Women’s History Month: The Underdiagnosis of ADHD in Females
As we celebrate Women’s History Month and recognize the important role of women in shaping our society, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges faced by women with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Despite growing awareness of the condition, many women with ADHD continue to be underdiagnosed and undertreated, leading to significant negative impacts on their lives.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD affects around 4% of adults in the United States, and research suggests that women are just as likely to have ADHD as men. However, women with ADHD are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all due to a lack of awareness and understanding of how the condition manifests in women.
Diagnostic Challenges for Females with ADHD
One reason for the underdiagnosis of ADHD in women is that the diagnostic criteria for the condition were developed based on research conducted primarily on males. This has led to a misunderstanding of how ADHD can manifest in women, who may not exhibit the same hyperactive and impulsive behaviors as men, but instead struggle with symptoms such as disorganization, forgetfulness, and trouble focusing.
In my practice, we have seen an increase of women coming to get ADHD assessments, which is a promising sign that more women are recognizing their symptoms and seeking help. However, many women with ADHD still face significant barriers to diagnosis and treatment, including stigma surrounding mental health conditions and a lack of awareness among healthcare professionals.
Another factor contributing to the underdiagnosis of ADHD in women is the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, which can make women hesitant to seek treatment or speak openly about their symptoms. Women with ADHD may also face additional challenges, such as the expectations placed on them to multitask and manage multiple responsibilities, which can exacerbate their symptoms and make it difficult to seek help.
The Importance of Addressing the Underdiagnosis of ADHD in Females
Fortunately, awareness of ADHD in women is growing, and more and more women are seeking diagnosis and treatment for the condition. Diagnosis often involves a combination of self-reporting, assessment by a mental health professional, and testing to rule out other conditions. Treatment may include medication, such as Adderall or Ritalin, as well as therapy and coaching to develop strategies for managing symptoms.
In honor of Women’s History Month, it’s important to continue raising awareness of ADHD in women and advocating for better diagnosis and treatment. By recognizing the unique challenges faced by women with ADHD and working to overcome the stigma and barriers to care, we can help women with ADHD live happier, more fulfilling lives.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
Adeel Sarwar’s Bio:
Adeel Sarwar is a psychotherapist based in the UK, specializing in depression, anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). With years of experience in the field, Adeel has seen firsthand the challenges faced by women with ADHD and is dedicated to raising awareness of the condition and advocating for better access to care for all.
Adeel is also a consultant with ADHDtest.ai, a startup that specializes in AI diagnosis for ADHD, and is committed to using the latest technology to improve diagnosis and treatment for individuals with the condition.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: September 24, 2023