Yesterday I conducted a casual Facebook experiment that yielded startling results. I’d noticed for a while that a disproportionate number of my women friends — and my very closest, sister-from-another-mother friends at that — had been diagnosed with AD(H)D. Wondering what might be up with that, I posted on FB asking any women with ADD to “like” the post. Eight have liked it since last night. And none of them were even among the group I was thinking of. (There is yet a third group of women who haven’t responded, nor have they been diagnosed, but I certainly wonder about them.)
I can think of plenty of girlfriends who don’t have ADD, of course: Amazing Genius Science Girl doesn’t, nor do several of the Fabulous Bureaucrats or the Renaissance Lawyer, and I don’t think the Traveling Psychologist does either. But clearly AD(H)D is way, way overrepresented in my ladyposse.
What is up with that? This is sparking all kinds of questions, people. For starters:
1. What’s the interaction between gender and AD(H)D? Do the symptoms manifest differently? Are the rates significantly different? (One thing that seems odd is that I can’t generate a similar list of male friends or exes with ADD; if it’s the case that men have it at greater rates, that makes my distracted-girlfriend situation even more remarkable.)
2. What other traits go along with AD(H)D? Is there some common thread among all these women? Honestly, I can’t think of one offhand — they range from bubbly and extroverted “with a low delight threshold” (a self-description of one of them), to socially anxious and downbeat. Some are tomboys, some are conventionally feminine. They’re all verbal, bright, and funny, but not in a way that seems different than my other friends.
3. Why do they like me? Attraction goes both ways, after all. I don’t have AD(H)D in any shape or form, so it’s not like-likes-like. I think if anything, it might be that I tend to be good at keeping track of several lines of thought simultaneously: I can listen to you talk about French feminist theory or the latest Mark Bittman column while simultaneously keeping an eye on whether the barista has called your order yet and remembering to remind you to get tofu on the way home. And if I know that’s the deal with you, I don’t particularly mind doing it, either.
A friend of mine whose daughter has ADHD told me last week, interestingly, that she’d heard AD(H)D girls tended to get along better with boys than with other girls.
Speak to me, readers, of AD(H)D and gender and friendship! What books or articles on AD(H)D would you recommend? Do you have it, and if so, what qualities do you look for in friends who don’t? If your children have it, how do you see their relationships playing out? Have you ever noticed that you have an unusually large proportion of friends who have AD(H)D, or dyslexia, or autism spectrum disorder, or what have you, and what did you make of that? If you have AD(H)D, how do you feel your experiences with it differ from those of the opposite sex?
UPDATE: It occurs to me that one of the reasons I don’t have many AD(H)D male friends is that I automatically go into a keeping-track, environment-scanning, caretaking mode with folks who aren’t as organized as I am. (Suppressing this tendency takes more energy than giving in to it.) Doing this kind of emotional/cognitive work for women friends makes me feel competent and loving, but doing it for men makes me feel either like a subordinate Girl Friday or worse, a bossy nanny.