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The Impact of Hormones on the ADHD Brain

Updated: Apr 12

 

We have more than 50 hormones in our bodies and that’s just the ones scientists know about. 


young female adult artist smiling with fashion artwork behind her

Reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone, however, have been found to affect the way ADHD symptoms present in females throughout the cycles of life. The research is new as women were previously left out of studies on ADHD due to these hormonal fluctuations. 

 

Estrogen increases neurotransmitters that improve mood and memory, brain plasticity, and protects and regulates our brains. During high estrogen times, ADHDers may have increased focus. On the flip side, for the ADHD brain that is already low on dopamine, the times when estrogen decreases can increase fatigue, irritability, sadness, brain fog, and inattention creating what Dr. Sandra Kooij refers to as “twice nothing.”  These low estrogen times occur during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, the first trimester of pregnancy, after childbirth, perimenopause, and menopause.  

 

Progesterone triggers the release of GABA, which calms everything down. However, according to Adulting with ADHD, “because progesterone decreases the production of the neurotransmitters that alleviate ADHD symptoms, most women notice a worsening in their ADHD symptoms” as it increases. Progesterone often negates estrogen’s positive emotional and cognitive effects making ADHD symptoms harder to manage. 


How Balance ADHD and Our Hormones

So, what can we do during these “twice nothing” times? There is value in knowing what to expect, why it’s happening, what questions to ask health care providers, and that you are not alone. 

 

Self-care and self-compassion are vital. Making sure your regulatory system is fully charged is critical for ADHDers to be able to manage symptoms more effectively.  Our regulatory tank drains and fills daily based on our actions and allows us to manage our energy and find the middle ground, which can be difficult for the ADHD brain. Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, Medication, Meditation, and Connection are all ways to fill our battery. Implementing practical strategies like external systems, supports, and skills as well as emotional interventions to manage the big feelings are all ways to manage the low estrogen times. 

 

Reach out to us at The Conative Group to work with a coach or therapist to increase self-awareness and self-compassion, create systems and strategies to achieve your goals, and learn more about the ADHD brain and how it presents itself for you.

 




Resources

Caldwell, M. (2023, August 15). Hormones and ADHD: The missing key. ADDept. https://www.addept.org/living-with-adult-add-adhd/homones-and-adhd 

Dorani, F., Bijlenga, D., Beekman, A. T. F., van Someren, E. J. W., & Kooij, J. J. S. (2021). Prevalence of hormone-related mood disorder symptoms in women with ADHD. Journal of Psychiatric Research133, 10–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.12.005 

Sarah. (2023, April 3). How progesterone and ADHD are linked. Adulting With ADHD. https://adultingwithadhd.com/how-progesterone-and-adhd-are-linked/ 

 

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