Busy Philipps Says ADHD Treatment Made Her a Better Mom: ‘I’m Able to Focus My Attention on My Kids’

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The actress shares how an ADHD diagnosis changed her life for the better.

Fact checked by Sarah Scott

When her older daughter was in elementary school, Busy Philipps took her to get her cognitive and executive functioning skills evaluated, at the request of her school. They visited a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist who started going over a symptoms checklist for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Philipps found herself answering “yes” to every single question.

“After that, I realized that maybe I should talk to a doctor myself,” she says. “I found a psychiatrist and went to my own doctor and told him, ‘Look, over the years, I’ve had a couple of different sort of things that I've been dealing with, but really, I'm curious if maybe I have ADHD, because this is my experience.’ And his response was, ‘You're not the first mom that has come in here because of their kid.”

Philipps quickly learned that was true. The mom of two spoke about her experience on her podcast, Busy Philipps is Doing Her Best, and began receiving emails from many mom listeners who expressed they had the same experience.

Statistically, more and more adult women are being diagnosed with ADHD. The percentage of newly diagnosed women with the condition nearly doubled between 2020 and 2022, according to a 2023 study published on Epic Research.

“I think, in part, it is due to the fact that more people have awareness and are having these conversations about what their symptoms look like,” says the Girls5eva star. “Women, like myself, didn’t get the diagnosis that they probably could’ve used when they were much younger.”

"Women, like myself, didn’t get the diagnosis that they probably could’ve used when they were much younger."

Busy Philipps

ADHD can present differently in girls than boys, according to older research published in BMC Psychiatry. For example, females tend to have more inattentive symptoms rather than the more stereotypical ones like being hyperactive or impulsive, which is why they may go undiagnosed in childhood.

But a diagnosis, which Philipps received about six years ago, along with her daughter, can be life-changing.

The 44-year-old says it’s made her a better mom. Since starting treatment—she takes Qelbree, one type of prescription medicine used to treat ADHD in adults and children 6 years and older—she’s become more present. "I'm able to focus my attention on my kids, and also prioritize what I need to be paying attention to," she says. She can also keep track of appointments, as well as dates and times, more efficiently.

“Whether or not you have ADHD, if you're a working parent, and especially a working mom, and even a stay-at-home working mom, you are being pulled in a million different directions, at all times,” she explains. “But the issue for me was that I was never able to organize or prioritize. And so often, I would find myself sort of like at a loss in terms of what I was supposed to be doing next, who I was supposed to be paying attention to, where I was supposed to go.”

Other ADHD symptoms Philipps experienced included trouble focusing and staying on top of tasks. “I would start a million different projects and not follow through on them,” she says. “I would have really big ideas and big plans and then it would just fizzle out.”

It began impacting her mental health and her self-esteem. “I would wind up feeling bad about myself,” she explains. She often told herself she just wasn’t smart enough or she was simply the problem in any situation. 

“Once it was identified that I have ADHD, and I started taking medication, that fog lifted, and those things started to fall into place for me more readily and easily,” she says. “All of a sudden, I was very aware that I wasn't a bad person; I wasn't a lazy person; I wasn't a thoughtless person; I care deeply about my friends and the commitments that I've made. My ADHD was making it really difficult for me to show up in the best way.” 

"My ADHD was making it really difficult for me to show up in the best way."

Busy Philipps

It helped her become more productive at work, too. Philipps just launched Busy This Week, which streams on QVC+ at 10 p.m. EST, a jump back into late-night TV.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Philipps is encouraging moms to advocate for themselves if they feel something is off. "We know our bodies and our brains better than anyone else, even an expert that's sitting across from us,” she says. “So, if you feel a thing, you don't have to get talked out of it.”

And don’t rely on TikTok to diagnose yourself. “Go see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and work out what treatment works best for you, which is what I did,” she says. 

Most importantly, she adds, “there's nothing shameful about it and nothing selfish about it as a parent. In fact, it's the most selfless thing you can do.”

Related: Penn and Kim Holderness’ New Book ‘ADHD Is Awesome’ Is a Technicolor Joyride

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