Struggling to Focus? 8 Signs of Undiagnosed ADHD in Black Women

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Do you ever feel like you’re constantly trying to juggle a million thoughts at once, or find yourself starting tasks feeling so motivated but usually leave them unfinished? You’re definitely not alone. Many women experience these feelings, but for Black women dealing with ADHD, these challenges can be part of their everyday life—a life complicated even more by not being aware of key symptoms and behaviors that are developed to try and cover up those symptoms. Today, we’re diving into a topic that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: Undiagnosed ADHD in Black women.

While ADHD is gaining more attention as a topic overall, the unique experiences of Black women with ADHD are still often left behind. From symptoms that go unnoticed to the struggle against deep-rooted beliefs, we’re going to unpack it all. So, whether you’re here because you are looking for information for yourself, a loved one, or just to get more understanding, let’s explore this necessary topic.

Understanding ADHD in Black Women

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is characterized as a neurodevelopmental condition that usually causes difficulties in maintaining attention, controlling impulses, and executive functioning.

While ADHD has historically been associated with children, it actually affects individuals of every age, including Black women. However, Black women with ADHD usually face unique challenges, including underdiagnosis and not getting the support they need. Many Black women remain undiagnosed because their symptoms are misunderstood or attributed to other causes.

What’s even more concerning is that undiagnosed ADHD can have debilitating effects and can cause emotional, physical, social, and academic problems. As an adult, this can severely impact work performance, managing money, relationships (platonic and romantic), self-esteem, and substance use.

Challenges Faced By Black Women with ADHD

Navigating life with ADHD comes with a unique set of challenges that can seriously impact daily life and overall well-being. For Black women and girls, these challenges are usually accompanied by societal expectations and a lack of understanding that can be seen in personal, educational, and professional environments.

Women and girls with ADHD usually present with more inattentive symptoms such as daydreaming, forgetfulness, feeling anxious, nail biting, making frequent mistakes, and getting easily distracted. This difference in the ways ADHD shows up often leads to girls being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with another condition such as anxiety or depression.

Black women with ADHD usually face a unique set of challenges due to race, gender, and sex differences. One big issue Black women with ADHD face is that they are often misunderstood. Instead of recognizing symptoms as signs of ADHD, they may receive negative labels from caregivers or teachers such as defiant, difficult, or lazy. Over time this can impact self-esteem and create doubt in their abilities to accomplish certain tasks and goals.

Signs of Undiagnosed ADHD in Black Women

Black women with undiagnosed ADHD may notice:

  1. Consistently struggling to manage time—thinking they have more time than they do.
  2. Starting projects and not finishing them (books, business tasks, home projects).
  3. Struggling to plan and organize.
  4. Hard to find the motivation to start a task.
  5. Getting distracted easily.
  6. Feeling like it takes them longer than other people to do tasks.
  7. Everything on their to-do list feels like it was due yesterday.
  8. Low self-esteem.

Intersectionality of Race and ADHD Diagnosis

Black women constantly experience the overlap of discrimination because of their race and gender. These identities can increase the stress of managing ADHD in public spaces, like the workplace, and private spaces, like keeping their room and car organized.

When you’re a Black woman with ADHD, you’re not just dealing with the symptoms that come with ADHD but you’re also dealing with being in a society that has its own ideas and stereotypes of all three—what it means to be Black, a woman, and have ADHD. Triple whammy, or what researchers would call triple jeopardy.

This mix can make it hard for Black women to want to mask or hide their symptoms, to protect against harmful stereotypes. It can also cause Black women with ADHD to work harder to prove that the symptoms and struggles they are dealing with are real and not because of harmful stereotypes.

Struggles in Academic and Professional Settings

ADHD, especially when undiagnosed, has been known to cause struggles and problems in academic and professional environments. As a child, they may have experienced struggling to stay focused, getting teacher evaluations that said “talks too much,” having balled-up papers in their book bag, a messy locker, daydreaming in class, or constantly leaving their jacket at school (I know this one wayyyy too well).

As Black women with undiagnosed ADHD grew older, these challenges evolved into missed deadlines at work, feeling overwhelmed by day-to-day tasks, or consistently having a living space they like to call “organized chaos.” They might find themselves double-booking appointments, or always running late no matter how early they start getting ready.

Research has shown that the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, can affect academic and professional achievement. These challenges often manifest as lower grades, missed promotions, or chronic underperformance, regardless of the individual’s potential.

What can make matters worse is that ADHD affects different executive functions, such as planning, organization, and time management, which are usually needed to be successful in both school and work.

In the workplace, these challenges are magnified. Black women with undiagnosed ADHD might find themselves frequently overcompensating for their ADHD symptoms, leading to burnout or depression. Without understanding the root of these struggles, employers and colleagues may perceive them as less competent, which can lead to fewer professional opportunities and lower self-esteem.

Challenges in Relationships

Navigating relationships—whether they’re romantic, friendships, or professional—usually involves a solid mix of communication, understanding, and showing up for each other. But what if keeping up with conversations, remembering important details about friends and colleagues, or managing the natural give-and-take of social interactions feels like an overwhelming task?

Well, for those with ADHD, these aren’t just challenging aspects; they’re everyday struggles. It’s not that the desire to connect isn’t there; it’s that the ADHD brain often struggles to engage and respond in expected ways.

Take forgetfulness, for instance—a classic ADHD symptom. In the realm of personal relationships, this could mean forgetting a close friend’s birthday, not following through on a promise, or consistently being late.

For Black women with undiagnosed ADHD, these challenges can create unexpected misunderstandings that can strain relationships without a clear understanding of why. If friends and loved ones, and even the individual themselves, don’t realize that these behaviors are linked to ADHD, they might wrongly assume it’s about a lack of care or commitment. This misunderstanding can lead to frustration and hurt on both sides. Loved ones might feel overlooked or undervalued, while the person with ADHD might end up feeling constantly misunderstood and defensive.

Self-Image and Mental Health

Living with undiagnosed ADHD can feel like you’re constantly running a race but never catching up. Like the goal post is always moving. Many women with ADHD experience ongoing feelings of not doing enough, frustration, and stress from feeling like they are not hitting their fullest potential. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of self-blame for these ongoing symptoms and attribute them to personality flaws, which is definitely not the case. It is very common that women take on these symptoms as personal defects so much so that there’s a whole book about it called “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!”.

When these negative feelings are left unchecked, this cycle can take a serious hit on your self-esteem and confidence, which can spiral into anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

For Black women with undiagnosed ADHD, things can get more complex. Oftentimes, there is an unwritten rule, a cultural and societal expectation, to always show up strong and unfazed, no matter what’s going on behind the scenes. Facing the double pressure of being Black and a woman usually leaves these women embodying constructs such as the “Superwoman Syndrome” and the “Strong Black Woman,” the need to always appear strong and put together, no matter what.

As a result, Black women end up masking ADHD symptoms as a coping mechanism to go about their daily lives without revealing what they are actually going through. This often turns into perfectionism, a common coping mechanism developed to cover up feelings of inadequacy. Perfectionism is constantly striving to meet unrealistic expectations and goals and measuring self-worth by how productive you are and how much you accomplish. This leads to negative self-talk and being your harshest critic, which causes problems in other areas of your life.

Home Life

Managing everyday life—like keeping up with household chores, making appointments, and trying to stick to a daily routine—can make you question why we ever wished to be adults when we were kids. Adulting and maintaining home life, especially for women with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD, may feel like life is a constant battle against clutter and chaos.

Ever find yourself deep cleaning a closet when you really should be doing something more important, like taking that Amazon return that was due a month ago or booking that long-overdue doctor’s appointment? Getting hung up on less critical tasks while the big-ticket items fall by the wayside is a common experience for those with ADHD. Struggling to prioritize can have large consequences, sometimes leading to missed deadlines, forgotten appointments, or even financial troubles.

For Black women with undiagnosed ADHD dealing with these challenges, the weight of these expectations can be even heavier. Societal stereotypes usually paint an unfair picture, expecting perfection and harshly judging anything less. Navigating this while managing symptoms of ADHD can feel like you’re constantly having to prove yourself, which only fuels the cycle of stress and exhaustion.

Managing ADHD

So how do we manage ADHD? It can feel frustrating knowing and experiencing all the ways that ADHD impacts your life. But if you noticed yourself in any of the descriptions above, know that there are proven ways to manage ADHD symptoms and live a fulfilling life. One that doesn’t make you hate adulting.

Learn Your Unique ADHD Brain

One of the most important steps for anyone living with ADHD, especially Black women, is to understand just how ADHD has shown up and continues to show up in your life. ADHD does not look the same for everyone, and it affects people in different areas and in different ways.

Learning how your specific brain operates with ADHD and how it affects your behaviors, emotions, and productivity is the first step in gaining control of ADHD in your life. Learning more about your symptoms can also help you create your own strategies that may go against the norm but will help you communicate your challenges and needs to yourself and others more clearly.

You can do this by:

  • Learning more about ADHD from books, articles, and podcasts.
  • Writing in a journal the ways you suspect your ADHD shows up for you.
  • Learning from an ADHD specialist, therapist, or coach.

Finding a Support System

For Black women with ADHD, having a support system that understands you can be a game changer. This could include friends you feel comfortable sharing your ADHD symptoms and experiences with or other women who also have ADHD. This support system can also help you think through which tasks to prioritize or help you say your thoughts out loud when you are feeling overwhelmed.


A therapist skilled in ADHD can provide a framework for understanding your symptoms, but more than that, they can contextualize your experience in a world that often overlooks the unique challenges faced by Black women. They offer validation and equip you with tools that are both a shield and a compass—tools that help navigate the societal nuances and expectations that are placed upon you.

In therapy, you can also explore emotion regulation strategies, learning how to sit with intense feelings without letting them derail your day. You’ll uncover methods to break large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps, and ways to lay out your goals that light up your innate creativity without overwhelming you.


I know that considering medication for mental health can often bring up a mix of emotions—hope, relief, perhaps anxiety, or even a subtle sense of defeat. For many, medication can provide that balance. The overwhelming consequences of untreated ADHD symptoms might have made it very difficult to navigate life fully with all of the challenges it brings with it. With medication, therapy, and other coping strategies may become even more effective.

Of course, deciding on medication is a personal decision and must be made after discussing your unique needs and symptoms with trusted healthcare professionals who understand your history and your needs. Some individuals might need it for a short period of time, and others might need to take it long-term—everyone’s journey is different.


Undiagnosed ADHD can lead to years of unexplained struggles and feelings of inadequacy. Treat yourself with the same grace and understanding you’d give to one of your closest friends going through the same struggles.

Remember that just because you have ADHD or were diagnosed at a later age does not mean you have to be sentenced to a lifetime of struggle.

With the right information and tailored strategies, Black women can certainly create a life that is in harmony with who they are and one that has them excited for what is next.

Want to work directly with me? Contact me for a free consultation call here!

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