS sexist assumptions that women face every day. (O HAI PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY) In which case, you’re right, and you also make a great point about the reason we don’t hear about famous successful women with ADHD. Most of us don’t know we have it, and even when we know, getting the help and support we need makes slaying a Lycan horde look like a breeze by comparison.

Bryan Hutchinson February 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

Ha Ha! THV! But, it does seem you DID get the point!

However, you also make a good point about the list of famous women with ADHD, I’ve added a list of famous women with ADHD who have talked about it!
:)

triggerhappyvampire February 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Thank you very much! Wow–that’s a great list, and I can’t thank you enough.

Daryl Andrews February 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Great, great, great article and one I plan to share. Just dropping by. Followed a link from StaceyTuris.com and I am excited that I did. I’m looking forward to digging into your posts as well as your archives. Look forward to learning from ya and discovering new ideas.

Daryl Andrews
http://www.myadhdbrain.com
Previously adhdfordummies.wordpress.com

Daryl Andrews February 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Great, great, great article and one I plan to share. Just dropping by. Followed a link from StaceyTuris.com and I am excited that I did. I’m looking forward to digging into your posts as well as your archives. Look forward to learning from ya and discovering new ideas.

Daryl Andrews
http://www.myadhdbrain.com
Previously adhdfordummies.wordpress.com

Janet February 22, 2012 at 10:49 am

Hi, and thanks for all you do to raise awareness. Is “One Boy’s Struggle” available as an e-book yet?

Bryan Hutchinson March 3, 2012 at 9:36 am

Janet, sorry for the delay, I had the flu for a little while.

“One Boy’s Struggle” will be available on Kindle around May. I’ll keep you up to date when it is released!!
:)

Kari Faller March 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Great Blog!

I couldn’t agree more with the comments about women with ADD/ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADD at 38, after many years of knowing “something wasn’t quite right”. It wasn’t until after my second child was born that I was officially tested and was diagnosed with ADD, because my life had become totally unmanageable. After my diagnosis, I was relieved to know I wasn’t just inconsistently motivated, lacked personal discipline, or was depressive.

Curiously enough, the first book about ADD I read was written by two women, titled; “You mean, I’m not Lazy, Crazy, or Stupid?”. It really helped explain the unique challenges women with ADD/ADHD experience in particular. The stories are the authors’ personal experiences as women with ADD.

I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Kari from Germany

Bryan Hutchinson March 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm

That’s a great book, Kari! By the way, Kate Kelly (one of the authors) is a member of our ADHD Social Network.

Rowe Young Kaple April 1, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Brian, by now you must be pretty familiar with my work looking at learning difficulties related to motor rotation.

With regard to the gender difference, several of my research projects when looking at bi manual rotation demonstrate this. A good observation of this in one project, as an example, a private middle school was used (n=96). (This was published in the Annals of New York Academy of Science, 1993)

There were 13 inverted bi manual male blindly identified LD males. NO non LD inverted bimanual males males were found.

We found 7 bimanual exclusive left male rotators and 2 non LD left exclusive bimanual rotators. In the females, there were 8 Exclusive left non LD bi manual rotators. NO exclusive left female bi manual rotators were found.

Bi manual rotation is a suspected marker for hemispheric dominance and has spatial ability significance. This area really needs a lot more research.

I am hoping that I can get this message out so that the educational world will finally GET IT and try to use it in a positive remedial way!

Bryan Hutchinson April 2, 2012 at 4:25 am

Thanks for sharing with us, Rowe!

MrsHm February 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Is that book “Is it you, me, or adult ADD?” by any chance? Because my husband & I have been reading that and I had exactly the same feeling that it was written about men rather than women, which put a particular slant on all of the advice and made it feel less relevant to my relationship & it’s problems. For instance, I realise this is a horrible generalisation, but I have a suspicion that lack of empathy and a tendency to take less personal responsibility for failures (both of which were emphasised as big issues in the book) are more male than female problems, on average. Women seem more prone to over-empathise, if anything, and feel guilty & inadequate as women for their ADHD related failures. As I say, it’s a horrible overgeneralisation but I’m sure there’s more than a grain of truth in it!

MrsHm February 11, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Is that book “Is it you, me, or adult ADD?” by any chance? Because my husband & I have been reading that and I had exactly the same feeling that it was written about men rather than women, which put a particular slant on all of the advice and made it feel less relevant to my relationship & it’s problems.

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