ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurological disorder that alters the growth and connectivity of many brain regions. To be diagnosed with ADHD, the symptoms have to begin in childhood, specifically within 12 years of age.
The disorder is more likely to have various effects on people based on their sex. According to research, men and those with male assigned at birth (AMAB) had a greater prevalence of ADHD. Evidence suggests that there are more women and people with AFAB (assigned female at birth) who have ADHD than previously believed.
The issue of executive dysfunction is central to the signs and symptoms of ADHD. You can better control your focus, concentration, emotional control, impulse control, and self-motivation with the aid of executive functions.
Inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and mixed are the three subtypes of ADHD. Depending on your symptoms, the subtype will change.
There are nine potential symptoms for both the hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive subtypes. You must experience at least six of a subtype's symptoms for at least six months to be diagnosed with it.
A minimum of six symptoms from each category must last for at least six months in order to be considered mixed.
The likelihood of hyperactive/impulsive symptoms in women is lower. As a result, they are less likely to exhibit mixed or hyperactive/impulsive subtypes.
The estimates for how different sexes are affected by ADHD vary. Most estimates place the male-to-female ratio during childhood at 2:1. However, according to other research, the ratio might be as high as 17 to 1. Because women are more likely to be given this diagnosis as adults, the rates become significantly more comparable as people get older.
The disorder is more prevalent in boys and men, according to several studies, but there is also evidence that it frequently remains underdiagnosed in women. The gap may be caused by a variety of circumstances, according to researchers.
For a number of reasons, ADHD in women may go undiagnosed:
- Types of symptoms: Boys and men are more likely to exhibit hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, which are typically easier to spot. Boys and men are more likely to get noticed, which results in a diagnosis, as a result.
- Bias: Since ADHD is more prevalent in boys and males, educators and healthcare professionals could fail to seek for the symptoms in female patients. Women may find it more difficult as a result to acquire an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
- Research on ADHD in women is less common: Early studies on ADHD tended to concentrate on how it affected males and men/people with AMAB. Because of this, research on ADHD in women is years behind.
- Criteria shortcomings: According to certain studies, the diagnostic criteria and the general study of ADHD is based on the observations of how ADHD is manifested in young boys which is also reason why ADHD is underdiagnosed in women.
- Stereotypes regarding sex, gender, and behaviour: Boys and men are frequently thought of as having more socially acceptable levels of ADHD-related behaviours, particularly signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity. In order to blend in better, women with ADHD may repress or disguise their actions.
Treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in women is generally similar to that in men. However, there are aspects that are unique to women due to the differences in the manifestations of ADHD and the potential impact on their lives. It is important to work with a doctor to develop an individualised treatment plan, as the approach can vary based on each person's specific symptoms and needs. Here are some points to consider:
An accurate diagnosis is the first step in the treatment of ADHD. ADHD often presents differently in women than in men. Females with ADHD may be more likely to have symptoms of inattention than symptoms of hyperactivity, which can lead to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis.
Medication is a common treatment for ADHD. Stimulants (eg, methylphenidate, amphetamine-based drugs) and nonstimulant drugs (eg, atomoxetine, guanfacine) may be prescribed. The choice of medication depends on the person's symptoms, preferences and possible side effects.
- For women of childbearing age, it is important to discuss with a healthcare provider the potential risks of medication during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
3. Psychosocial Interventions
In addition to medication, psychosocial interventions can be very helpful in managing ADHD. These may include:
- Counselling/Therapy: Behaviour therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), or psychoeducation can help people develop coping strategies, improve time management, and deal with the emotional challenges associated with ADHD.
- Coaching: ADHD coaching can provide practical strategies and support for managing daily tasks, organisation and time management.
- Support Groups: Joining support groups or seeking peer support can help ADHD patients share experiences and learn from others. If you are looking for an inclusive support group, check this community out: Cancel Stigma.
4. Lifestyle changes
Certain lifestyle changes can be helpful in managing ADHD symptoms.
- Regular exercise: Physical activity can improve concentration, reduce impulsivity and improve general well-being.
- Healthy diet: A balanced diet that contains enough nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, can promote brain health.
- Adequate sleep: Prioritise good sleep hygiene practices, as lack of sleep can worsen ADHD symptoms.
5. Hormonal Considerations
Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause can affect ADHD symptoms. Some women may notice changes in the severity of their symptoms at different points in their hormonal cycle. Discussing these changes with your doctor can help adjust your treatment.
Women with ADHD are more likely to have comorbidities such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Treating these conditions along with ADHD can lead to more effective treatment outcomes.
7. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Women with ADHD who are pregnant or breastfeeding should work closely with their health care provider to evaluate the benefits and risks of treatment options. Some medicines may be safer than others at the moment, but this must be assessed individually.
8. Educational and Vocational Support
Women with ADHD can benefit from accommodations in work or educational situations, such as extended exams, a flexible schedule or help with organisation.
It is important to note that ADHD is a lifelong condition and treatment plans may need to be adjusted over time to meet changing needs. Regular communication with your doctor is essential to monitor your progress and make necessary changes to your treatment plan.
Navigating the challenges of ADHD can be quite a journey. We understand that every woman is one-of-a-kind and requires a tailored approach. With the expert team of mental health professionals at Rocket Health, you can craft a treatment plan that perfectly suits your needs online. Click here to book your consultation today.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Slobodin, O., & Davidovitch, M. (2019, December 13). Gender Differences in Objective and Subjective Measures of ADHD Among Clinic-Referred Children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience; Frontiers Media. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00441
Quinn, P. O., & Madhoo, M. (2014, May 15). A Review of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Women and Girls. The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.13r01596
Professional, C. C. M. (n.d.). ADHD in Women. Cleveland Clinic.
Attoe, D. E., & Climie, E. A. (2023, March 30). Miss. Diagnosis: A Systematic Review of ADHD in Adult Women. Journal of Attention Disorders; SAGE Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1177/10870547231161533
Hasson, R., & Fine, J. G. (2012, January 30). Gender Differences Among Children With ADHD on Continuous Performance Tests. Journal of Attention Disorders; SAGE Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054711427398
Young, S., Adamo, N., Asgeirsdottir, B. B., Branney, P., Beckett, M., Colley, W., Cubbin, S., Deeley, Q., Farrag, E., Gudjonsson, G. H., Hill, P., Hollingdale, J., Kilic, O., Lloyd, T., Mason, P. R., Paliokosta, E., Perecherla, S., Sedgwick, J., Skirrow, C., . . . Woodhouse, E. (2020, August 12). Females with ADHD: An expert consensus statement taking a lifespan approach providing guidance for the identification and treatment of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in girls and women. BMC Psychiatry; BioMed Central. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02707-9
Looking Back on 42 Years of Research on ADHD in Females. (n.d.). Https://Adhdgirlsandwomen.Org/Wp-Content/Uploads/2022/05/Hinshaw_2021_Review.Pdf.
Langvik, E., & Holthe, M. E. G. (2017, January 1). The Strives, Struggles, and Successes of Women Diagnosed With ADHD as Adults. SAGE Open; SAGE Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244017701799
Inaccurate Gender Stereotypes Hindering Treatment. (2022, March 31). ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/inaccurate-gender-stereotypes-hindering-treatment/
Connolly, M. (2023, August 25). ADHD in Girls: The Symptoms That Are Ignored in Females. ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-in-girls-women/
Martinez-Raga, J., Ferreros, A., Knecht, C., De Alvaro, R., & Carabal, E. (2016, November 29). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder medication use: factors involved in prescribing, safety aspects and outcomes. Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety; SAGE Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1177/2042098616679636
Tourjman, V., Gill, L. N., Ahmed, G., DuBow, A., Côté, H., Daly, N., Daoud, G., Espinet, S. D., Flood, J., Gagnier-Marandola, E., Gignac, M., Graziosi, G., Mansuri, Z., & Sadek, J. (2022, August 1). Psychosocial Interventions for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis by the CADDRA Guidelines Work GROUP. Brain Sciences; Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12081023
Mehren, A., Reichert, M., Coghill, D., Müller, H., Braun, N., & Philipsen, A. (2020, January 6). Physical exercise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – evidence and implications for the treatment of borderline personality disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation; Springer Science+Business Media. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40479-019-0115-2
Richardson, A. J. (2006, January 1). Omega-3 fatty acids in ADHD and related neurodevelopmental disorders. International Review of Psychiatry; Taylor & Francis. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540260600583031
Becker, S. P. (2020, August 1). ADHD and sleep: recent advances and future directions. Current Opinion in Psychology; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.09.006
McCarthy, L. F. (2023, May 20). Women, Hormones, and ADHD. ADDitude.
Solberg, B. S., Halmøy, A., Engeland, A., Igland, J., Haavik, J., & Klungsøyr, K. (2017, December 21). Gender differences in psychiatric comorbidity: a population-based study of 40 000 adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica; Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1111/acps.12845