ADHD in Women: Symptoms & Signs

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Image with Flickr by josehernandez84.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is typically considered a childhood disorder, but it follows many people into their adult lives. As it does in childhood, ADHD impacts substantially more men than women. An estimated 5.4% of men aged 18 to 44 have ADHD compared to 3.2% of women, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. As ADHD is less common in women and affects them differently, many women tend to go undiagnosed. Take a closer look at the signs and symptoms of adult ADHD in women.

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Symptoms of ADHD in Women

There are three main types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and a combination of the two conditions. Females are more likely to have inattentive ADHD, with symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Psychological distress
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Internal feelings of restlessness
  • Time blindness
  • Frequently losing or misplacing things
  • Difficulties in relationships

Additionally, many women with ADHD are naturally introverted, preferring to avoid social gatherings altogether. They may be withdrawn and shy, especially in social situations. Women with ADHD often seem disorganized in their personal and professional lives. They often have cluttered homes and workspaces.

While hyperactive/impulsive ADHD is more common in men than women, there are exceptions. Some women experience the hyperactive/impulsive style of ADHD; however, these women are more likely to be diagnosed early, as they present in a way that is more commonly associated with ADHD. In the case of hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, symptoms will look slightly different and may include:

  • Fidgeting
  • Non-stop talking
  • Trouble sitting still or doing quiet tasks
  • Lacking patience
  • Interrupting conversations or speaking out of turn
  • Inappropriately blurting out comments
  • Trouble waiting for a turn or standing in line

Typical Symptoms Men and Women With ADHD Share

Like men with ADHD, women with ADHD often struggle to perform regular activities. This can lead to many of the same symptoms that men with ADHD experience, such as feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed. They may also feel inadequate because they can’t perform as easily as their peers. Their life may seem out of control and even small daily tasks can seem insurmountable. This can make their self-esteem plummet.

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Women with ADHD often face additional pressure because they are expected to be caretakers for their partners and any children. Feeling societal pressure to care for others and run a household can be very overwhelming for women who struggle to organize and take control of their own lives. Women with ADHD can feel inadequate when they forget birthdays. anniversaries, or children’s commitments or when they are expected to organize vacations and parties. They may also get down on themselves when they struggle to stay on top of laundry or dishes.

Like men, women with ADHD often engage in riskier behavior than their peers. Difficulty in self-regulating can make women with ADHD more likely to fall victim to peer pressure. They are more likely to experiment with sex, drugs, and alcohol than women without ADHD.

ADHD In Women Comorbidities & Related Conditions

Roughly 80 percent of those with ADHD are diagnosed with at least one other psychiatric disorder sometime during their life. The mental strain of ADHD can trigger various other mental health conditions including anxiety and behavioral disorders, such as:

Additionally, there is also the chance that women experiencing anxiety may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, which can lead to substance abuse and addiction. Because of the high chances to develop a condition linked to ADHD, it is important to get a proper diagnosis and get started on a treatment plan. Early intervention is key; however, even a late ADHD diagnosis can be huge help in correcting behaviors and improving overall mental health.

Later Diagnoses in Women

Accurate diagnoses from health care professionals can greatly improve the lives of women with ADHD. After diagnoses, women can receive medication to alleviate their symptoms and learn coping skills which help them function better in the world. Sadly though, many females with ADHD are not diagnosed until adulthood, and roughly three-quarters of women with ADHD are never diagnosed.

As the symptoms women with ADHD exhibit are usually more subtle than male symptoms, they are often confused with personality traits. Women with ADHD are often thought to be daydreamers, forgetful, or chatty, for example. Many health professionals think they know what ADHD looks like based on early clinical studies from the 1970s. However, as these studies examined young, hyperactive boys, they paint a very different picture of what a person with ADHD is like than the image most women with the condition present.

Like males, some females struggle with ADHD throughout their childhood. However, as they are not disruptive, as boys with ADHD can be, their challenges are undetected. Many women with ADHD remember being well-behaved schoolgirls but struggling to follow lessons in the classroom.

As they are not disruptive, many girls with ADHD find they can cover up their symptoms, which is a habit that continues into womanhood. For example, a woman who struggles to focus due to her ADHD might make an extra effort to look at anyone speaking to her, so she can appear like she’s paying attention.

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Is It Possible To Outgrow ADHD?

Many boys find their ADHD symptoms decrease, or even disappear, as they get older. However, this is not the case with girls. Many girls with ADHD find the problem becomes worse as they enter puberty, as increased estrogen levels in teenage girls typically makes their symptoms more intense. Other girls who never experienced ADHD symptoms may suddenly start experiencing them during adolescence. This late symptom onset for many females is another contributor to late diagnosis.

Contact the Professionals at NeuroHealth in Arlington Heights, IL

Dealing with ADHD as a woman can be challenging due to limited understanding of the condition, but help is at hand. Serving Arlington Heights and the surrounding communities – including Palatine, Des Plaines, Schaumburg, Wheeling and more – NeuroHealth is a family practice delivering mental health care to all, regardless of age or gender. Give our team a call at 847-584-1671, or contact us online, if you or someone you love is suspected to have ADHD.


NeuroHealth AH

With more than 25 years of experience diagnosing and treating mental health difficulties, NeuroHealth AH is your trusted expert in neuropsychology. We have a long-standing reputation for providing comprehensive and solution-oriented mental health services in the Chicago area.