As a result of these changes, a growing number of individuals who previously didn't believe that they might have ADHD are seeking out the care they need. But there's a trend that's growing among these newly diagnosed individuals. It's become apparent that many women are suddenly being exposed to information that makes them realize the challenges they've faced all their lives are actually possible ADHD symptoms — something they had never considered before.
This is part of an ongoing issue with women being underdiagnosed for ADHD, but fortunately, growing awareness around the disorder is helping to correct it. Learn more about why people who identify as women aren't diagnosed with ADHD as frequently as those who identify as men, and get tips on what to do if you think you might have ADHD.
ADHD Symptoms in Women vs. Men
ADHD is closely associated with hyperactivity and impulsivity. We imagine someone who can't sit still or constantly interrupts, for example. And while anyone with ADHD can have these symptoms, men are more likely to have hyperactive and impulsive ADHD symptoms than women.
Not only are the men's symptoms more closely associated with how we picture ADHD, they're also the ones that are the most noticeable. It often is noticed earlier too, with boys who are seen as disruptive in school being evaluated for ADHD at a young age.
Women and girls, on the other hand, are more likely to show symptoms of inattentive ADHD. They are less likely to be hyperactive and impulsive. Instead, women's ADHD behaviors may include things like:
- Trouble staying organized
- Falling behind on to-do lists
- Forgetting about scheduled events and activities
- Making careless mistakes
- Losing things
- Not being able to focus on tasks
- Getting easily distracted
- Being generally forgetful or absentminded
The types of symptoms that women have are more likely to be ignored. They slip under the radar not only because they're less noticeable than hyperactive and impulsive symptoms, but also because issues with organization, forgetfulness, and other inattentive symptoms are not as closely associated with ADHD. As a result, there are a number of women with undiagnosed ADHD.
Women with ADHD symptoms are also more likely to have symptoms of anxiety or other comorbidities, like autism spectrum disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders, or substance use disorders. Sometimes, healthcare professionals look past the ADHD symptoms, thinking they may simply be caused by another issue. They end up only treating the comorbidity, but the ADHD symptoms persist. This is another contributing factor in women being underdiagnosed for ADHD.
Masking Symptoms Due to Gender Role Expectations
The differences between the most common ADHD symptoms in women vs. men is only one part of the reason that women aren't getting diagnosed with the disorder. The other part of the problem has to do with the way women are conditioned to act in society and how expected gender roles can lead to hidden symptoms.
The societal pressure on women to be neat, organized, cordial, and quiet is pervasive. As a result, many learn to mask their symptoms in order to fit in and be the "people pleaser" that women are expected to be. By finding ways to hide their symptoms, they attempt to reduce the social repercussions that may otherwise result from their ADHD behaviors. They don't seem to have as many issues with daily functioning or social adjustment, and many have been good students who go on to have successful careers.
But these efforts only mask what's going on underneath. Women who hide their ADHD symptoms may struggle significantly behind the scenes. And if they don't realize they have ADHD, they may see their issues as personal failings rather than the symptoms of a legitimate neurodevelopmental disorder.
What to Do If You Think You Have ADHD
It's okay if you're unsure if you have ADHD. It isn't a cut-and-dry disorder that can be diagnosed with a simple test. But if you've noticed that your behaviors line up with the symptoms of ADHD, it's time to see a doctor. That way, you can find out whether you actually qualify for an ADHD diagnosis, and if so, you can get the care you need.
Fortunately, telehealth services have made this step much easier than before. At Done, we can set you up with a virtual appointment with a licensed clinician in a matter of days. You'll be able to get a comprehensive evaluation online from the comfort of your home or office at a time that works for your schedule.
In your appointment, it's important to be as open as possible about your possible symptoms and any other behaviors your clinician may ask about. This will help them to make an accurate diagnosis and assist in finding the best treatment options to suit your needs. Done clinicians can recommend effective ADHD medications, for example, and get you a prescription quickly so you can begin your treatment right away.