Understanding ADHD/ADD in Women & Girls
Updated: Mar 23
Up to 4.4% of the U.S. population suffers from some form of ADHD or ADD. While it’s expected that the gender split be 50/50, the diagnosis rate is 5.4% for males compared to 3.2% for females.
To understand the difference in diagnosis rate, we first must know how ADHD presents. There are three types of ADHD, and they are as follows:
This subtype is the most familiar expression of ADHD. People with hyperactive ADHD feel the need for constant movement, such as fidgeting, squirming, or talking. They regularly have trouble sitting still or thinking before reacting.
Inattentive ADHD presents as lack of attention to detail, inability to focus, and distractibility. Organizational difficulties, such as forgetting to pay bills on time or completing routine chores, is common.
The combined subtype presents as a mix of symptoms from the two subtypes outlined above.
The Female Experience Is Invisible
A girl with ADHD is commonly labeled as “enthusiastic.” Often, she’s a school-aged girl who tells stories to friends (sometimes TMI or without a point). The alternative is the daydreamer: the intelligent, shy teenager with the disorganized locker. In short, ADHD symptoms in young girls are often invisible or considered quirks. Because girls with ADHD tend to be less disruptive than boys with ADHD, they often go unnoticed. With both boys and girls, ADHD is not a lack of attention as it is often branded. It is a lack of interest and self-regulation.
Let’s take a look at ADHD symptoms that we can expect to see in girls:
· Frequent crying
· Blurting in conversations
· Perpetual storytelling or oversharing
· Frequent daydreaming
· Having a messy bedroom, desk, or backpack
Delaying Diagnosis Can Be Life-Changing
If left untreated, ADHD symptoms can take a severe turn in adulthood. Often, ADHD will manifest as various alternative disorders in women, such as:
· Eating disorders
· Low self-esteem
· Drug and alcohol addiction
It is also believed that the unemployment rate among women with ADHD is higher than the general population. Those lagging self-regulation skills during their school years can have lower academic achievement, which will then lead to fewer job prospects. Moreover, maintaining a routine can be a struggle for adults suffering from ADHD, which makes holding a job difficult.
Demand for a Diagnosis Is Rising
Women face unique challenges due to a lack of scientific knowledge, resources, or public understanding of female ADHD sufferers. Stigma has also led to a culture of silence around women’s symptoms, causing female ADHD sufferers to feel alone, confused, and misunderstood.
However, recently, there has been a surge in women between the ages of 24 and 36 seeking help for their ADHD symptoms. In fact, they are the fastest-growing population undergoing treatment for ADHD. In the last five years, the use of ADHD medication by this age group of women increased by 85%.
Numerous advancements are becoming available for girls and women with ADHD. The growing demand for relevant and relatable resources that reference their experiences is being met. “Destigmatization” of female ADHD sufferers is done through community engagement, campaigns, and promoting exploration of the topic. Women and girls with ADHD deserve recognition on a societal, scientific, and medical scale, and if current trends continue, they’ll achieve it all in the near future.