Millions of adult women struggle every day with disorganization, forgetfulness, indecision, difficulty listening to others, and mood challenges. While some of these women are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nearly half of the women who struggle with this disorder remain undiagnosed.
For a long time, ADHD was characterized as a condition that affected young boys. Males tend to express hyperactive, impulsive symptoms, while females typically deal with inattention, lack of focus, and disorganization. Since the symptoms displayed in women are often less “disruptive”, some studies have shown that nearly 50% of women and young girls with ADHD symptoms are overlooked.
While males are diagnosed with ADHD more frequently, female patients suffer the same consequences, including poor work performance and behavior-related problems if ADHD is undiagnosed and untreated.
In this article, we will discuss the signs of adult ADHD in women, why women often go undiagnosed, and how you can seek a diagnosis and treatment if you believe yourself to be one of the many women living with undiagnosed ADHD.
If you think that you have adult ADHD, we strongly urge you to seek the assistance and guidance of a healthcare provider, rather than self-diagnosing based on the information you find online.
Klarity can connect you with a medical professional for fast, affordable, and convenient online ADHD treatment. If you suspect that you have ADHD, start by taking this short evaluation and scheduling an appointment with a licensed provider in your state to receive a professional evaluation and personalized treatment plan to effectively manage your symptoms.
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Overview of Adult ADHD
ADHD is a neurobehavioral mental health disorder characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity, and short attention span (inattention).
In general, no two people with adult ADHD express the disorder precisely alike. Some may have a high concentration level with things that interest them, while others are continuously challenged to concentrate regardless of interest. Some patients may be highly social, while others are withdrawn.
Once diagnosed, adults with ADHD have responded to treatment for their symptoms and report greatly improved satisfaction in their work and personal lives.
Adult ADHD in Women
While it is still unknown if you are born with ADHD, the condition is strongly tied to genetic factors. Most women diagnosed with ADHD typically had it as a child, and simply weren’t treated for their symptoms earlier.
As we mentioned previously, women with ADHD will often struggle with focusing on the task at hand, getting easily distracted and feeling unable to complete their work. They may also struggle with procrastination, disorganization, and poor time management skills.
While ADHD is typically associated with children, the American Psychiatric Association reports that an estimated 2.5% of adults have ADHD. Other sources put that figure at upwards of 4%, and the number may be growing upwards of 5% as diagnostics continue to improve and more people seek treatment. Single-digit percentages translate to millions of adults.
Why Women with ADHD Often Go Undiagnosed
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), ADHD symptoms generally fall into 3 types: predominantly hyperactive, predominantly inattentive, and combined type.
In females, inattentiveness symptoms are more prominent, while males typically display hyperactivity or impulsivity. This leads to inattentive ADHD symptoms in women being commonly mistaken for a mood disorder, anxiety, or other related conditions.
Women may also develop better coping strategies than males. These strategies can mask symptoms needed for proper diagnosis and may explain why men appear nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than women.
Males and females, in general, display symptoms differently. Men and boys tend to exhibit more hyperactivity symptoms, such as outbursts and causing disruption. This may explain why they are more readily diagnosed. Women and girls tend to exhibit more inattentive symptoms such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and tendencies to daydream, which can easily be mistaken for other conditions.
Women are more likely to internalize their issues, which can lead to a whole host of additional symptoms that ADHD specialists are becoming more aware of. In addition to anxiety and depression, women with ADHD may exhibit compulsive overeating, substance abuse, low self-esteem, and chronic sleep deprivation.
Depression Coexistent With and Masking ADHD
Depression in women with ADHD is a common occurrence. They will often develop coping strategies to hide their symptoms, but the condition remains. Masking may not be a conscious decision for women with ADHD, but it can make it more difficult to receive an effective diagnosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Adult ADHD in Women
Inattentiveness encompasses an extensive range of characteristics such as lack of attention to detail, losing items, leaving tasks unfinished, and making careless mistakes.
Lack of control and inability to stay with a plan are hallmarks of disorganization. Examples of disorganization include messy workspaces and clutter.
Lapse of memory ranges from simple annoyance to very traumatic. Not knowing where your car keys are as opposed to not knowing where you parked your car are examples of the degree of this common ADHD symptom. A woman with ADHD usually can look back on a lifetime of examples and be astounded that they did not notice this pattern.
Women with ADHD tend to frequently put off tasks, especially those with lots of details. This can be related to poor time management, difficulty establishing priorities, or forgetting the necessary steps involved in completing a task.
Distractibility is characterized by being unable to maintain attention and having that attention drawn quickly to something else. Women with ADHD may recognize this in themselves yet seem powerless to stop it, leading to multiple unfinished projects. While this symptom is common, its opposite, hyperfocus, can also be very common.
Inability to Plan
The inability to plan can result from a lack of focus as well as a cognitive impairment that prevents an individual from organizing cohesive thoughts into an executable flow.
Lack of Attention to Detail
Missing details is a hallmark of ADHD, and boring or monotonous tasks can exacerbate this symptom.
Inability to Focus
The inability to focus can be described as a lack of concentration. While some individuals with ADHD exhibit this symptom, they may also exhibit hyperfocus, which can cause them to lose interest in other important tasks.
Hyperfocus is highly focused attention, to the point of blocking out all other things going on around you over a significant amount of time. It is the opposite of the inability to focus and distractibility, but women with ADHD may exhibit all these symptoms, making a diagnosis harder to reach.
Poor Time Management Skills
Similar to the inability to plan, managing time for an individual with ADHD can be a significant challenge. Because they may be distracted easily or hyperfocused on one task over another, they lose track of time and suffer the consequences.
Why It’s Important to Diagnose and Treat ADHD in Women
ADHD is complicated, and there are unique issues related to hormonal effects on ADHD that women may face. If you are a woman with adult ADHD, you deserve the best in diagnostic and treatment options.
Just as no two people with adult ADHD express the disorder precisely alike, there is also no “one size fits all” way to treat symptoms. In general, patients benefit from comprehensive treatment plans consisting of diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, behavior modification techniques, and ongoing care from an experienced provider.
If You Think You Have ADHD, Klarity Can Help
Getting a proper diagnosis is the first step in your journey toward relief. If you believe you have ADHD, Klarity can help.
Klarity will connect you with a healthcare provider for personalized online ADHD treatment. Take our free 2-minute self-evaluation to get started and book an appointment with a licensed medical professional in your state. Within 48 hours, you could receive a professional and affordable evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan for your ADHD symptoms, if applicable.