Yes, Women Can Have ADHD Too

When it comes to public understanding of any mental or developmental illness, people who struggle with said illness may find themselves surprised (or really, not surprised) by how little others actually know. It can be frustrating, but even more than that; it can be harmful – particularly if the ignorance is being spewed by someone in a position of authority or power, like a doctor.

Being invisible within the ADHD demographic – as per general understanding – is one struggle women with ADHD uniquely face. While all adults with ADHD tend to run into someone or another (or many) that doesn’t seem to realize that yes, adults struggle with ADHD and it’s not just children, women, in particular, are often met with more incredulity when disclosing their condition than men.

Case in point, research even shows that although it appears that both females and males equally find themselves struggling with the illness (this study, in particular, did stick to the binary gender system); women are less likely to actually be diagnosed. It’s suggested that this is due to the fact that guidelines surrounding the diagnostic criteria have historically focused more on males.

That, of course, is majorly problematic – not just because it means women are more likely to get a reaction of confusion or disbelief from the odd person, but because it means myths surrounding the illness even exist within the system designed to help those with the disorder. How can women expect to have their disability taken seriously by any person within the general public if a doctor can’t even get it right?

Quick answer: They should be able to. Genitalia shouldn’t get to determine the validity of an individual’s disclosure of having ADHD.

What can be noted, however, is that there’s research to suggest that women experience ADHD symptoms different than men – which is why, among other reasons, the ADHD guidelines being focused on males has been deemed problematic. If doctors don’t know the symptoms that uniquely affect women with ADHD, then they can’t diagnose properly, and misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis can lead to adverse circumstances that should have been avoidable.

One study from 2005 found, for instance, that women tend to experience separation anxiety disorder at higher rates than men, while men tend to more often struggle with conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. Women also tend to be more likely to struggle with symptoms such as disorganization, forgetfulness, introversion, and depression than hyperactivity and impulsivity. Depression is one common misdiagnosis for women with ADHD.

Different symptoms and manifestations of the disorder in women call for different treatments and methods of care. Gender differences, if applicable, need to be taken into account when treating an individual with ADHD – a statement that is backed by many top researchers and professionals that treat the disorder.
So, while it may not be as widely understood or accepted as the picture of the hyperactive young boy acting out in school, women with ADHD do exist. If you the reader out there is a woman with ADHD, you’re not alone – and your struggle is valid.

Sources/Readings to check out: