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How Does ADHD Present in Women?

Written on . Posted in ADHD

ADHD is one of the most frequently diagnosed behavioural disorders in children and adults; however, this diagnosis is often overlooked for women. This neurodevelopmental disorder is regularly mistaken in females as personality traits or quirky characteristics, leaving a large population of undiagnosed ADHD in female adults. Whilst steps are being taken to help rectify the diagnosis gap, it still exists, making it important for women to be aware of the symptoms of ADHD. In this article, we’ll cover ADHD symptoms in young women and answer the question, ‘how does ADHD present in women?’.

ADHD Symptoms in Young Women: How They Differ to Men

Undiagnosed ADHD in female adults can often be overlooked because the symptoms in women and men present differently. There are three types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive.

-      Hyperactive: Difficulty staying on task, never slowing down, external symptoms.

-      Inattentive: Overwhelm, anxiousness and disorganisation, internal symptoms.

-      Impulsive: Risk tasking, acting out of turn, external symptoms.

Men tend to have hyperactive ADHD, resulting in more externally obvious symptoms. However, studies have shown that women tend to exhibit inattentive ADHD, with quieter symptoms such as disorganisation and anxiousness.

For those with hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, common symptoms include fidgeting, constantly talking, being impatient and acting out of turn. These symptoms are blaringly obvious for many as they present externally, making a typical hyperactive/impulsive diagnosis for males easier and more frequent.

On the other hand, women’s symptoms are more discrete, such as daydreaming, inattentiveness, ditziness, and difficulty focusing. Additionally, many women subconsciously learn ways to cope with ADHD symptoms, such as developing a good sensory diet or practising mindfulness to help improve attention.

Undiagnosed ADHD in Female Adults

Women being overlooked for ADHD is a frequent occurrence, and there are many reasons why a diagnosis can fall under the radar for so long. One of the main reasons for a large gender diagnosis gap is the way ADHD presents in women. ADHD symptoms in young women are viewed more like personality traits and less like serious symptoms. For example, psychological feelings such as distress and low self-esteem are serious symptoms of ADHD; however, these can often be overlooked as hormonal behaviours.

Another major reason why ADHD has remained undiagnosed in female adults for so long is that the majority of ADHD studies have been conducted with largely male sample groups, and so the representation of female ADHD within the medical industry is less than men.

Commonly, women develop better coping strategies to help with ADHD, meaning that their symptoms may appear less severe or noticeable. For example, to counteract symptoms of shyness, women may over-compensate and appear externally confident. Additionally, feelings of impulsiveness may be constricted to the refinements of their own home, meaning symptoms never present in front of a crowd. Due to this, many women may not even realise themselves that they have ADHD, again, resulting in a prolonged and overdue diagnosis.

ADHD Symptoms in Young Women

Coping with undiagnosed ADHD in females can be difficult if you’re unaware of the most likely symptoms. In addition, some symptoms may be more apparent than others in certain settings or contexts. So, how does ADHD present in women?

1.    Forgetting to do things because you literally can’t remember.

People may mistake you for being ditzy or forgetful, but it’s frustrating for you because your memory is failing you time and time again.

2.     Adult friendships are difficult to maintain.

As an adult, friendships are more nuanced and complicated, and navigating the social rules and constructs surrounding female friendship can be tricky. Due to this, you either turn inwards or talk excessively to over-compensate.

3.     Social gatherings are tricky.

Whilst you may overcompensate for your lack of good friendship by being talkative, you hate parties because they make you feel overwhelmed and shy. In addition, conversations in loud environments make it hard for you to concentrate, resulting in you ‘drifting off’ mid-conversation.

4.     Working in the office is near impossible.

Similarly, trying to focus and complete work within a noisy, distracting environment is difficult, resulting in you coming in early and staying late, just for some peace and quiet.

5.     You seem messy and disorganised.

No matter how hard you try, that pile of papers on your desk never gets sorted, and that spare room full of clothes never gets organised. Progress feels like a million miles away; merely getting through the day unscathed is a chore.

6.     Hyper focus and lack of interest.

You may have been described as ‘gifted and talented’ at school in a certain topic, probably because it interested you. However, whilst you were extremely talented at that particular topic, all other subjects took the fall, as your hyper focus for your interest meant that everything else fell by the way-side.

7.     Difficulty relaxing.

Your inability to sit still and not over-think means that you never relax properly, as you’re either feeling anxious, sad or worrying about happenings in your life.

8.     Overspending as a form of over-compensation.

A problem arises, and quickly, without rational thinking, the only way to resolve the issue is to throw money at it. Forgot someone’s birthday? You buy an expensive gift to make up for it. Unfortunately, this cycle of overspending becomes all-consuming and overwhelming when your credit card bill arrives.

9.     Indecisiveness.

Simple tasks such as food shopping take twice as long as they normally would due to your inability to make concise decisions, even if it is only deciding between stir fry or lasagne.

Helping Women with ADHD

Many neurodevelopmental disorders coexist, which can be the case for many undiagnosed female adults with ADHD. In addition, there has been clinical research to suggest that ADHD is hereditary, meaning that if a member of your family has ADHD, you are more likely to have it also.

As ADHD presents in women more subtly than men, with serious symptoms such as anxiousness, shyness and overwhelm, it’s important to remember that females are susceptible to other disorders. These can include:

  • Susceptible to drug use
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders

It's important to be aware of these conditions and the symptoms that present in women, as this can make recognising ADHD symptoms in young women more complex.

If you think you might have ADHD, we recommend that you get properly diagnosed by a medical professional. Treatment for ADHD can be life-changing and can help to improve your quality of life. For more information on the sensory products we have on offer to help with ADHD, please contact our friendly team of professionals, who would be happy to help.

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