What Every Woman Needs to Know About ADHD

woman angry drivingWhen you mention ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder), most people envision a little boy zooming around a classroom when he should be sitting at a desk and listening to the teacher. It's a stereotype of the condition, for sure, because more adult women than ever are being diagnosed with and treated for ADHD.


That surprising info comes courtesy of a new study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

ADHD is already the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder among kids in the US. But between 2003 and 2011, diagnoses in girls rose 55 percent (compared to 40 percent in boys). And among women between ages 26 to 34, ADHD prescriptions skyrocketed 85 percent just between 2008 and 2012.

What is up with that mind-blowing increase?

"For decades, girls and women were vastly underdiagnosed, compared to boys and later men," Dr. Russell Barkley, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina and an internationally recognized authority on ADHD, tells The Stir.

"Largely, this was due to the fact ADHD was three to four times more common in boys and so obviously more got referred," says Dr. Barkley. "But it was also due to boys being more aggressive and so more obvious and annoying, thus drawing attention to their problems more than girls with ADHD, who tended to be less so."

More from The Stir: ADD/ADHD in Girls: 10 Symptoms to Consider

Over the past 10–15 years, as research and public understanding about ADHD has vastly increased, explains Dr. Barkley, "more girls and women have been referred for diagnosis, bringing the rates of referral more into line with what was previously happening for boys."

But there could be a price for playing catch up. Science of Us refers to one expert who describes it as a "lost generation" of women. Never diagnosed as children, they struggled to either hide or self-manage their symptoms as they grew up.

The signs of adult ADHD may differ from men to women. For instance, men tend to have more car accidents, substance abuse, and anger and behavioral issues, especially at work.

Women with ADHD, on the other hand, are prone to obesity, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. And they're more likely to feel overwhelmed at home, be it paying bills on time or trying to keep track of their families' multiple obligations.

If you think you may have undiagnosed ADHD, some changes to your day-to-day life -- if you haven't instinctively made some already -- can help make life easier. And they may be simpler than you realize -- things like getting enough sleep and exercise, and learning how to organize and prioritize tasks.

You can also ask your doctor to refer you to someone who specializes in ADHD evaluation and treatment.


Image via iStock.com/nandyphotos

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