ADHD in Women | Symptoms | Diagnosis

January 19, 2023
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Why ADHD in women is diagnosed later in life

It is quite common for women to come for an ADHD assessment, and wonder why for a long time they have been suffering from symptoms of anxiety or depression. In some situations, they may have accessed different support, experiencing limited success. Because the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are less likely in women, they may be more difficult to be diagnosed with Adult ADHD. Women are more likely to silently suffer from inattentive symptoms, which are more difficult to diagnose, causing anxiety, or feelings of not being good enough.

The previous ratios in diagnosing ADHD in children were 5 boys to 1 girl. This can be one of the reasons why a woman suffering from ADHD is more likely to be diagnosed later in life. The ratio in men to women diagnosed with Adult ADHD is about 3:2. We need to be mindful that for many years it was thought this condition affects only men and naughty, hyperactive young boys. With time and new research available, it will be interesting how the ratios will look in the future.

Top 10 reasons why ADHD symptoms in women are different

1) In women suffering from ADHD, the symptoms are more subtle compared with men

2) Women with ADHD present more frequently with inattentive symptoms and these are less obvious compared with hyperactivity

3) Women may be better at masking their inattentive symptoms, and developing coping mechanisms such as perfectionism

4) Symptoms in women may be viewed as anxiety, depression or personality traits, and not secondary due to undiagnosed ADHD

5) Women suffering from ADHD are more likely to be diagnosed later in life.

6) Hormonal changes and estrogen may play a role in the presentation of ADHD in women

7) Women with ADHD are more likely to present with shyness due to social anxiety secondary to inattentive symptoms

8) Have a tendency to space out and daydream due to inattentive symptoms of ADHD

9) Anxiety might manifest physiologically in the form of headaches or migraines

10) Outbursts and emotional dysregulation can be more frequent

ADHD in women and comorbid conditions

When symptoms of ADHD in women are well managed, the symptoms of other mental health conditions, can improve or achieve remission. However, it is also common for women diagnosed with ADHD to continue to suffer from co-morbid conditions, such as:

Sleep problems: Circadian rhythm disorder, Narcolepsy and other sleep disorders

Anxiety and mood disorders

Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD)

Binge eating and general eating disorders

Alcohol and drug addictions

Episodes of self-harm

And other mental health conditions

Types of ADHD in women

Inattentive ADHD is more common in women, and the least frequent type is the hyperactive presentation. For more information about different types of ADHD, you can watch the following video: Types of ADHD.

Conclusion

ADHD in women is an interesting topic, and although the condition was not well recognised in the past, we are seeing more women seeking help. We need to understand that women suffering from ADHD can be equally if not more affected by this condition. However, the symptoms can have a different presentation.

With the more recent awareness of ADHD in women, the future diagnosis rate may be very likely to change. More research is necessary in understanding how the condition may be differently diagnosed and managed in women suffering from ADHD. If you identify experiencing symptoms of ADHD, talk to your mental health professional or healthcare provider. Having the appropriate support can significantly improve your quality of life and wellbeing.

References

Females with ADHD: An expert consensus statement taking a lifespan approach providing guidance for the identification and treatment of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in girls and women - PMC (nih.gov)

Prevalence of hormone-related mood disorder symptoms in women with ADHD - PubMed (nih.gov)

Gender differences in adult ADHD: Cognitive function assessed by the test of attentional performance | PLOS ONE

New onset executive function difficulties at menopause: a possible role for lisdexamfetamine - PubMed (nih.gov)

Are Eating Disorders Related to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder? - PMC (nih.gov)

Data and Statistics About ADHD | CDC

ADHD in girls and women: a call to action – reflections on Hinshaw et al. (2021) - Chronis‐Tuscano - 2022 - Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry - Wiley Online Library

Disclaimer: The information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, and information, contained in this article is for general information purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional.

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