Psychologist who didn't know she had ADHD until her daughter diagnose

Psychologist who didn’t know she had ADHD until her daughter diagnosed with ADHD

Dr. Megan Neff, now 37 years old, was on the brink of completing her doctorate in clinical psychology when her life took a significant turn. She was diagnosed with autism and ADHD, often referred to as AuDHD. It changed everything in her life.

The journey leading up to this revelation began when Neff’s daughter was diagnosed with ADHD. As her daughter grew, Neff and her husband started noticing other signs that hinted at autism. This sparked Neff’s deep interest in autism, a common phenomenon among autistic individuals—it became a passionate focus.

Leveraging her background in psychology, Neff had access to extensive research on autism and ADHD, as well as her own IQ tests and personality evaluations. Gradually, she began to suspect that she might also have ADHD and autism.

Six months later, another psychologist officially diagnosed her with AuDHD. This diagnosis had a profound impact on both her career path and her relationships.

Before receiving the diagnosis, Neff had spent three years in therapy, exploring the possibility of repressed trauma. She recalled reaching a point where she was struggling to come to terms with the fact that she might never understand why she was the way she was. 

Sensory sensitivities and social challenges left her feeling bewildered. And the narrative of trauma seemed to be the best fit.

However, realizing that she had AuDHD helped her make sense of why certain things, such as small talk, were particularly challenging. 

She admitted to heavily relying on masking—a common trait in individuals with autism and ADHD—as a coping mechanism for social interactions. “I used to rehearse and script out conversations,” she said.

Masking often leads to delayed diagnoses in many women and gender non-conforming individuals. Sometimes resulting in misdiagnoses like borderline personality disorder. Initially, some, including Neff’s spouse, were skeptical of her diagnosis, given her ability to conceal her struggles. 

However, they became more understanding after learning more about autism and ADHD, and Neff stressed that skepticism is a common response from people who mask their symptoms.

The diagnosis also allowed Neff to recognize her unique strengths. She identified hyper-fixation as her dominant autistic trait, explaining, “I become intensely focused on my interests,” which enabled her to build a career around mental health and neurodivergence. Additionally, she found comfort in repetition and categorization, often associated with math or tech. But, in her case, linked to psychology, her special interest.

This diagnosis prompted a significant life transformation for Neff. She transitioned from being highly self-critical and pushing through discomfort to being kinder to herself. 

Recognizing her need for more energy to navigate social interactions and maintain focus, she made changes in her life. She moved to a private practice where she works with neurodivergent patients from her home. And manages a popular Instagram account educating people about autism and ADHD symptoms.

According to Neff, it’s not uncommon for individuals to experience profound shifts in their lives following an autism or ADHD diagnosis. 

She advises those going through similar self-discovery journeys to seek therapy. And connect with others with ADHD and autism through groups or social media.

“I really can’t understate how powerful it is just to have an accurate lens or narrative to understand ourselves from,”

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