Geena Davis just opened up about her “huge burden of shame” before her ADHD diagnosis

Written by Katie Rosseinsky

Before being diagnosed with the condition in adulthood, Thelma & Louise star Geena Davis said her ADHD symptoms felt like “a very shameful secret that I tried to hide from everybody”.

Geena Davis has discussed being diagnosed with ADHD later in life, revealing that she previously “carried a huge burden of shame” about her attention span.

Appearing on ITV’s Loose Women, the Thelma & Louise star revealed that her therapist was able to detect the condition after just a handful of sessions. “I have started with a therapist and I think by the second session she said, ‘Has anyone told you, you have ADD?’” she told the show’s panel.

“I carried a huge burden of shame most of my life. I thought there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t finish or start a lot of things.

“I found it very shameful. But when I found out there’s a reason and I’m not a bad person, it was very interesting.” 

ADD is an older term for ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition characterised by restlessness, impulsive behaviour and a struggle to concentrate, though not everyone with ADHD will necessarily experience all of those symptoms.

Women are more likely to display the latter trait, which is sometimes known as inattentive ADHD. Experts have suggested that ADHD can be more difficult to spot in women as they may be more likely to mask or internalise the symptoms.

According to the NHS, adult symptoms of ADHD are usually more subtle than those seen in childhood, and can include a lack of attention to detail,an inability to focus, forgetfulness, difficulty dealing with stress and starting new tasks before finishing old ones.

Sharing more about her diagnosis in a later interview with Chris Evans on Virgin Radio, the actor said she “found out at 41 that [she] had a pretty strong case of ADHD without the H.”

The actress was diagnosed in her 40s

“I assumed that it would be impossible that I had that, because I was profoundly not hyperactive,” she added.

“I was kinda shocked, and had some testing and it showed that I really did, but it explained so much. All my life, I had struggled with not being able to start things that needed to be done, start the homework or whatever. And also not being able to finish a lot of things. And it was like a very shameful secret that I tried to hide from everybody, because I thought it was a character flaw, rather than a brain function.”

Elsewhere in her Loose Women interview, Davis, 66, said that she felt “grateful” that she became a mother in her 40s, as by the time that she welcomed her children Alizeh, 20, Kian and Kaiis, both 18, she was “more evolved.”

“I’m really grateful that I had children in my 40s,” she said. “And I wanted to wait, hoping that I could still have children. But I thought: ‘I’ll be more evolved the longer I wait.’”

“I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem [earlier in life] but I was really determined that my children would have self-esteem,” she added.

Davis also discussed the impact of her friendship with her Thelma & Louise co-star Susan Sarandon, revealing that meeting the actress “totally changed [her] life”, encouraging her to “live authentically and be in the moment.”

“Somehow in my sheltered life, I had never spent time with a woman who says what she thinks without qualifiers in front of it,” she explained. “I was used to living as somebody who says, ‘I don’t know if you agree with this or if this is a good idea’. I was busy dying of politeness.

“As soon as I met Susan, oh my God. This was a whole different world. And it wasn’t that anyone reacted differently to her. Everyone loved her and everything… She showed me what it’s like to live authentically and be in the moment.”

As well as Thelma & Louise, Davis, a two-time Oscar winner, is known for her roles in films like Beetlejuice, The Accidental Tourist and A League of Their Own. In 2007, she launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which researches representation in film and TV and advocates for a more gender-balanced and inclusive industry.

Images: Getty

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