The topic of women and ADHD is a largely underreported phenomenon.
Most folks associate Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) with boys, but ADHD in women may be more common than previously thought. In fact, some studies indicate that as many as 50%-70% of ADHD in girls and women may be undiagnosed or under-diagnosed.
The implication, of course, is that girls with ADHD who are undiagnosed and untreated result in adult women that are undiagnosed and untreated.
ADHD Gender Differences
One reason for this under-diagnosis is that ADHD tends to manifest differently in boys compared to girls. Boys tend to externalize the hyperactive and impulsive behaviors of the condition, which tends to draw the attention of parents and teachers due behavior that stands out.
As a result of this more rapid behavioral recognition, boys tend to be diagnosed and treated in a more timely fashion compared to girls.
Girls and women, on the other hand, tend to manifest the ADHD symptoms of inattention. As a result, such girls are often labeled "daydreamers" or "spacey" as they struggle academically due to an inability to focus.
Efforts at tutoring or other academic support tend to be largely ineffective. Sadly, often such girls are considered limited or lost causes by teachers and other professionals. Over time, this becomes self-reinforcing and can easily harm the self-esteem and self-confidence of little girls.
This can all be avoided however if we begin the recognize ADHD in girls as early as we do boys.
The Challenges Facing Women With ADHD
As adults, women with ADHD often experience challenges getting organized, struggle to manage finances, struggle with job responsibilities, have difficulty maintaining a household, experience challenges navigating romantic relationships and friendships, raising children, etc.
The serious consequences of untreated ADHD in women takes many forms: lowered income potential, increased stress, intermittent unemployment, money problems, marriage troubles, parenting challenges, etc. The effects of Attention Deficit are wide-ranging and can result in deficiencies in essential life skills that folks without ADHD often take for granted.
Most research on ADHD typically involves boys, so more inclusive research is required to incorporate the wider experience of ADHD.
While the evidence suggests that we have much to improve upon in recognizing and treating ADHD in women, with expanded awareness parents, teachers, family members, and ADHD treatment professionals can begin to provide much needed services to those in need.