While ADHD is typically associated with overstimulated young boys, the diagnosis of ADHD has spiked in adult women, shedding light on the issue of sidelining the proper diagnosis of young women with this condition. Many characteristic symptoms are present from an early age, from disorganization of action and thought (associated with words like "lazy," "difficult," "airhead," "anxious," etc.) as well as impulsive behavior. Early diagnosis is vital for women to be able to build proper strategies to combat the effects of ADHD from an early age and integrate them properly in their daily routines. An early diagnosis can also provide the young women with a degree of relief and comfort that what they are experiencing isn't a fault of their character but rather a condition that occurs and in which they are not alone. While a late diagnosis can provide a similar degree of comfort, it comes at the cost of years of dealing with ADHD symptoms which they've expressed all along and without the proper knowledge on how to tackle them.
The isolation brought about by the pandemic has resulted in many ADHD symptoms worsening as those affected are stuck within the confines of their own home. However, now like never before the ADHD community has grown and awareness has spread. From social media platforms with the tag #adhd, many can find others broadcasting their own ADHD experiences to the world which can be a vehicle for others to seek treatment if they share many similarities with those experiences.
This growing group of adult women being diagnosed with ADHD have experienced the symptoms of this neurological disorder their whole lives as this condition manifests in early childhood, affecting the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system. ADHD brains, notably, experience low levels of norepinephrine and dopamine. ADHD also comes in three main forms: hyperactivity-impulsivity, inattentive, and a combination of both. Notably, women are most likely to be diagnosed with inattentive ADHD, however, while starting off as less severe than in males it becomes more pervasive and obvious with age studies have shown. Furthermore, ADHD has a high degree of heritability. Women are socially conditioned to be polite and pleasing therefore many with undiagnosed ADHD develop coping mechanisms which can present themselves as depression or anxiety. Hormones can also impact the effects of ADHD in women a lot differently than in men, with studies showing that perimenopause and low estrogen can increase struggle with focus and memory. Furthermore, mood changes that can be caused by ADHD have been easily mislabeled as symptoms of puberty and menstruation.
As awareness of ADHD symptoms spreads and access to therapy improves, it would be exciting to see this trend of late ADHD diagnosis for women to shift. An earlier diagnosis can lead to the proper building and integration of vital strategies in order to alleviate ADHD symptoms and to lead a healthy and more fulfilling life.
Unlike women who are statistically likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as adults, men are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age due to how clearly the symptoms present themselves. As young boys, ADD/ADHD presents itself more clearly with a combination of persistent problems including impulsive behavior, hyperactivity and difficulties paying attention. As adults, ADD and ADHD in men can present itself in unstable relationships, poor work or school performance, low self-esteem, amongst other things. Many adults with ADD/ADHD aren't aware they have it but rather find everyday tasks challenging. They might find it difficult to focus on tasks or prioritize activities, meetings or social plans - effecting both their work life and their social life.
Unlike for women, men with symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD are not as easily recognized or diagnosed. While this tendency for early diagnosis gives men with childhood ADD/ADHD more time to find the best treatment (medication, psychotherapy, psychological counseling or a mixture of multiple strategies), similar solutions are available and beneficial for adult men who are late diagnosed.