ADHD Women’s Palooza 2021

For an entire week (8-12 March), after work, I logged on to my first ADHD Women’s Palooza, which is apparently an annual virtual conference for women with ADHD, that collects both the latest medical/scientific research as well as other coaching and behavioural tips and advice. Registration was free, but if I wanted to access the panels beyond the first 24 hours, the available package was priced at about RM400, which, lol, not this year. The time difference worked out as well, but it did mean I really had to be super disciplined about my workday. And even then I still only had about 5 hours or so to spare, which meant 1.25x speed all the way baby. 

Overall, I really liked it, but I’m not sure if I personally am the person that would find all the sessions useful enough to cough up for the paid package. The coaching and behavioural ones were of variable use for me, but to no one’s surprise I really liked the medical research ones. 

So, some highlights from some of the more notable panels:

ADHD 2.0: New Science & Essential Strategies for Thriving with Distraction – Ned Hallowell M.D

  • It’s based on his latest co-written book, ADHD 2.0 (I really like his ‘Driven to Distraction’ – he’s got a really easy narrative style)
  • He’s advocating for a more general group of conditions called Variable Attention Stimulus Trait (VAST), of which ADHD falls under.
  • New neurological data of the links with cerebellum with the frontal lobe, that indicates physical challenges (i.e. exercise) that focused on balance & coordination would lead a stimulation of the cerebellum –> more connections with the frontal lobe (the section of the brain there’s neurological evidence ADHD people are most underdeveloped) –> improved focusing and attention span.  hmmm time to refocus my energy on yoga then.
  • He’s a big proponent on the high creativity trait that ADHD people have, and so his other big thing is that a creative outlet is practically necessary. It doesn’t even have to finish, but it needs to be challenging and personally meaningful. 

How to Plan and Run Your Day Like a NON-ADHDer – Alan Brown

  • Following a tip from behavioural psychology, having one’s own morning rituals is key to anchor the day. This anchoring doesn’t have to be at the first thing in the morning – you can settle other stuff before setting your intentions for the day, even the night before. 
  • Review appointments in short-, medium-, long-term to continually remind yourself (ADHD time-blindness hack). In fact, look at your big to-dos (for the nearest short term period, like a week; and no more than 3 items), and calenderize it i.e. set milestones/deadlines.
  • He shared his personal rituals, but of course you should develop your own. The three I liked (out of ten) and that’s novel to me:
    • identify one thing to NOT do that day (hehehe another tactic to avoid procrastination station)
    • three minutes or so to just visualise my actions for the day
    • move for a few minutes – cortisol reset and to amp its levels up especially if the body is still rife with melatonin.

Why Is the ADHD Tax Much Higher for Women and What You Can Do About It?’ – Linda Walker

  • Women tend to pay more of this tax – consequence of late diagnosis & limited support & limited options
  • + more obligations in family + household = more brainpower needed.
  • It’s not a financial tax, but a deficit in your self-identity/perception of self. If you invest in yourself, you’ll feel better and it will show up in everything that you do.
  • All that can be explained by gender bias & gendered societal expectations
  • Men tend to find spouses that can be their ‘administrator/manager’ – women tend to not be able to get that.
  • Find your community; don’t compare to neurotypicals; give permission to be yourself
  • Outsource whenever necessary. Put in effort to not overcommit (the impulse to say yes). Or else end up exhausted and burnt out and be no good to anybody. Build boundaries. It’s not being selfish.
  • Also, who is the king of shoulds? Who said you ‘should’ do this or that?
  • Get something as a creative outlet that you enjoy doing
  • Figure out your values – live by that.

‘ADHD Stimulant Medications for Women – The Real Story’ – Carolyn Lentzsch-Parcells, M.D.

  • Meds is very supported by data (inc meta-studies) as part of the optimal treatment for ADHD, and may even expand lifespan (because of better behaviour). There’s little evidence of reduced efficacy over age but 60+ do get medical advice to stop (anecdotal) despite not enough studies to support this attitude, and esp for women
  • Notes on stimulants: They work better on average than the non-stimulants; Stimulants work on increasing dopamine. [not interested in the common side effects list – can find elsewhere]
  • Side effects to one type of meds doesn’t mean it’ll be the same even for another meds in the same family of chemicals. It can take up to 2 weeks for the (temp) side effects to resolve.  But it can take longer. Same thing with tolerance.
  • Depends on the patient, non-stimulants could be useful for adjuncts to optimise the impact.
  • Not everyone develops tolerance. And tolerance can be due to hormonal changes in life.
  • Estrogen and progesterone do impact the levels of the relevant neurotransmitters (dopamine; neuroepinephrine). It’s a complex picture because they do impact other conditions eg anxiety & depression – which can influence executive function & focusing (or vice versa)
  • Pregnancy can also impact treatment regime (not just the change in hormone levels). Menopause definitely can impact for the same hormonal reasons. So the menstrual cycle can visibly cause a change in a person’s ADHD symptoms. No known studies to them if hormonal contraceptives can benefit.
  • Finding the optimal regime might take time, but it’s worth pushing through it – you should always advocate for yourself.

Your Genes: Update on ADHD Genetic Research  – Steve Faraone (Ph.D)

  • with the advance in computing power and research capability including tapping into wider human networks, they have made substantial advances in research including meta-studies, as well mapping the whole genome which gave them a more comprehensive view on the genetic side of ADHD
  • So far, they can confidently say they’ve identified 12 genetic loci that has significant influence over the condition’s presentation. they expect more, especially with more human subjects for study.
  • However genes so far seem to only account for some of the full picture (I think I recall ‘a third’ being said), and each of these loci individually only present a small percentage of likelihood. the more of these loci show up the more the likelihood increases (algorithmically, from my understanding).
  • what’s interesting to me is the picture that’s shaping up is that ADHD exists on a continuum in general population. this is because while genes can play a role, they don’t seem to be definitive. upbringing/environment matters a lot as well in the full presentation being more dysfunctional to everyday living or otherwise
Getting the RIGHT Things Done – Lynne Edris

This one was from a session on Day 4, which I did lose the notes to, because I forgot the laptop I was taking my notes with didn’t have autosave enabled, and for once, i was being good enough about updating the machine. LOL. Her session was great and useful too! That whole ‘Perspective is the foundation’ is related to the whole mindset aspect of dealing with ADHD. I’m on youtube a lot, so I definitely have listened to her ADHD Support Talk channel a lot prior to this event. Losing this session’s notes is a real bummer – she had a really solid session.

Guarding Your Yes (Just Say No)René Brooks

  • I was really looking forward to this one. I follow her on Twitter, and her website, Black Girl Lost Keys, is a really useful resource. 
  • Overcommitment –> You’re always behind
    • people-pleasing behaviour
    • you don’t want the guilt of disappointing people = you follow other people’s rhythm instead of yours.
  • Some strategies: give material buffer eg deadline to answer (ie time to reply) – leaves you with the space to give proper consideration, let the excitement/novelty settle down
  • in not wanting to disappoint, but eventually having to (because of overcommitment) = putting off the no to the last minute.
  • the guilt, the pressure is self-inflicted and may not even be grounded.
    • people might not even be looking to push. give them a chance to accept the no – they might not even mind.
    • learn to say no without saying sorry.

CBD & Cannabis: What the Science Says Roberto Olivardia (Ph.D)

  • I don’t self-medicate this way, but some of the points he presented is interesting, such as the strength of the cannabis on the current market is at least 3-4 times stronger than what was usually around up to the 1990s (which generally had THC content of 3-4%). Back then the cannabis had no noticeable neurological effect, but the current ones do. Coupled with the mainstreaming of use, the regular use of stronger cannabis (edibles can have THC level of up to 50%) can have adverse impact especially for young people who are still physically developing. 
  • Seems like contrary to anecdotal reports, aside from pediatric epilepsy for example, there’s little evidence of medicinal value including for those with ADHD conditions. cannabis does have interaction with the dopamine cycle though
    • coupled with the fact ADHD brains have a shorter experiential bridge, from experimentation to addiction.
  • the negative symptom that caught my attention is the lack or retardation of dendritic growth seen in rats.
    • some of this neurological damage is reversible, up to a point, which then becomes no longer recoverable. 
  • basically this is impacting the architecture of the brain – long-term effect on executive function
    • reduction in focus, information processing, neuron speed – motor coordination.
    • slowdown in attention, learning, memory.
  • this is in general, so consider that with regards to ADHD brains which are handicapped neurologically.
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