Autism and ADHD in Women | 8 Areas of Frustration | Summary and Q&A

March 25, 2022
Mom on the Spectrum
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Autism and ADHD in Women | 8 Areas of Frustration


ADHD and autism often coexist, but their symptoms can be different, leading to underdiagnosis in women; managing both conditions can be exhausting and lead to meltdowns or shutdowns.

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Key Insights

  • 🚻 ADHD and autism are often under-diagnosed in women because their presentations are different. The American Psychological Association did not believe the two conditions could coexist until 2013 when the DSM-5 was published.
  • 🚻 There is a significant overlap between ADHD and autism, with about 30-50% of autistic people also showing signs of ADHD, and about two-thirds of people with ADHD showing signs of being autistic.
  • 🧠 People with ADHD tend to have an under-stimulated nervous system, while those with autism tend to have an over-stimulated nervous system. This can often result in feeling pulled in two different directions and lead to meltdowns or shutdowns.
  • 🔁 Individuals with ADHD and autism often have shifting special interests, finding it difficult to maintain a long-lasting focus on one topic.
  • 🗓️ Routine can be both desired and resisted by individuals with ADHD and autism. While routine can provide a sense of safety, the need for spontaneity and freedom can conflict with it.
  • 🌍 People with ADHD often crave new activities and experiences, while those with autism may prefer to stay in familiar and regulated environments.
  • 🤔 Decision-making can be challenging, with both conditions causing individuals to perseverate on one topic or struggle to choose between different options.
  • 🎓 Learning can be difficult, with ADHD making it hard to retain information and autism driving a strong impulse to research and acquire knowledge. Paying attention also requires specific coping mechanisms like stimming.
  • ⚡ Staying organized can be a struggle, with autism often necessitating organization and routine, but ADHD making it difficult to maintain organization and follow through with plans.


adhd and autism tend to be under-diagnosed in women because it presents differently also the american psychological association didn't believe that the two conditions could co-exist until 2013 when the dsm-5 was published since 2013 scientists have been working to better understand the link between autism and adhd today we're going to define both o... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the key differences between ADHD and autism?

ADHD and autism are two separate conditions, but they can coexist. ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattention, distractibility, poor working memory, along with additional symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Autism, on the other hand, involves challenges in social communication, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. While there are overlaps, ADHD tends to present with more hyperactive symptoms, whereas autism is marked by difficulties in social interaction and repetitive behaviors.

Q: Why are ADHD and autism often underdiagnosed in women?

ADHD and autism may be underdiagnosed in women because their symptoms can present differently. Women with ADHD may not exhibit the same level of hyperactivity as men, making it easier for them to go unnoticed. Similarly, women with autism may learn to mask their social difficulties in order to fit in, which can make it more challenging to identify their diagnosis.

Q: How does the intersection of ADHD and autism impact the everyday life of individuals?

Living with both ADHD and autism can be exhausting and overwhelming. Individuals may constantly feel pulled in two directions as their ADHD side craves novelty, new activities, and stimulation, while their autistic side seeks routine, predictability, and sensory regulation. This can lead to difficulties in decision-making, staying organized, and managing everyday tasks.

Q: What strategies can help manage meltdowns and shutdowns caused by ADHD and autism?

Recognizing the signs of an impending meltdown or shutdown, such as sensory overload or emotional dysregulation, is crucial. Developing sensory regulation techniques, such as deep breathing or using weighted blankets, can help calm the nervous system. Creating routine, having a support network, and understanding one's triggers are also important in managing these episodes.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • ADHD and autism often coexist, with about two-thirds of people with ADHD showing signs of autism and 30-50% of autistic individuals showing signs of ADHD.

  • Living with both conditions can be challenging, as the symptoms and needs of ADHD and autism can be conflicting, leading to a constant push and pull between overstimulation and under-stimulation.

  • Sensory overload, difficulty staying organized, struggles with decision-making, and the need for routine and special interests are common experiences when dealing with both autism and ADHD.

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