According to evidence, women are more affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than males. But do the symptoms of this disorder differ between genders?
The diagnostic criteria for ADHD are the same for males and women, but the lived experience of ADHD in women tells a different narrative. If you believe you may be affected by ADHD, read on to find out how ADHD symptoms differ in women and how you can get a diagnosis at any ages.
What are the different types of ADHD that women experience?
Contrary to popular opinion, being hyperactive is not required to be diagnosed with ADHD. The disorder is divided into three types: hyperactive/impulsive type, inattentive type, and mixed type.
- The hyperactive/impulsive personality type is more prone to be restless, act without thinking, and act disruptively.
- The inattentive kind is distinguished by difficulty with focus, organization, or frequent daydreaming.
- Combination type: possesses characteristics from both categories.
Does ADHD affect both genders equally?
Although ADHD is thought to affect both genders equally, it is diagnosed three times more frequently in males. As a result of this disparity, many girls grow up without access to treatment, with symptoms that affect their self-esteem, relationships, and capacity to follow their goals into adulthood.
Luckily, there has been a change in recent years to shed light on gender variations in ADHD and how we might better detect this problem in all afflicted populations. This has prompted many adult women to seek diagnosis and treatment regimens that will allow them to reclaim control of their life and capitalize on the strengths of their unique wiring.
How ADHD symptoms differ in women
You may be shocked to know that, until recently, the majority of ADHD research has exclusively focused on boys. In fact, the criteria for diagnosing ADHD were developed with hyperactive males in mind.
Despite this, there is considerable overlap in the actual symptoms of ADHD across genders, with women being more prone to exhibit inattentive type. Other factors, such as coping methods, hormones, and cultural sex norms, appear to be responsible for the significant disparities in ADHD presentation between men and women.
ADHD Test (Self-Assessment)
This simple evaluation is for adults who suspect they may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Most people associate ADHD with a loud, boisterous child who causes havoc in classrooms and is constantly asked to take a seat. As it turns out, the daydreamer in the back of the classroom with the strewn-about locker is likely to be struggling just as much as the rest of us; they are simply less likely to be seen.
In contrast to boys with ADHD who act out or externalize their symptoms, young girls and teens with ADHD tend to internalize their symptoms, resulting in a more subtle and frequently mistaken presentation of symptoms.
This hidden inner conflict can shape young girls’ internal landscapes, often leading to low self-esteem and a higher incidence of mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. As an adult with ADHD, you may feel like you’re always falling short or never quite fitting in.
You’ll feel inadequate and fatigued from constant self-monitoring and perceived failures if you don’t comprehend the distinctions in how your brain processes. Instead of seeking help, you beat yourself up internally as you try to choreograph a life that feels like a constant struggle.
Hormones play a crucial effect in ADHD symptoms as young girls mature and enter puberty. Monthly changes in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels can have a significant impact on severity and presentation. You may have already observed a worsening of your ADHD symptoms in addition to other premenstrual symptoms. This is due to hormone levels lowering during your period.
Women’s natural variations can cause ADHD presentations to seem or feel unstable. Your symptoms may be ignored as “hormonal” or “that time of the month.” As women approach menopause, reduced estrogen levels can cause significant problems in sleep, memory, and attention, which are frequently mislabeled.
Gender stereotypes and sex norms
The pressure to comply with gender roles has a significant impact on how we develop and perceive ourselves in relation to the world around us. Gender norms and stereotypes influence how women with ADHD interpret their symptoms and how others label their coping styles.
In a school situation, symptoms such as inattention or impulsivity are more likely to lead to teachers labeling you as “spacey” or “chatty.” Young girls with ADHD who are identified as needing assistance are frequently misdiagnosed with anxiety or depression.
The toll does not end with childhood. As grown women, we are still encouraged to conform to ideals such as being neat, well-behaved, and organized. These standards can feel impossible to meet, giving you the impression that you’re not good enough or that you’re constantly struggling to keep up. You may be constantly stressed by the unpredictability of your impulses and behaving in ways that defy societal expectations for women.
Males with ADHD find it more socially acceptable to live with turmoil and outbursts, but many women suppress their symptoms and use compensatory behaviors to conceal their difficulties. It’s common to feel as though you’re constantly tense inside owing to chronic emotions of inadequacy. Understanding and communicating these challenges feels nearly impossible without a diagnosis.
How does ADHD present in women?
Women are more likely than men to be undetected by ADHD. Women are also more likely to be inattentive, adopt coping mechanisms like internalization, and be shaped by gender norms. So how does your day-to-day existence change as an adult woman with ADHD?
You may experience distinct problems in all areas of functioning, including relationships, work or school life, and daily duties, in addition to dealing with poor self-esteem and chronic stress.
ADHD symptoms can cause subtle and not-so-subtle disruptions in relationships. You may frequently feel insecure in your relationships since you do not suit standard feminine norms. Birthdays that are forgotten, unfinished projects, and missed or late appointments can cause interpersonal tension and feelings of failure. As a result of these symptoms, you are more likely to be characterized as flippant or uncaring.
The constant need to censor yourself in public might tire you in your personal life. Little disappointments at home can subsequently lead to outbursts and anger toward your family if you have little left in your emotional regulation tank.
Relationships may be strained as a result of problems such as persistent disorganization or losing stuff. Because you’re holding yourself to standards that don’t showcase your own qualities, undiagnosed adult ADHD might make you feel like you have flaws and failures. Learning to have compassion for yourself and navigate your talents and limitations successfully is critical to enhancing your connection with yourself and others.
Work or school life
Living with ADHD can be perplexing. While engaging in a topic of interest typically leads to hyperfocus, engaging in uninteresting or boring chores can seem almost physically painful. In school or at work, changing your attention between projects may feel practically impossible, leading to labels such as “lazy” or “careless” as things slide through the cracks.
It is natural to have a dirty desk, unfinished projects, or to get sidetracked to the point of missing critical deadlines in everyday work or school life. You may also be passed over for well-deserved promotions or honors due to the difficulties of living with undiagnosed ADHD.
Another paradox of ADHD is that perfectionism can interfere with your career or school life. Many women compensate for ADHD challenges by overachieving, which can drain and tire them from comparing themselves to others. Understanding how to access and express your intellectual and creative abilities is an important element of ADHD treatment.
With ADHD, you may discover that basic daily chores are exceptionally difficult, leaving you feeling stuck or overwhelmed by life. Watching others breeze through these regular duties with ease may make you feel even more frustrated.
It’s very common for women with ADHD to struggle with relaxation. You may embark on numerous initiatives but struggle to complete them all. Life seems to be going at a breakneck pace, but you’re making little headway.
In ordinary life, it can be difficult to redirect energy after it has been diverted to a captivating activity or topic. On some days, even attempting to complete a single chore can result in a multi-hour side trip that never results in the completion of your original task. Many women with ADHD feel as if they are going around in circles, not reaching their full potential, or spending all of their time cleaning up messes.
ADHD has long been misdiagnosed in women due to differences in presentation, societal norms, and coping mechanisms developed by young girls to mask their symptoms. Living without a proper diagnosis means missing out on necessary interventions, which can result in lifelong challenges in relationships, school, employment, and daily duties. Furthermore, undiagnosed ADHD can severely impair your self-esteem and coping abilities, increasing your risk of anxiety and depression illnesses. If you think you have ADHD, contact a specialist right away to get an evaluation.