Date of Award

4-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

School of Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Cray Mulder

Second Advisor

Dr. Lihua Huang

Third Advisor

Dr. Tamara Rosier

Fourth Advisor

Mr. Aaron Kates

Academic Year

2018/2019

Abstract

Women with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are an understudied and underserved population. Research on women with ADHD has shown that they are significantly impaired by ADHD and its functional impairments. It also shows that women often internalize their symptoms and impairments. However, no research was found that explores what this internalization does to the women. The researcher chose to begin to address this gap in the literature through this qualitative phenomenological study. The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of functional impairments caused by ADHD on the internal lived experiences of women.

The researcher conducted fourteen interviews with women between the ages of 32 and 59 from across the United States. Once the interviews were completed the researcher applied a phenomenological coding process to the data. The essence of the phenomenon which came through the descriptions given by the women was that living with functional impairments caused them a negative and undesirable internal experience. This lived experience was described as intense, stressful, frustrating, draining, and isolating.

Several themes were also discovered through the fourteen interviews. The women described that they experience intense shame which is often exacerbated by societal gender expectations. It was also found negative automatic thoughts are often triggered in these women’s minds. The participants also outlined the mental, emotional, and physical toll their internal experience of functional impairments has on them. This included an intense panic like response which often drained the women of energy. Finally, the women discussed how challenging it is to live with an intense and harsh internal experience that no one else seems to be aware of and that is not being addressed in treatment.

Based on the study findings, it is evident that more research is needed on this topic. The researcher encourages those working with women who have ADHD to enquire about their internal lived experiences, especially to ask if they are having panic like responses. Finally, this study points to a need to improve our understanding of the ways in which functional impairments impact those living with ADHD in order to significantly improve their care and treatment.

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