How Does Gender Influence Adhd Treatment
Pharmacological treatment for ADHD is generally the same for everyone.
However, some people experience unpleasant side effects, such as a loss of appetite. In these cases, a doctor may prescribe a non-stimulant medication. These take longer to work, but they are just as effective at controlling ADHD symptoms.
Although everyone receives the same medications, they may not receive them at the same rates. For example, one 2020 study found that in an analysis of 21 studies, girls received significantly fewer ADHD medication prescriptions than boys. This disparity was not shown in adult females.
Many researchers say that doctors can make some changes that will make treatment better for girls and women with ADHD.
- ensuring that ADHD medications do not interact with other co-existing conditions, such as anxiety and depression
- reviewing a persons medication during menopause or pregnancy
- educating people on the risk of self-harm and other risky behaviors
- paying attention to side effects that affect appetite, as eating disorders seem to be more common in girls and women with ADHD
Often, girls and women with ADHD experience co-occurring conditions. These include low mood, anxiety, and depression.
However, these conditions other ADHD symptoms. This means that doctors often treat the resulting symptoms, not the root cause: ADHD.
Girls With Adhd Become Women With Adhd
Girls with ADHD grow up to be women with ADHD. The symptoms do not disappear after she turns 18.The difficulties she experienced throughout school will carry over into career, family,finances, and physical health in adulthood.
It used to be believed that ADHD was a childhood condition. After 3 decades of clinical research,the science shows that ADHD persists into adulthood. The symptoms do not go away.
There is a generation of adults who are just now becoming aware of their ADHD symptoms due to apersistent lack of public awareness despite many years of scientific research describing ADHD inadults. After many years of struggling silently, girls and women with undiagnosed ADHD candevelop a pattern of shame and self-limiting beliefs.
What About Depression Anxiety And Adhd In Women
That womens ADHD symptoms are harder to spot can make it more difficult to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Sure, women may tell their primary care doctor or therapist that they feel overwhelmed and disorganized. However, it may not occur to their caregiver that ADHD is a possible root cause. Instead, the initial diagnosis is more often a mood disorder, such as anxiety or depression.
Because, while therapists obviously see a breath of mental health issues, many are not as familiar with ADHD as other mental health conditions. And they are also not trained diagnosticians. So, they may not spot ADHD as readily. In fact, a client once told me her therapist said, Youre too successful to have ADHD.
Of course, primary care doctors also see patients who have mental health conditions. However, they likely lack the necessary specialized and up-to-date knowledge to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. This can result in delays in receiving the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Primary care doctors and therapist can be great resources to ask for appropriate referrals, though.
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Connect With Dr Ascher
Dr. Ascher is a psychiatrist in Philadelphia, serving clients in Center City and the Philadelphia Main Line area, including Wayne, Villanova, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Gladwyne, Radnor, Haverford, Ardmore, Wynnewood, Narberth, Merion, Strafford, Berwyn, Devon, Malvern, St. Davids, Lower Merion Township, Radnor Township, Haverford Township, Tredyffrin Township, Easttown Township, Willistown Township, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester County.
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How Women Can Take Charge Of Their Adhd Diagnosis And Treatment
Psychologist and ADHD expert Keith Conners suggest, You must be a savvy consumer of your healthcare to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. In part, this means, you will need to ask the right questions before working with a mental health professional.
Questions you may want to ask, if appropriate, are:
- How much experience do you have working with clients with ADHD?
- What is your professional/educational background in ADHD?
- What is your approach to working with clients who have ADHD?
- How do you diagnose ADHD in adults?
- What are the most effective treatments for adults with ADHD?
- Generally, what is your approach to helping clients with ADHD meet their goals?
- What is your philosophy of ADHD medication?
The bottom line is you will need to do your due diligence when seeking out help for diagnosing or treating possible ADHD. And I also know that this is not easy
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Struggling With No Explanation
As responsibilities start to pile up in adulthood, dealing with symptoms typically becomes more difficult for those who are undiagnosed.
For some women, an ADHD diagnosis often comes after years of struggling with symptoms of “secondary” depression and anxiety from not pinpointing the problem, according to Tamara May, a psychologist specialising in ADHD.
“In adolescence, a lot of women start to realise that they’re struggling more than their peers, and they have no explanation for it,” she says.
“Those around them say, ‘You’re being lazy, surely you could do better.'”
An estimated one in 30 Australians have ADHD, yet profound misconceptions about the condition remain.
“People don’t really understand the severity of ADHD and how it can be so challenging for people just to do day-to-day activities. Just to get out of bed and do the dishes,” Dr May says.
When Sydney woman Laura Zammit found out she had ADHD eight years ago, at 31, she immediately called a close friend.
“I said to her, ‘Guess what? I have ADHD.’ She was like, ‘No you don’t, that’s just an excuse.’ It just floored me,” Ms Zammit remembers.
Now, years later, she feels like she is thriving.
“ADHD was a big part of the way I saw myself never good enough,” she says.
“I ignored my value, beliefs, my talents and creativity my mind and ideas were so huge, so out-of-the box and so creative that they were dismissed by myself before I could share out of fear of being stupid or rejection.”
What Does Adhd In Women Look Like
It is worth remembering that ADHD is not gender biased. It was not so long ago where we all knew of ADHD in the context of naughty disruptive school boys bouncing off the walls. ADHD symptoms exist in both females and males and in the same proportions. We have a huge gap in the diagnosis profile with males almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females. ADHD really does look different in women.
Therefore it is for this reason, many women grow up feeling misunderstood. Sometimes their difficulties are mistaken for being hormonal or anxious. At times the ADHD symptoms are attributed to the personality type of being the chatty ones and more social.
As with any mental health disorder, symptoms can vary and this can even vary between the genders. Women with ADHD, when reporting childhood experiences, are the ones who daydream or doodle on their work. They often report zoning in and out, when they should be listening in class.
Research has shown that girls and women are less likely to be diagnosed as parents and teachers are not quite sure what to look out for even if they do notice some difficulties.
Therefore inattentive ADHD is also more common in women than it is in boys and men, who tend to lean towards the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. As males may display external symptoms such as fidgeting and hyperactivity they are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD.
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Do Boys Get Diagnosed With Adhd More Than Girls
In an era of growing awareness about wage gaps and social inequities, researchers are devoting more energy to health disparities like this one. Boys still receive ADHD diagnoses much more often than girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 12.9 percent compared with 5.6 percent.
Is it just that boys have ADHD more often than girls do? Or does the culture around research, diagnosis, and treatment of the disorder heavily skew toward boys? Researchers are realizing its more complex than that.
Many girls with undiagnosed ADHD grow up hearing themselves mislabeled as spacey, way too talkative, and disorganized.
As teenagers, they may fall behind academically, even though their frustrated parents and teachers know these young women are intelligent and capable. And in adulthood, many still have trouble with increased responsibilities and different roles.
The difference in diagnosis rates and resulting access to treatment can have a considerable impact on women with ADHD. It affects the ways they navigate their lives, develop their self-esteem, and build relationships.
Diagnosis Later In Life
Many women get overlooked until later in life when they begin to struggle to make sense of the difficulties they have been encountering. Often females may get left behind and diagnose later in life because they are able to cover up the ADHD symptoms. Its only later on in life, when responsibilities of family and work build up that it becomes difficult for women to manage ADHD.
ADHD symptoms in women can often be misunderstood and misdiagnosed by medical professionals, mistaking them for stress, anxiety, or another related condition
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Some Common Signs Of Adhd In Women
- You struggle to relax and unwind as your mind is on the go
- You are a high achiever but then feel frustrated that you have not met your full potential
- You struggle to move forward with your goals
- Forgotten projects and unpaid bills just keep piling up
- At social gatherings you feel overwhelmed and shy but can end up talking over people as you are nervous
- Your mind drifts during conversations unless youre the one talking or its a topic you find very interesting
- Friendships can be a struggle because social rules seem complicated
- Growing up, you had so much energy and liked to be busy- but later in life you are just exhausted and burning out
- You often overspend to compensate for other problems. For example, you dont have an outfit to wear for an office party so you buy a new one but dont really have the money for this.
- Shopping trips and stores overwhelm you, and you find it hard to make decisions about what to buy.
Gender Expectations Play A Role
Gender expectations can also cause adults to overlook ADHD in girls. Girls are expected to be gentle, soft-spoken, and calm. Being shy is also more common or at least more socially acceptable in girls.
So, lets say theres a female student who never raises her hand in class. One day, the teacher does call on her. Suddenly, a look of panic flashes on her face she doesnt know the subject theyre talking about, let alone the question, because she hasnt been paying attention at all.
The teacher, though, sees her expression and assumes shes just shy.
Girls are also viewed as being more social and emotional than boys. So a girl with ADHD whos overly sensitive, cries easily, or talks too much in class may not cause concern. As disruptive as her behavior may be, shes more likely to be labeled as a chatty Cathy than a struggling student.
Gender expectations dont just impact how symptoms are interpreted. They can also play a role in how symptoms are managed.
Girls with ADHD have a tendency to mask their symptoms.
For example, they might try to rein in their own hyperactive behaviors because theyve been socially conditioned to believe that girls arent supposed to behave that way. Instead of fidgeting and squirming in class, they might cope with their restless feelings by drawing in their notebook to keep their hands busy.
On the outside, a girl with ADHD may be perceived as a perfectionist or a bookworm. But in reality, shes simply trying to compensate for her ADHD.
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Can You Get A Diagnosis Of Adhd From A Self
No! In order to get a diagnosis of ADHD, you need to be assessed by a specialist in the field usually a psychologist or psychiatrist. Self-assessment tools can alert you to the fact that you have certain symptoms that are common in ADHD which would be a good reason to seek out a diagnostic assessment.
About Scoring This Psychological Questionnaire
Scoring for Questions 1-18:
- 0 points No, not at all
- 1 point Yes, somewhat or a little
- 2 points Yes, moderately to quite a lot
- 3 points Yes, very much
This yields a total maximum score of 54.
Question 21 is scored on the same scale but is used to adjudicate on whether a diagnosis of ADHD should be excluded it is not included in the final total.
Questions 19, 20 and 22 are each scored as a binary choice and are again used to adjudicate on whether a diagnosis of ADHD should be excluded.
When your quiz is scored, one of seven different information pages will appear to describe the results for scores in your range, along with further details of how your score was computed.
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What You Need To Know About Diagnosing Adhd In Women
ADHD diagnosis in women is complicated
Its not uncommon for both men and women I work with to first receive their ADHD diagnosis as an adult. Sometimes they call me after a very recent diagnosis. And, as we talk about this late diagnosis, the conversation often touches on their feelings about having ADHD and finding out so late in life.
They may experience both sadness and relief when they first find out. They feel relief because they can put their past into context they have a better understanding of their challenges. But they may also feel grief that it took so long to find out.
However, women are often more surprised at their diagnosis than men.
Mental Health Professionals And Diagnosing Adhd In Women
It is best, though, to consult with a psychologist, psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner for a diagnosis.
However, even trained mental health professionals may misdiagnose women who have primarily inattentive Type ADHD. Like other professionals, they may see the symptoms as indicative of a mood disorder.
Is important to note anxiety and/or depression may coexist with ADHD. What is problematic, though, is that they might not consider an ADHD diagnosis as a possibility. As Sari Solden, psychotherapist, author and ADHD expert, notes:
Inattentive ADHD symptoms are still largely misunderstood and misdiagnosed by medical professionals who mistake them for mood disorders, anxiety, or another related condition.
At this point, youre probably wondering, How do I make sure I get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment?!
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Adhd Complications: Compensatory Behaviors Gender Norms And Stigma
Gender norms and expectations dictate that girls and women should excel socially and academically, and that they should demonstrate few or no problems with self-regulation. These standards may explain why girls with ADHD are more likely than boys with ADHD to devise and exhibit compensatory behaviors for their symptoms.16
Girls are also more likely than boys to exhibit perfectionistic behaviors and to be more achievement-motivated.6 At the cost of high anxiety, many girls dont want to admit that theyre struggling or that something may be wrong. Inattentive girls and women, often driven to mask their difficulties, are usually better able to compensate and control their internalized symptoms than are inattentive boys and men.6 Complicating this pattern are developmental milestones and transitions including puberty, childbirth, and menopause, both of which may reveal previously invisible vulnerabilities.
Gender norms and expectations also heighten stigma and shame for girls and women with ADHD. Theres no room for ADHD when society expects girls and women to be perfect nurturing, competitive, and sexualized a pernicious triple bind accentuated during adolescence.17 In addition, society is less likely to forgive attributes believed to be under ones personal control18 a problem when it comes to the inconsistent, heterogeneous presentation of ADHD.
Online Adult Adhd Evaluation Test For Women
Consider when these symptoms started for you. It could be that you have been struggling with attention-deficit/hyperactivity since you were a young child.
The realization that we may have a new diagnosis can seem debilitating at first. Dr. Ascher is here to give you a professional evaluation and provide you with the tools you need to navigate through any difficulties you may experience as a woman due to adult ADHD.
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The World Health Organization Adult Self
The World Health Organization has prepared a self-screening questionnaire you can use to determine if you might have adult ADHD. The Adult Self-Report Scale Screener will help you recognize the signs and symptoms of adult ADHD. The ASRS is comprised of 6 questions that are ranked on a scale of 0 to 4. If you have at least 4 of these 6 symptoms significantly, you may have ADHD and should seek out a formal diagnosis.
When you complete this Adult ADHD questionnaire, if the results seem to indicate you might have ADHD , then bring a copy of the questionnaire with you when you seek diagnosis to help with the diagnostic process.
How Sex And Gender Can Affect Adhd Treatment
A showed that doctors routinely prescribe medication less often to treat girls with ADHD than they do boys.
This difference in prescription rates is sometimes surprising. The same study found that both stimulant and nonstimulant medications improve most symptoms in girls as much as they do in boys or even more so.
Again, its possible to attribute these differences to behavioral differences between girls and boys that may cause boys to receive treatment more often than girls.
In adults, prescription rates are more equal. Women still receive less medication than men, but the difference is not as dramatic.
More research needs to take place that explores the differences in how different bodies process ADHD medications and how rising and falling hormones alter the effectiveness of medication.
For example, a
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