Nadia Sawalha has revealed that she has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in her late 50s.
Speaking on Loose Women on Thursday, Sawalha, 58, revealed that she had been living with the condition since childhood, but was only diagnosed after making a film about ADHD for the daytime show.
A video segment in the programme showed Sawalha going through an ADHD assessment and diagnosis with a specialist, as well as speaking to others living with the condition, which include her husband, Mark Adderley.
She said she had feared she had early onset dementia, and talked through her symptoms which can include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
She revealed that she had stopped driving because she couldn’t concentrate on the road and struggled to sit quietly without noise to help her relax.
“I couldn’t accept there was some reason for all this chaos I’ve experienced throughout my life,” she said.
Sawalha urged viewers to explore any similar symptoms. “If any of this resonates with you just investigate it a bit further. I have started medication and things are really changing for me,” she said. “The point is you are very high risk of addictive behaviour. It’s not just silly people running around doing silly things.”
The former EastEnders actor is the latest in a series of high-profile women to reveal that they have been diagnosed with neurodiverse conditions as adults, including Melanie Sykes and Christine McGuinness.
Dr Ulrich Müller-Sedgwick, a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which will be releasing its update resource on adult ADHD early next year, said the disorder was under-diagnosed and under-treated in the UK – particularly in girls. At least four times more boys than girls receive a diagnosis of ADHD.
“ADHD in girls may present in less disruptive ways, such as daydreaming but because it is not disturbing a classroom, for example, it is not seen as a problem,” he said.
By adulthood, women are diagnosed with ADHD at the same rate as men, he said, adding that in recent years there was a trend of more women between the ages of 45 and 55 being diagnosed, after seeking help for the menopause because of an increased public profile.
“People speaking out about their diagnoses is a positive, because it can help our work as professionals but also draw awareness to conditions, and underfunded mental health services,” he said.
Last year, TV presenter Sykes said she had been diagnosed with autism at 51, saying that the experience had been “life-changing”. Sykes spoke of her relief that things in her life had finally started to “make sense”.
In a video on Instagram, Sykes explained that she had done the assessments when she was making a documentary about the failures of the education system, especially for autistic children.
“There’s a sense of relief about it and a sense of mourning. Not because I don’t want to be who I am, it’s that I wish I’d known sooner so I could have understood exactly why things were rolling the way they were rolling,” she said.
In the same month, the model and activist Christine McGuinness revealed she had been diagnosed as autistic, and discussed how it had affected her life and relationships, including having to “learn how to behave”.
She told the Daily Star Sunday at the time: “Knowledge is key. If you know the situation, you’re able to deal with it. So getting a diagnosis has really opened up my life. It’s given me so much more opportunity to understand why I was the way I was.”
According to the NHS Choices website, people with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse. While most cases are diagnosed when children are under 12, sometimes diagnosis happens in adulthood. While the symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, many adults who were diagnosed with the condition at a young age continue to experience problems, it states.