How Old is Too Old for ADHD Diagnosis & Medication
May 22, 2018 1:46 AM   Subscribe

So, as more information gets mainstreamed about how ADHD manifests in adolescent girls and young women (as opposed to boys), I see more and more of myself in the descriptors. BUT I'm 49 years old, secure in my white collar job, reasonably successful in it. I'm pretty well adapted to the stress, anxiety, disorganization and forgetfulness. Do they even assess women my age for ADHD? Treat it?

I've been assessed for anxiety disorders, depression and I'm not meeting diagnostic criteria. I've been in therapy and in career coaching and it's fine. It helps me clarify my thinking, sometimes. I generally do well in interpersonal relationships and mood.and continue to adapt my systems but I still really struggle with organization, attentiveness to tasks, ability to work in less than perfect surroundings.

I'm not trying to diagnose myself and not asking to be diagnosed by the internet, but quick searches refer to "late diagnosis in women" as generally occurring by their mid-20s, or half my age. I don't know if there's any point to looking for someone to assess and treat me. And how do you do that?

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Happened for me at 42. Comorbid with lifelong anxiety/depression. ADHD treated and life is 150% better. Chase down treatment for yourself.
posted by MT at 3:00 AM on May 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Exactly same as MT but age 45.
posted by b33j at 3:13 AM on May 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

See a specialist and find out. People can and do start medication at your age. It's rarer but not unheard of.

Medication may give you some flexibility and time to do other things than cope with your ADHD because it can take a ton of time to lessen distractions, and organize,. Also medication can also reduce the the double, and triple checking that unmedicated ADHD requires.

A consult is an hour of your time to try and figure out if it may be good for you, and if what you are experiencing fits the criteria.

A thing to do before hand is to think about (or write down) how you cope with your symptoms and the time it takes to do that. Because you are coping, but maybe you could do better. Other things to think about is what would you like you change or see improve? What methods have you tried without medication and what happened?

My wife has symptoms of disorganization that weren't quite quantifiable by us until she went on medication, like the number of parking tickets (inattentiveness to parking signs , forgetting meters, impulsiveness) that she'd get that now she just doesn't. We save more money in parking tickets than the cost of her treatment for the entire year.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:17 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

My spouse was diagnosed at 45.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:06 AM on May 22, 2018

Someone close to me was diagnosed/treated at 45+. It helped.
posted by matildaben at 4:25 AM on May 22, 2018

I have a relative who was diagnosed later than this, and it's been really helpful. YMMV, of course, but he said he'd been wondering all along, and would have been happy to have an 'answer' either way.

At least in the US system, primary care physicians can sometimes be a good resource for identifying local options for testing.

Good luck!
posted by brackish.line at 5:06 AM on May 22, 2018

I have more than one friend who's sought out diagnosis post 40 - one of the things one of them pointed out is that one reason a lot of women our age weren't diagnosed earlier is the inbuilt assumptions about diagnosis.

(Said friend has also had great results with meds and related treatment.)

One reason too is that your systems might have worked well for you for a long time, but the combo of different life needs / hormone shifts in the 40s / etc. may push you over the edge of what the coping skills can handle comfortably. Which is a good reason to consider diagnosis and other options.
posted by modernhypatia at 6:31 AM on May 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am a professional woman, and was diagnosed with ADHD (Inattentive type) at age 35. I began treatment/medication for it at that point. Lemme tell ya, it has made a difference. Is it a magic cure-all? No. But it has helped.

I also suffer from depression and anxiety, and a major depressive episode was actually how my ADHD diagnosis came about. In treating/addressing my ADHD I have actually noted a significant improvement in my depression and a near elimination of my anxiety. It appears that my anxiety was more about being massively triggered out in terms of ADHD and not about generalized anxiety disorder. IANAD/YMMV but I would be optimistic that you may see an improvement in those areas as well.

In summary, get it assessed and treated.

Good luck, my friend!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:32 AM on May 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

Anecdotally, I've heard of more than one parent being diagnosed or treated for the first time thanks to their kid's diagnosis, so it's not that unusual.

That said, getting a history/getting proof of presence of ADHD in your childhood (even though that age is slightly higher now) is more challenging as an adult. Depending on the type of evaluation/diagnosis, it may be a barrier.
posted by mosst at 6:34 AM on May 22, 2018

I’m a 44 year old woman. I have an appointment for an initial ADHD assessment next week. So it’s too soon for me to answer your question, but I can let you know how it goes…

A lot of your description fits me, except that I have recently moved into a role where I no longer feel secure or successful, which has made me more aware of the balancing act I’ve been doing up until now with my career to try to keep from advancing beyond my organizational capabilities while also trying to keep from being bored to tears in too-low-level positions.

It was this AskMe thread, and especially the post by pinkademic that gave me the final push to make the appointment. The article she links resonated so strongly with me.
posted by Kriesa at 6:45 AM on May 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

but I still really struggle with organization, attentiveness to tasks, ability to work in less than perfect surroundings.

Medication really helped me with these things. I was diagnosed and medicated at 30 and it truly turned my life around.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:46 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am a professional woman, and was diagnosed with ADHD (Inattentive type) at age 35. I began treatment/medication for it at that point. Lemme tell ya, it has made a difference. Is it a magic cure-all? No. But it has helped.

36 for me, same same.
posted by desuetude at 6:51 AM on May 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was almost 30 when I was referred and diagnosed, and my doctor said that was not at all unusual and that he was definitely seeing more women in their thirties and forties (or even older!) being referred for ADHD. It's not too late! In fact, it's a better time than it has ever been because of this growing acknowledgement among medical professionals that ADHD can manifest in radically different ways by gender and by type of ADHD and that there are probably a lot of untreated women in particular out there right now.

For me, I spoke with my PCP and was referred to a specialist. I was also recommended to start talk therapy in addition to any medication, so that may be something to look into as well if you're not already.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:59 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hi, my position on this has already been linked above, but chiming in to add to the tally: professional, female, diagnosed and started treating with medication at 39.
posted by pinkacademic at 7:17 AM on May 22, 2018

My father-in-law is just starting meds in his 50s after both his son and daughter got diagnosed in their 30s, and my dad got diagnosed in his late 60s.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:45 AM on May 22, 2018

My mother was around 50 when she was officially diagnosed, after I was officially diagnosed in my late 20s. Medication has made a world of difference for both of us. For her, the meds she'd been on for panic disorder and anxiety and depression just weren't enough because they didn't treat the underlying cause. Same for me, though I had spent a few agonizing years being medicated assuming I had bipolar 2 and GAD/social anxiety with agoraphobia. Made almost no progress until I started being medicated for ADHD.

In summation, it is never too late and it can make a significant difference.
posted by monopas at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, I just noticed that you also asked how to find someone to assess you.

I started by looking at my insurance's mental health coverage, and selecting a provider who described himself as specializing in ADHD, both childhood and adult. Googling his name brought up generally good reviews on the various medical rating sites. Called and said that I wanted to make an appointment to be evaluated for adult ADHD (and called back to reschedule because I was looking at the wrong month of my calendar). He told me upfront that my insurance doesn’t typically cover the full-on evaluation, but will cover the initial consultation. I am OK with that. I will probably pay out of pocket if he tells me it’s worth proceeding.

Another resource is the Psychology Today website. You can fill in your zip code and select ADHD as the issue. Then you’d probably want to read the bios to find someone who a) really considers ADHD one of their specialties, and b) treats adults. Bonus if they mention ADHD in women; I didn’t find that in my zip code.
posted by Kriesa at 8:54 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am a 64 year old female. Although I've clearly had ADHD and sensory processing issues my entire life, there were no resources for that during my childhood.

I was in my 40s when I started taking medication. The biggest benefit for me is finally being able to actually relax. My adaptation was to be in hyperfocus ALL OF THE TIME. I used to wake up sore from tensing my muscles all night.

Note: see monopas's entry at 8:01 am.
posted by Altomentis at 9:50 AM on May 22, 2018

Officially diagnosed in my 40s. Unofficially diagnosed ~1973 by fellow special ed majors.

Unexpected side-benefit: for me, ADD meds (adderall) is an effective treatment for depression, better than SSRI meds, which tend to make me sleepy and/or fog my brain.
posted by she's not there at 10:21 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I managed without medication for ADHD for all my life, but when I started experiencing symptoms from menopause, it all went off the rails. I just got diagnosed and medicated this past year.

I went to a local university testing center and got a bunch of tests. It was fairly expensive, and ended up with me getting a non-definitive "rule-out" diagnosis of ADHD - inattentive type. (There were a lot of complicating factors.) I signed up for weekly therapy at the same center and continued to present my case for why I thought it was worth trying ADHD medication. Eventually my therapist agreed to write a note for my doctor, and I went on Adderall. WOW! What a relief. So it was an investment of money and time and energy, but it has totally been worth it.
posted by hiker U. at 11:45 AM on May 22, 2018

I got diagnosed in my late 30s as we were getting our 7 year old daughter diagnosed (which is basically a cliche at this point), and it’s been helpful. It’s good to have a name for what’s happening and strategies and medication for dealing with it.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:02 PM on May 22, 2018

Diagnosed at 42! I was referred by my gynecologist, who was also diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, in her 30s.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:34 PM on May 22, 2018

I'm 49, got diagnosed at 44 while in an extremely stressful situation. I am not on medication, but it does help me understand some of my go-to behaviors when under stress.

I also wanted to mention that menopause appears to be exacerbate some of the outward symptoms of my ADD. Since you're my age, you may wish to take a look at that, as well.

Lastly, good on you for taking care of yourself!
posted by pomegranate at 3:15 AM on May 23, 2018

I was diagnosed at 31. I was doing fine up until then but kind of hitting walls in some key areas of life, especially in terms of moving up in my career and in terms of organizing adult life things like finances, health care, etc. I think I would have been ok if I hadn't started treatment, but, man, treatment made my life noticeably better in so many small and large ways, so I am really, really glad I did.

Anyway, if you are curious, it seems like it couldn't hurt to go through the diagnostic screens. It's not very expensive (assuming you have decent health insurance) or time-consuming (mine was two one-hour sessions with a psychologist who specializes in ADHD diagnoses) but it's just good to know what you're working with.

Even if you decided not to go for pharmaceutical treatment, there are a lot of coaching-type things you can do where knowing you have ADHD would be helpful. For instance, I finally got tired of living in a chronically messy apartment, so I decided to hire a professional organizer. Knowing I had ADHD, I sought out one who specializes in it and made sure to tell her about my diagnosis. We've had two sessions so far, and it's been really helpful to just be able to reference my ADHD as we're developing solutions for various organizational challenges around my place.

If you take the right attitude, a diagnosis of something like this can be really empowering, because it gives you the information you need to seek out the right kinds of support. And hey, if you don't have ADHD, then you'll know and won't have to wonder anymore.
posted by lunasol at 2:53 PM on May 26, 2018

I saved this thread, anonymous, because at the time I was wondering the same thing. Your description of yourself perfectly describes me too.

Whelp, long story short, meet your slightly-older (55) doppelganger, who was diagnosed with ADHD yesterday. Still processing the news, obviously, but rereading this thread has given me hope, and made me feel less alone.

If you want to chat about my experience with testing or whatever, hit me up!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:13 AM on September 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

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