ADHD is underdiagnosed in women more than in other gender identities or children.
Gender biases, as well as cultural expectations of girls and women, play a big part in the lower rate of diagnoses. For example, symptoms of inattentiveness are dismissed as daydreaming, or interrupting others can be labeled chattiness.
As a result, women struggling with undiagnosed ADHD often have their symptoms misattributed to other factors.
Despite these challenges, it is entirely possible for women to thrive with ADHD.
In this article, we’ll explore the signs, symptoms, and treatment for ADHD in women.
If you’d like to know more, read our statement on over- and under-diagnosis of ADHD.
Common Signs of ADHD in Adult Women
Performance at Work and School
ADHD can make completing tasks more challenging.
You may notice the following:
- Forgetting appointments and always running late for meetings.
- Constantly behind on deadlines (or don’t remember them).
- Don’t get along well with colleagues or classmates.
- Messy and disorganized workstation.
- Unable to work in a noisy or busy environment.
Impact on Relationships
Maintaining healthy relationships with your partner, children, family, and friends often feels like more than you can handle due to ADHD.
Here’s how ADHD may impact your relationships:
- Zoning out during conversations, causing the other party to feel ignored.
- Can’t remember important dates (like birthdays and anniversaries).
- Unintentionally blurting out statements that hurt the other party.
- Forgetting to do things you promised or agreed to do.
- Difficulty controlling your emotions and often losing your temper.
Seeking help and support often leads to more fulfilling marriages, happier relationships, and more meaningful connections.
Challenging Social Interactions
Despite your best efforts, ADHD can make it difficult for women with ADHD to make new friends or interact naturally with others.
Social challenges you may face:
- Going on a tangent when speaking.
- Trouble focusing on the conversation unless the topic really interests you.
- Lower self-esteem, making it harder to talk to new people.
- Dislike putting yourself “out there” to make new friends.
- Can’t seem to pick up social cues or read body language.
You may experience emotions more intensely with ADHD. Sometimes you may even have trouble hitting the brakes on your feelings, leading to mood swings.
Over time, loneliness, negative experiences, and failures can leave you with poor self-esteem or self-confidence. On top of that, you’re more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and mood-related issues.
Neglecting Physical Health
Sometimes, ADHD can impact your physical health in the following ways:
- You may neglect exercise.
- Your diet lacks the right balance of nutrients.
- You forget to take your medications or can’t remember how to take them correctly.
- You miss health checkups and doctor appointments.
Derailed Goals and Daily Challenges
With ADHD, each day feels like a race to avoid disasters and minimize mistakes. This keeps you from making progress in achieving your goals.
Here’s how ADHD may get in the way of your daily activities:
- Impulse buying
- Missing bill payments
- High, outstanding credit card balances
- Struggling to set and stick to a budget
Difficulty with daily chores and tasks
- Unwashed dishes and laundry pile up
- Fridge or cabinets have spoiled food
Clutter in your home or workplace
- Dislike having people over due to mess
- Waste time looking for everyday items or tools
- Disorganized everyday items, i.e., makeup in the kitchen, dishes in the bathroom, or shoes on the counter
Difficulty making decisions
- Take longer than necessary to choose clothes, grocery items, meals, and household products
- Make decisions too late
ADHD can cause everyday tasks to feel overwhelming.
Making small and consistent changes is the key to managing your daily tasks with more confidence and ease.
Symptoms of ADHD in Women
People with ADHD can be grouped into one of three main categories. 
- Trouble concentrating
- Short attention span
- Being disorganized
- Flight of thoughts
- Internal restlessness
- Poor time management or planning
- Having too much energy
- Excessive physical movement
- Speaking whatever comes to mind
- Acting without thinking
- Having little sense of danger
- A mixture of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms
While there are many similarities, some differences in ADHD symptoms exist between men and women.
|ADHD in Women||ADHD in Men|
|Symptoms more obvious when reaching puberty||Symptoms can be quickly detected in childhood|
|Symptoms of inattention||Hyperactive-impulsive symptoms|
|Anxiety, low-self esteem, depression, and loneliness are more common||More disruptive, hyperactive, and aggressive behaviors|
ADHD symptoms in women often go undiagnosed for various reasons.
- Parents, teachers, and doctors can miss them—because young girls with ADHD don’t usually have loud, disruptive behaviors.
- Many women with ADHD are labeled “chatterboxes,” “clutter-headed,” or “just hormonal.”
- Symptoms are viewed as character traits or emotional issues rather than signs of ADHD.
Treatment for ADHD in Women
A mix of both medication and therapy is the most effective treatment for ADHD.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), combined with mindfulness-based practices, are effective therapeutic methods.
If you’d like to try therapy, make sure to find a therapist familiar with ADHD so that being late, interruptions, or trouble following through on tasks don’t get in the way.
Additional ways you can deal with ADHD:
- Exercise can improve symptoms of ADHD, especially those related to attention, mood, and memory.
Pick a physical activity you enjoy and set realistic goals for how long each session lasts.
Eat a Balanced Diet
- Planning mealtimes – regular grocery trips and preparing meals in advance can help you enjoy more nutritious meals.
- Routine – eat on a schedule to avoid snacking or compulsive eating.
- Avoid too much caffeine and sugary foods, which may lead to a crash later on.
Join a Support Group
- A women’s support group allows you to meet and talk to other people who live with ADHD.
- You can ask your local hospitals or clinics for information on support groups in your area or surf the web to look for online ADHD support groups.
Find an ADHD Coach
- An ADHD coach guides you in building personalized strategies and structures that move you closer to your goals.
- You can get referrals from local medical facilities or look online for directories of ADHD coaches.
Try to find a coach who has worked with female clients.
Try Psychological Counseling
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment. It helps you change your thinking patterns and habits, giving you more control over your life.
- Marriage counseling and family therapy may also support women in fostering healthier relationships.
Medications help to regulate your brain activity and control symptoms. But these must be prescribed and taken under the supervision of a trained professional—preferably a psychiatrist.
Stimulant medications are usually the first choice of treatment for ADHD in adults.
If stimulants are not effective or suitable, your health care professional may prescribe non-stimulant medications.
Antidepressants may also be recommended if you’re experiencing mood-related conditions like anxiety or depression.
Currently, new research is geared toward understanding ADHD in women.
Women can look forward to advances in treatment that work better for them as individuals.
Adult Women with ADHD: You Don’t Have to Struggle Alone
If you think you may be showing signs of ADHD, it’s best to reach out to a trusted healthcare professional to examine and diagnose your condition.
ADDA’s Adult ADHD test is also a good starting point to screen yourself and detect if you may have ADHD.
Recognizing that you may have ADHD is an important step to getting a proper diagnosis and treatment.
It’s never too late to take that first step!
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