ADHD in Women
Women and girls with ADHD frequently get misdiagnosed with mood disorders, anxiety, or other related condition. I did not fully understand this diagnosis until I committed to studying it in depth about six years ago, even though I have been a therapist for 26 years.
ADHD is a Lifelong neurobehavioral syndrome that impacts executive functioning.
IT IS A Complex syndrome that impacts self-management of the brain. It interferes with many aspects of a women’s functioning. It makes your life challenging, especially when it is undiagnosed. It can affect all of these areas of what we call executive functioning. Thomas Brown, an adhd expert, defines these areas of executive functioning as:
- Activation and initiation of tasks
- Focus and sustained attention
- Regulation of alertness
- Effort and processing speed
- Emotional regulation
- Working memory abilities
- Self Regulation of Behaviors
Learn about ADHD and Anxiety
Challenges from ADHD come from this part of the brain functioning.
Although not always believed to be the case, we now know that ADHD is about as common in females as males. Because ADHD has its roots in childhood, the way it progresses and its impact on females is essential to understand.
ADHD can look different in girls than in boys. Inattentive ADHD is more common in females than males. Girls are often more likely than boys to internalize their symptoms.
Girls with ADHD often get missed! Because girls are people pleasers and are much less likely to be behavioral problems. Girls will try hard to look like they are paying attention even when they are not. Teachers are also less likely to be concerned when they fall behind academically as long as they are compliant. Underachieving? Not a big deal if you are a girl and are behaving! On the other hand, boys are more likely to exhibit behavioral disorders and be identified and offered help in school.
Other girls with ADHD may not be underachieving but are working very, very hard to keep up. Some may even become perfectionistic, putting in twice as much time to do the work as their classmates. They may overcompensate for their ADHD, developing OCD tendencies to help improve their routine and help themselves stay on top of their schedules and assignments.
Another group of girls may struggle more with impulsive behaviors, emotional regulation, and extreme talkativeness. These girls will have a great deal of trouble with their peer relationships. They will have trouble fitting in and being liked by others because their behaviors are not desirable according to gender stereotypes. Some girls with ADHD become vulnerable to pregnancy, substance abuse, and self-harm in adolescence.
Of course, because ADHD is a spectrum disorder, girls can have any of these symptoms and fall anywhere on the spectrum.
Eating Disorders and ADHD in Girls
Stephen Henshaw studied 140 girls with ADHD that showed 64 percent of them had an eating disorder in their younger life!
College and ADHD
Another group of girls with ADHD may not manifest any symptoms until college, when they struggle due to the pressures of this transition, sometimes experiencing a depressive episode for the first time. Many HS students will transfer with out the proper supports in place especially girls because they may have never been diagnosed during earlier years College accommodations for women with ADHD can often help with this transition for women and can help prevent a depressive episode.
Other studies show that women with ADHD are also more likely to attempt suicide. One indicated that 25 percent of women with ADHD make this attempt.
Work and ADHD
Still, another group will be first diagnosed when entering the workforce or when they have their first
child. These are times when a women’s executive functioning and possibly stress and hormonal systems are taxed.
As you can see girls with ADHD and women with ADHD have a tremendous amount of diversity with their symptoms; however, all the women I work with who have ADHD struggle with some core issues.
- Low self-esteem
- Self criticism and Rejection Sensitivity
- A sense of failure
- Thoughts and feelings of “I am not good enough”.
- A feeling of “I am trying desperately to keep everything from falling apart”.
- People Pleasing
- Peer Rejection
- Academic failure
- Substance abuse issues
- Relationship conflict
- Anxiety and depression
- Learning disabilities
- Women in later life often suffer issues related to ADHD such as :
- High rates of unwanted pregnancy
- Substance Abuse
- Financial problems
- Struggle with activities of laundry, housework, meals other daily tasks requiring organization
- Struggles with parenting/relationships/friendships
- Anxiety and Depression
- Issues with diet and
- Issues with procrastination
THE GOOD NEWS IS ADHD MEDICATION HELPS WITH ALL OF THESE ISSUES AND SO DOES COACHING
Issues with Many adult women have ADHD and remain undiagnosed. If you suspect you have ADhD check out this checklist here
Getting a diagnosis of ADHD means you can begin to get support in medication coaching and a community of other women who also share the same struggles as you. I hope this website can be an entry point for you to learn tips and strategies to help yourself on this journey.
Learn about ADHD and pregnancy
Learn about adhd and hyperfocus
Learn about ADHD and the kitchen
Learn about Adhd and music
Learn about Adhd and shopping
Learn about Adhd and listening
Fuller-Thompson, Esme, et al. The Dark Side of ADHD: Factors Associated With Suicide Attempts Among Those With ADHD in a National Representative Canadian Sample. Archives of Suicide
Research (Dec. 2020)
Do I have ADHD? A checklist
Are you a woman wondering if you have ADHD? There is no one screening tool to determine if you have ADHD. It’s a complex process and must be done by a licensed mental health professional. However, here is a list of
questions to ask yourself when considering the question. How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project, once the challenging parts have been done?
- How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order?
- How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you even when they are speaking to you directly?
- How often do you put off things until the last minute?
- When you have a problem that requires a bit of thought, how often do you avoid or delay getting started?
- How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization?
- How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations?
- How often do you fidget or squirm with your hands or feet when you have to sit down for a long time?
- How often do you feel overly active and compelled to do things, like you were driven by a motor?
- How often do you make careless mistakes when you have to work on a boring or difficult project?
- How often do you have difficulty keeping your attention when you are doing boring or repetitive work?
- How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
- How often do you misplace or have difficulty finding things at home or at work? . How often are you distracted by activity or noise around you?
- How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated?
- How often do you feel restless or fidgety?
- How often do you have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself?
- How often do you find yourself talking too much when you are in social situations?
- When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to, before they can finish them themselves?
- How often do you have difficulty waiting your turn in situations when turn taking is required?
- How often do you interrupt others when they are busy?
Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-v1.1) Symptom Checklist
Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.