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ADHD in Women: Removing the Mask

ADHD in women is often misdiagnosed. Why is this? ADHD is commonly thought to be a challenge that affects primarily young boys. Research has shown that ADHD can affect both girls and women. Studies have shown that ADHD is diagnosed 3 to 1 more often in boys than girls. This discrepancy is due to the fact ADHD manifests differently in women and girls, making it more difficult to diagnose. This article will examine the challenges neurodivergent women face and help them to understand this condition.

Understanding ADHD in Women

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the ability of a person to regulate their emotions, control impulses, and focus. This is a condition that affects all aspects of life including work, relationships, and everyday tasks. The symptoms of ADHD can be similar for both men and women, but they may manifest differently in women.

The ADHD Masking Effect

The “masking effect” is one of the most common reasons that women overlook ADHD. Women and girls with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder tend to internalize symptoms and hide them. This leads to an under-diagnosis and lack of recognition. This occurs because girls are socialized to be less disruptive and more compliant, which leads to their symptoms not being recognized or being dismissed as “just a girl”.

Women can also develop coping strategies to mask symptoms of ADHD. For example, they may become overly organized or detail-oriented. These behaviors may make it appear that they don’t have ADHD when they are struggling to manage symptoms.A woman masking her ADHD holds a flower to her masked face

Different symptoms in women

Women may also experience symptoms not necessarily associated with ADHD. These include:

  • Time management and organizational difficulties
  • Chronic forgetfulness
  • Problems with problem-solving and decision-making
  • Difficulty regulating emotions and mood swings
  • Low self-esteem, self-doubt
  • Anxiety disorders and depression

These symptoms are often attributed to another condition, leading to misdiagnosis and/or no diagnosis.

Challenges Faced by Women with Undiagnosed ADHD

Relationships

Women can have difficulty maintaining relationships if they have ADHD. Communication may be difficult, they might forget important dates and events and have trouble controlling their emotions. Sex can also be a challenge for women with ADHD or ADD.

This can lead to conflict and misunderstandings. This can strain romantic relationships, friendships, and family dynamics.

Career Struggles

ADHD can affect a woman’s career. They may have difficulty with time management, deadlines, and staying organized. This can lead to poor performance at work and even loss of job. Neurodivergent women can also have trouble with networking and job interviews, due to their difficulty with social cues.

Mental Health Issues

Undiagnosed ADHD may also cause mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Women with ADHD can feel frustrated and overwhelmed by their symptoms. This can lead to feelings of self-doubt and low self-worth. The constant struggle to meet daily obligations and tasks can cause anxiety.

a woman with ADHD poses with her romantic partner

Unmasking ADHD Among Women

To unmask ADHD, it is important to first recognize the symptoms and challenges that women with this condition face. Here are some helpful strategies:

Self-Assessment

Online, you can find many tools that will help you to determine if ADHD is present. We have an ADHD quiz on our homepage. These checklists will help you identify common symptoms and give you an understanding of what you’re going through. These assessments should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis.

Seek professional help

It is important to seek professional assistance if you suspect you might have ADHD. A psychiatrist or psychologist can provide an accurate diagnosis after a thorough evaluation. You can also work with them to develop a plan of treatment that is right for you. The Sachs Center provides telehealth comprehensive assessments.

ADHD in Women: Coping strategies 

There is no cure for ADHD but there are many ways to manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. These include:

ADHD Medication

ADHD is usually treated with medication. Adderall, Ritalin and other stimulant medications can improve focus and reduce impulsivity. Strattera and other non-stimulant drugs can be used to manage symptoms.

Psychotherapy

Women can benefit from therapy for their ADHD, which can improve their self-esteem and help them learn coping skills. CBT (cognitive-behavioral) helps women to identify their negative thinking patterns and adopt more positive ones. They can also learn to manage their emotions and improve their relationships.

Lifestyle Changes

Women can manage their ADHD symptoms by making lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes that can help with ADHD symptom management include:

  • Establishing a daily routine: Women who have ADHD can stay organized by following a routine.
  • Regular exercise helps improve focus, and reduce anxiety symptoms and depression.
  • Mindfulness: Meditation and yoga are two mindfulness practices that can help women who have ADHD better manage their emotions.

Conclusion

ADHD can be a complex disorder that presents unique challenges to women. Understanding the symptoms and challenges women with ADHD face will help us to decode this condition that is often misunderstood and give them the resources and support they need to thrive. You should seek professional advice if you suspect you or someone you love may have ADHD. Also, explore strategies to improve your quality of life.

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