Hormonal Havoc

Friday, November 03, 2023

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Hormonal Havoc

The Uncharted Collision of Perimenopause and ADHD

Let me set the scene. It’s early 2020, before the world shut down. I’ve closed myself in my bedroom to limit my exposure to my family, friends, and anyone else who might look at me with a look that might trigger me. Lately everything triggers me. My husband comes in to ask me a question and the interaction quickly turns into a fight. I don’t recall what sparked the disagreement, but lately everything, large or small, can cause an eruption of utter rage to explode from within me. As he leaves the room in frustration, I launch my 12 inch iPad at the door he just closed softly behind him.

Not my finest moment.

Rage. A feeling that I did not have much personal experience with prior to then, and I had no idea how to manage it, or even allow myself to feel it without a crippling amount of shame piled on top of it. I was feeling like I was truly having a mental crisis. My relationships were breaking down. I was avoiding everyone I loved to protect them from the monster that I felt I had become.

Other symptoms were showing up for me as well. Severe brain fog, lack of focus, exhaustion, lack of motivation, sleep challenges, and a nonexistent desire for sex. Perimenopause.

Every woman will experience their own recipe of symptoms, ranging from no symptoms at all to feelings of depression, anxiety, confusion, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

I was on the extreme end of this scale, and when the suicidal thoughts started I realized that I needed to take some action. But I had no idea what to do. At this point I still didn’t know that the symptoms I was experiencing were related to the hormone storm that was happening within me. I believed that something wrong with me, and maybe I was turning into a bitter woman who would eventually drive everyone I cared about away from me. Certain I would end up alone and children would tell heroic stories about how they dared to ding-dong-dash the crazy old lady’s door and lived to tell it.

So…I started researching menopause, which lead to researching perimenopause. Why had I not heard of this before? And it can last 10 years? WTF! And most doctors don’t have a lot of useful information. And the resources were quite limited, considering the fact that it effects half the world’s population between the ages of 35 and 55. Roughly 15% of the total world population. Why do we not talk about this more?

There’s more to this story…

I was fairly certain I had ADHD, but was never formally diagnosed. If I did have ADHD, I had managed it quite effectively with my fitness lifestyle and constant travel adventures. So much so that I just thought I was the black sheep of the family that didn’t like to follow the rules. Perimenopause changed it all for me…

This is what I discovered.

As women enter their late thirties or forties, we often experience the perimenopausal phase, characterized by fluctuating hormone levels leading to various physical and emotional changes. Simultaneously, some may also face challenges associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition commonly associated with childhood. Surprisingly, recent research has uncovered a significant connection between perimenopause and ADHD in women, revealing overlapping symptoms and a potential exacerbation of ADHD symptoms due to hormonal changes. Let’s explore this fascinating connection, shedding light on the impact of fluctuating estrogen levels on cognitive function, how the combination of perimenopause and ADHD can affect daily life, and effective strategies for managing these symptoms.

1. The Interplay of Estrogen and Cognitive Function:

Perimenopause is primarily marked by the decline in estrogen levels, a hormone that plays a vital role in cognitive function. Research has shown that estrogen influences neurotransmitters and neural circuits that are responsible for attention, memory, and executive functions. Fluctuating estrogen levels during perimenopause can disrupt these processes, leading to symptoms reminiscent of ADHD, such as forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and impaired decision-making ability.

2. Overlapping Symptoms of Perimenopause and ADHD:

Both perimenopause and ADHD share various symptoms that can make it challenging to differentiate between the two conditions. These include mood swings, irritability, sleep disturbances, decreased libido, and difficulties with organization and time management. Consequently, women struggling with both conditions may find it challenging to attribute their symptoms to a specific cause, leading to increased frustration and confusion.

3. Exacerbation of ADHD Symptoms during Perimenopause:

The hormonal fluctuations experienced during perimenopause can have a profound impact on women already diagnosed with ADHD. Studies demonstrate that fluctuating estrogen levels can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, intensifying impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. As a result, women may find it even more challenging to manage their daily responsibilities, maintain relationships, and cope with the demands of work or studies.

4. Impact on Daily Life and Relationships:

The combination of perimenopause and ADHD can significantly disrupt various aspects of a woman's daily life. Personal stories from women who have experienced this overlap reveal the struggles faced in maintaining focus at work, managing household tasks, and keeping up with family obligations. Relationships may also be strained as women may find it challenging to sustain attention during conversations or remember important details, leading to frustration and misunderstandings.

5. Strategies for Managing Symptoms:

Managing symptoms of both perimenopause and ADHD requires an individualized approach. The following strategies may be beneficial:

a. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Consultation with a healthcare professional can determine whether HRT would be suitable to manage hormone fluctuations and alleviate cognitive symptoms.

b. Medication and therapy combination: For women with diagnosed ADHD, adjusting medication dosage or exploring alternative therapies may help in managing symptoms during perimenopause.

c. Establishing routines and organization strategies: Implementing practical techniques like using calendars, lists, and reminders can aid in managing daily responsibilities and reducing forgetfulness.

d. Mindfulness and self-care: Practicing stress-management techniques, such as meditation and exercise, can enhance focus and overall well-being.

e. Support systems and education: Seeking support from loved ones, joining support groups, and educating oneself on perimenopause and ADHD can help develop effective coping mechanisms.

Perimenopause and ADHD in women share overlapping symptoms and can significantly impact cognitive function, daily life, and relationships. Understanding the connection between these two conditions empowers women to seek appropriate support and management strategies. By recognizing the influence of fluctuating estrogen levels on cognitive function, implementing strategies to manage symptoms, and seeking professional guidance, women can navigate this overlapping journey with increased confidence and improved quality of life.

One last thing…

Let’s talk about this more. Normalize conversations about perimenopause so that more women are armed with knowledge and potential solutions to manage, or even alleviate, the symptoms of perimenopause.

All the Love,

Lynda Thoresen

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