Women's Health and Equality Queensland


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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be categorised into by inattentiveness and hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Many people with ADHD have traits that fall into each of these categories, but that is not always the case. Symptoms of ADHD begin in childhood, and sometimes carry on into adulthood. The recommended treatment for adults with ADHD involves medication, behavioural training, and education about ADHD.

The diagnosis of ADHD is dependent on diagnostic criteria and classification of hyperactivity, therefore it is not always diagnosed. ADHD in women is often missed in childhood and only gets noticed later in life. ADHD is often diagnosed in boys and young men as hyperactivity is commonly displayed, with “impulsive”, “disruptive”, and “unmanageable” traits identified. These hyperactive traits have long been the hallmark for identifying and diagnosing ADHD, with inattentiveness considered a secondary trait. For women however, ADHD often presents as inattentiveness more than hyperactivity, and subsequently not considered or identified during assessment. Furthermore, ADHD is often seen as a ‘naughty little boy’ condition, meaning that more young boys are put through ADHD testing and therefore diagnosis, compared with girls.

With ADHD symptoms presenting differently in women, and many women going undiagnosed, it can be useful to understand what it can look like. Common signs of ADHD in women include difficulty focusing, disorganisation, problems listening, indecision, forgetfulness, overspending and clutter. Women with ADHD tend to show emotional and psychological distress and are often diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression. Many women may also spend a lot of time and effort to hide their symptoms. Undiagnosed or underdiagnosed ADHD in adults is often characterized by missing deadlines, difficulty focusing, and problems organizing different aspects of daily life.

If you are experiencing symptoms of ADHD, see your doctor who will be able to assess your symptoms and write a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist if necessary. Remember that you can always seek a second opinion if you feel like you are not receiving the best medical treatment or opinion you deserve.

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