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Understanding ADHD in Women: Beyond the Stereotypes

How It's Different From the Male Experience

By Melody HessPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Understanding ADHD in Women: Beyond the Stereotypes
Photo by Matteo Badini on Unsplash

Understanding ADHD in Women: Beyond the Stereotypes

When picturing ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) people usually picture a young child 'bouncing off the walls' with energy and constantly chattering. However, this stereotype overshadows how ADHD presents in men differently than it presents in women. This can lead to missed diagnoses and delayed access to essential mental support.

The Gender Gap in Diagnosis

According to, boys are diagnosed with ADHD two to three times more frequently than girls. This disparity stems from how symptoms manifest differently between males and females.

Externalizing vs. Internalizing: Boys tend to exhibit outward symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, and the stereotypical "bouncing off the walls" behavior. These disruptive activities cause noticeable distractions in the classroom and at home, raising red flags for teachers and parents who may then seek an evaluation. Girls, on the other hand, often experience ADHD internally with symptoms like inattentiveness, disorganization, and low motivation. These subtler difficulties can be easily mistaken for personality traits or a lack of focus. Instead of concern, parents and teachers might tell girls to "try harder," "be more organized," or "pay attention in class," leaving the underlying cause unaddressed. This can lead to a cycle of frustration and self-doubt for girls with ADHD, as they struggle to meet expectations without the proper support.

Societal Expectations: Societal norms also play a major role in the perception of ADHD. Boys are often expected to be more active, boys will be boys right? While girls are expected to be quiet and organized and 'Lady like'. When girls exhibit ADHD symptoms that don't match these expectations, they might not be recognized.

The Impact of Delayed Diagnosis

Undiagnosed ADHD in women can have consequences that can affect their overall quality of life. Unidentified challenges like chronic forgetfulness, difficulty completing tasks, and emotional sensitivity can lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration. This can lead to increased risk of developing depression or anxiety.

Breaking the Cycle: Early Diagnosis and Support

Fortunately, the cycle of missed diagnoses can be broken with increased awareness. By recognizing the diverse ways ADHD presents in women, and advocating for themselves and their daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends, we can empower them to seek earlier evaluations. This can lead to timely diagnoses and access to essential support systems, allowing women with ADHD to flourish in all aspects of their lives.

My Story: A First Hand Example

In high school, I suspected something wasn't right when my grades were slipping and I couldn't retain material I had learned in class the previous day. My initial evaluation dismissed the possibility of ADHD because I didn't exhibit the stereotypical "boyish" symptoms like physical hyperactivity and left me with no explanation for my problem. However, I didn't suspect ADHD either, because in my mind if I didn't act hyper there was no way I could have it. Thankfully, I went to a separate doctor, and received a proper diagnosis and explanation. I went into cognative behavioral therapy, and soon started on medication to help manage my symptoms. Early intervention with medication and coping mechanisms was extremely beneficial for me, and made a significant difference in my grades, and my overall quality of life.

It's Never Too Late To Get Help!

Whether you're going through grade school or retirement, understanding your ADHD can be extremely helpful. If these symptoms resonate with you, talk to a healthcare professional about getting evaluated. Early diagnosis is key to unlocking your full potential.

Symptoms of ADHD in Women (in no particular order):

  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to rejection
  • Impatience
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Poor time management
  • Daydreaming
  • Trouble maintaining relationships
  • Disorganization


About the Creator

Melody Hess

I have a lot I want to share with the world. I love poems, horror, and sharing opinion pieces. My favorite thing to write about is music, and I share tips from my music journey.

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