There is some evidence menopause may make attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms worse in those who already have the condition.

This may be due to a decline in the hormones estrogen and progesterone or a drop in dopamine levels, which may already be lower in females with ADHD.

However, it is worth noting that many people going through menopause without ADHD often experience cognitive symptoms which, similarly to ADHD, can affect a person’s ability to concentrate or remember things.

Read on to learn more about ADHD, menopause, and how each affects the other.

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Many people report that their ADHD symptoms get worse during the menopausal transition. Some researchers believe this may be due to shifting hormones.

According to a 2021 review, declining levels of estrogen and progesterone can also result in lower levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in reward, motivation, and pleasure. Low levels of dopamine may play a role in ADHD.

This could explain why ADHD symptoms appear to worsen for some people during menopause. The fluctuation of hormones during perimenopause may also play a role since hormonal shifts can affect thinking and mood.

However, it is important to note that menopause alone can cause changes in thinking and mood, even in those without ADHD. ADHD usually develops before the age of 12, so if a person has never had difficulty with organization, focus, or hyperactivity before, they may be experiencing common effects of menopause.

However, people can overlook ADHD in women and girls due to the misconception that it only affects boys and potentially due to differences in presentation.

A 2018 review estimates that as many as half to three-quarters of girls and women with ADHD are undiagnosed. As a result, menopause may make pre-existing symptoms more apparent in those who have never had an ADHD diagnosis.

There is currently no research investigating whether menopause could have beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms. Most research suggests that menopause is likely to make ADHD worse.

However, everyone is different. For some, no longer having periods may mean they no longer experience disruptive premenstrual symptoms, which may be more important to them.

More research on this is necessary.

Symptoms of ADHD can vary from person to person and across a person’s life. There are three broad types:

Research suggests that inattentive ADHD is more common in girls than hyperactive ADHD. However, people of any gender can have any type.

Potential signs of inattentive ADHD include:

  • being easily distracted
  • appearing not to be listening
  • frequently forgetting things, such as important dates
  • frequently misplacing things, such as keys or their phone
  • trouble remembering daily tasks, such as brushing the teeth
  • difficulty following instructions from start to finish
  • difficulty concentrating, particularly if a task is not interesting enough
  • avoiding or disliking tasks that require effort for a prolonged period of time

Potential signs of hyperactive ADHD can include:

  • difficulty sitting still
  • frequent fidgeting
  • always being “on the go” or restless
  • difficulty waiting one’s turn
  • impulsivity, such as taking risks without thinking or interrupting others

There is some crossover between these symptoms and some of the potential effects of menopause. Around 70% of people going through menopause experience some form of cognitive or psychological symptom, such as difficulty thinking.

Other signs of menopause can include:

A doctor may diagnose menopause or perimenopause based on a combination of symptoms and blood work showing declining hormone levels.

ADHD requires an assessment from a specialist. For the assessment, a person may need to demonstrate their symptoms have been present before the age of 12. Written statements from friends or family who knew the person as a child may help with this.

For those already entering perimenopause or menopause, there is no straightforward way to distinguish the effects of this change from ADHD. To try to determine if someone has both, a clinician may ask what a person’s memory, focus, and energy levels were like before perimenopause.

They may also perform tests to rule out other potential causes for a decline in focus or memory.

There is no evidence that ADHD treatment needs to change in menopause. This means that people can still use the same medications or strategies to manage ADHD during menopause as other people do.

The treatments for ADHD include:

  • education to help people understand ADHD and its effects
  • medications to improve focus and attention, such as stimulants or nonstimulant drugs
  • behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy

A person may also benefit from additional support for the ways menopause is interacting with their ADHD. For example, a person may choose to try:

In some cases, therapies that help ease menopause symptoms may also help with ADHD. For example, SNRIs are an option for both.

A doctor can talk a person through the types of support they could have. It may help to begin one at a time so that a person can determine which things are helping and which are not. This will also help with detecting any side effects.

People with ADHD may find their symptoms get worse in menopause. This may be due to the changes in hormones and neurotransmitters that occur during this transition.

A doctor may diagnose menopause via a blood test, but distinguishing some of the signs of menopause from the effects of ADHD may be more challenging, as there is some crossover. For example, both may cause difficulty concentrating.

A knowledgeable doctor will be able to help a person get a diagnosis and identify which, if any, types of support they feel would benefit them. Addressing one may help a person with the other.