Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition which affects each person differently. There may also be co-occurring conditions/difficulties, such as anxiety, low mood, and learning difficulties.
Girls and women with ADHD are often under-diagnosed. Generally, their symptoms may be more internal (e.g., inattention), and less directly observable than the symptoms of boys and men (e.g., hyperactivity) (Hinshaw et al., 2022). This may be impacted by societal expectations, which may lead to females 'masking' their symptoms and a lack of recognition of ADHD symptoms from teachers and parents.
Girls and women with ADHD may show 'perfectionist' tendencies. For instance, to minimise the negative impact on their self-esteem, they may not want to start tasks unless they can definitely do it very well. They may have spent a lot of time and effort, while others may seem to achieve the same with less effort. Lived experiences of young females with ADHD revealed that teachers thought they 'did not care' about their academics - however, they had been trying their best and working hard to overcome their daily challenges (Lynch & Davison, 2022).
Support from the home and school environment (i.e., scaffolding) and prior intelligence may also 'mask' the symptoms and need to recognise ADHD. Altogether, clinicians may overlook symptoms and impairments in females because of more subtle symptoms in females with ADHD (Hinshaw et al., 2022).
A diagnosis of ADHD can help girls and women understand themselves and why they may be finding things difficult. An ADHD diagnosis can also help others understand women and girls with ADHD, and help them put the right support in place to reach their potential. For instance, it can take longer to complete tasks due to inattention, and the accommodation of extra time can help reduce pressure and allow time to check for any careless mistakes.
We have seen a number of neurodivergent females, including those with ADHD at Eleos Clinic. One of the reasons Eleos Clinic was established was to help improve the recognition and support for females who may otherwise be missed or not understood.
References and further resources:
Hinshaw, S. P., Nguyen, P. T., O’Grady, S. M., & Rosenthal, E. A. (2022). Annual Research Review: Attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder in girls and women: underrepresentation, longitudinal processes, and key directions. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 63(4), 484-496.
ADHD Foundation - Call to Action - https://www.adhdfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Women-With-ADHD-Call-To-Action.pdf
Glitter Brain Blog - https://glitter-brain.com/
Quinn, P. (2010). 100 Questions & Answers About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Women and Girls. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) - https://chadd.org/for-adults/women-and-girls/