Underdiagonsed traits of ADHD in Women

BY ALIYA BACCHUS

You are just different, not less! Everyone receives and deliver information differently. Do not judge yourself. Make happiness a priority and be gentle with yourself in the process.

 

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD can affect individual’s attention span, self-control and ability to maintain a calm composure, especially in social environments. While ADHD is highly recognizable amongst children, it is not as easily identified in adults, more so in adult women. Prevalence rates of ADHD diagnosis for American males range between 2.1% to 5.4% versus 1.1% to 3.2% for women. So does this mean that ADHD is a male condition ? No! This myth is primarily generated by the misinterpretation of how ADHD manifests in women.Let us further analyze the root of this conflict.

 

Types of ADHD

To understand how ADHD looks in women, we must compare this representation to that of men. ADHD is characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity or a combination of hyperactivity and inattention. The most visible of these features is hyperactivity-impulsivity, often embodied by males. These behaviors may look like physical aggression, lack of focus, mood swings and restlessness. Since these traits are more disruptive amongst social gatherings, men are frequently referred for assessment. On the contrary, most women exhibit inattentive ADHD, a presentation with less visible behaviors.

 

What are the traits

Traits of this subclass include disorganization, failure to pay attention to detail and memory loss. It is important to note that some females may experience hyperactive ADHD as well, but they tend to internalize behaviors resembling the image of “social girls”. This presentation’s feature include women who are talkative, cling to others, and can easily make friends, but have a hard time sustaining long-lasting relationships. Like a chameleon camouflaging in a rainforest, features of ADHD presented in women tend to “blend in” with character traits expressed by neurotypical individuals. . This misconception is why women are often misdiagnosed.

 

Why might women with ADHD go underdiagnoised

Returning to the idea of internalized behavior, why might women with ADHD go underdiagnosed? It is because of the societal pressures surrounding gender roles. A woman is not only expected to take care of herself, but the family and home as well. Someone with ADHD is not well equipped to deal with these high demands, however women compensate for their difficulties. They achieve this by becoming “people pleasers”. Actions of this nature consist of putting others' needs before themselves and working additional hours to strive for perfectionism. These expectations put women with ADHD at risk of exhibiting other illnesses such as depression.

 

Comorbid disorders

It may come as a surprise to you that most women develop at least one other condition in addition to ADHD by adulthood, typically after pregnancy. These conditions are referred to as comorbid disorders and include anxiety, bulimia, oppositional defiant disorder and borderline personality disorder. Unfortunately, these comorbid disorders can cause traits to arise that are similar to ADHD, further complicating the diagnosis of ADHD. In fact, many women are mistakenly treated for these conditions, thus leading to further complications in their life.

 

Are these the only issues that women with ADHD face?

Sadly, No. Hormones play a major role in determining how ADHD manifests in women throughout their lifespan. The hormone responsible for this change is estrogen. Estrogen helps to maintain the reproductive system and female characteristics, such as breasts and pubic hair. It also contributes to cognitive health by enhancing neurotransmitter activity. Estrogen levels decrease before, during and after menstruation, thus exacerbating traits of ADHD significantly. This pattern continues as women edge closer towards menopause. So how does ADHD look at this stage? Women struggle with memory, word retrieval and other cognitive activities. These changes may be drastic to the point that some may think they are developing Alzheimers or Dementia. Due to hormonal fluctuations, ADHD medications and strategies for managing behaviors will no longer be effective.


In conclusion, it is evident that more research is required to understand how ADHD manifests in women. As well, society needs to start creating a more ADHD friendly environment that allows women with this condition to embrace themselves.To do so, we can become more educated about ADHD, offer more coping therapies like music therapy, develop healthy exercises and eating habits targeted towards alleviating distress and increase the importance of seeking mental health advice.