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Inattentive Adhd In Adult Women

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Typical Symptoms Men And Women With Adhd Share

Women With ADHD: How A Diagnosis Changed Our Lives

Like men with ADHD, women with ADHD often struggle to perform regular activities. This can lead to many of the same symptoms that men with ADHD experience, such as feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed. They may also feel inadequate because they cant perform as easily as their peers. Their life may seem out of control and even small daily tasks can seem insurmountable. This can make their self-esteem plummet.

Women with ADHD often face additional pressure because they are expected to be caretakers for their partners and any children. Feeling societal pressure to care for others and run a household can be very overwhelming for women who struggle to organize and take control of their own lives. Women with ADHD can feel inadequate when they forget birthdays. anniversaries, or childrens commitments or when they are expected to organize vacations and parties. They may also get down on themselves when they struggle to stay on top of laundry or dishes.

Like men, women with ADHD often engage in riskier behavior than their peers. Difficulty in self-regulating can make women with ADHD more likely to fall victim to peer pressure. They are more likely to experiment with sex, drugs, and alcohol than women without ADHD.

Women Are Underdiagnosed Compared To Men

For many girls and women, behavioral issues become more evident around puberty as estrogen levels increase. This pattern contrasts with many boys, whose hyperactivity decreases significantly after puberty that, for decades, it was even believed that they “outgrew” their ADHD.

Up until 2013, the requirement held by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was that symptoms must appear by the age of seven. Since girls’ symptoms have been shown to increase with their estrogen levels, it was unlikely for most girls to meet that criterion.

And even though the DSM changed the age to 12, many girls are still left undiagnosed. This is likely because girls’ ADHD symptoms would typically become more prevalent when they would move away from home for the first time to go to college. During this challenging period, girls with ADHD would usually face difficulties with independent living or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and these struggles would make the symptoms more evident.

According to Dr. Patricia Quinn, author of Understanding Women with ADHD, the average age of diagnosis for women with ADHD who weren’t diagnosed as children is 36 to 38 years old. Before that time, girls and women are often misdiagnosed as having depression or an anxiety disorder.

Further Help For An Accurate Diagnosis

ADHD is often missed in women because it looks different for us. Plus, many doctors and mental health providers are misinformed or under-informed about ADHD .

This guide is intended to help. Inside is an additional screening tool, info on how to find a knowledgeable doctor, and other conditions that mimic ADHD. It even includes research you can give to your doctor if you find them less informed than youd hoped.

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Perception Of Symptom Presentation In Women And Girls With Adhd By Knowledgeable Informants

Knowledgeable informants may be more likely to overlook ADHD symptoms in women and girls and are therefore less likely to refer them for diagnosis or treatment. A study published in 2009 explored the reasons for this gender gap in referrals for treatment by teachers of girls.12 In this study, parents and teachers read a series of vignettes that differed only in whether the name of a boy or girl was used. Both parents and teachers indicated that they were less likely to seek or recommend ADHD services when the vignette used a girls name.12 Another study reported that symptom severity had the greatest influence on referral for treatment for teachers,11 but that despite teachers viewing girls with ADHD as significantly more impaired than boys with ADHD, medication was considered as a treatment strategy less often for girls.11

Why Adhd In Women Is Often Misdiagnosed

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ADHD symptoms in girls are often viewed as character traits rather than symptoms of a condition. For example, a girl might be described as spacey, forgetful, or chatty. Later in life, a woman might reach out for help for her symptoms, only to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety instead.

The good news is that there is an increasing awareness about ADHD symptoms in women, which means more women are able to get the help they need.

Women with ADHD face the same feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted as men with ADHD commonly feel.

Psychological distress, feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and chronic stress are common. Often, women with ADHD feel that their lives are out of control or in chaos, and daily tasks may seem impossibly huge.

Our culture commonly expects women to fill the caretaker role. When things feel out of control and it’s difficult to organize and plan because of ADHD, taking care of others can feel nearly impossible. This societal pressure also may greatly increase a woman’s feelings of inadequacy.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Adult Adhd In Women

Inattentiveness

Inattentiveness encompasses an extensive range of characteristics such as lack of attention to detail, losing items, leaving tasks unfinished, and not maintaining attention.

Disorganization

Lack of control and inability to stay with a plan are hallmarks of disorganization. Examples of disorganization include messy workspaces and clutter.

Forgetfulness

Lapse of memory ranges from simple annoyance to very traumatic. Not knowing where your car keys are as opposed to not knowing where you parked your car are examples of the degree of this common ADHD symptom. A woman with ADHD usually can look back on a lifetime of examples and be astounded that they did not notice this pattern.

Procrastination

Women with ADHD tend to frequently put off tasks, especially those with lots of details. The adage of never do today what you can put off until tomorrow is common among those with ADHD.

Distractibility

The hallmark of distractibility is the inability to maintain attention and having that attention drawn quickly to something else. Women with ADHD may recognize this in themselves yet seem powerless to stop it, leading to multiple unfinished projects. While this symptom is common, its exact opposite, hyperfocus, can also be very common.

Inability to Plan

Inability to plan can result from a lack of focus as well as a cognitive impairment that prevents an individual from organizing cohesive thoughts into an executable flow.

Lack of Attention to Detail

Inability to Focus

Take The Adhd Test For Women

Sharing is caring!

The ADHD Test for Women is designed with the experience of real ADHD women in mind to help you in your quest for self-ADHD-discovery.

The test is based on the DSM 5 criteria but broken down with a few examples of how each symptom often looks for women. While it cannot diagnose you with ADHD, it can be a screening tool to provide to your doctor.

Consider your answer to each question carefully. It can even be helpful to to get feedback from people who know you best.

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What Quick Tips Can Be Offered To Help Adults With Adhd Inattentive Type Cope With The Day

The following are tips for adults with ADHD, inattentive type, for self-regulating , and regaining control over many daily tasks:

To help cope with distractions:

  • Request a quiet or private work area move to an unused conference space or other area where there are few distractions or noise.
  • Wear earphones with soft music to cover up office noise.
  • Redirect phone calls to voice mail and return phone calls at set times throughout the day.

To help stay organized:

  • Set aside the first 10 to 20 minutes of your day to organize your tasks for the day.
  • Work on and complete one task at a time before moving on to the next one.
  • Keep a to-do list in a notebook or on your phone.
  • Put appointments in your phone and set up alarm reminders before the event.
  • Use daily planners or online task organizers to help keep track of tasks and events.
  • Use sticky pads to write important notes and place them in appropriate areas where they will be seen.
  • If a filing system is needed, use labels or color-coded folders or tabs.
  • Set up online automatic payment of bills so you dont forget to pay them.

To prevent losing or misplacing important items:

  • Identify specific areas to place specific items and get into the routine of only placing items in these designated spots.

To help stay focused:

What Are The Symptoms Ofinattentive Adhd

“The (Easy-to-Miss) Signs of Inattentive ADHD” Live Q& A Session for Women with ADHD
  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes at work or during other activities

  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks, such as during lectures or lengthy reading

  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly

  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish chores or duties in the workplace

  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activitiesâfor example, is messy and has poor time management

  • Avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort

  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities, such as keys, wallets, and mobile phone

  • Is easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli

Problems with concentration and staying organized can be common for many busy adults however, an adult who is impaired both at work and at home, or in social situations, is more likely to have ADHD.

This article describes what Cynthia Hammer learned from interviewing 24 men with Inattentive ADHD.

This questionnaire will help adults evaluate if they have inattentive ADHD and should seek further evaluation.

Read this article if you think you have ADHD and plan to get diagnosed.

ADHD Is a Terrible Nameand reduces attention for the inattentive type.

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The Presentation Of Adhd In Women And Girls

Several characteristics are unique to the expression of ADHD in women and girls. These characteristics include specific symptom presentation, greater incidence of low self-esteem and more difficulty with peer relationships, coexisting anxiety and affective disorders , and the development of coping strategies that mask underachievement and performance issues .

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Derailed Goals And Daily Challenges

With ADHD, each day feels like a race to avoid disasters and minimize mistakes. This keeps you from making progress in achieving your goals.

Heres how ADHD may get in the way of your daily activities:

  • Financial issues
Anxiety, low-self esteem, depression, and loneliness are more common More disruptive, hyperactive, and aggressive behaviors

ADHD symptoms in women often go undiagnosed for various reasons.

  • Parents, teachers, and doctors can miss thembecause young girls with ADHD dont usually have loud, disruptive behaviors.
  • Many women with ADHD are labeled chatterboxes,clutter-headed, or just hormonal.
  • Symptoms are viewed as character traits or emotional issues rather than signs of ADHD.

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Adult Women With Adhd: You Dont Have To Struggle Alone

If you think you may be showing signs of ADHD, its best to reach out to a trusted healthcare professional to examine and diagnose your condition.

Check out ADDAs online resources, where you can connect with people who have ADHD, find support groups and coaches, and learn more about ADHD.

ADDAs Adult ADHD test is also a good starting point to screen yourself and detect if you may have ADHD.

Recognizing that you may have ADHD is an important step to getting a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Its never too late to take that first step!

Why Does Adhd Go Unnoticed In Women

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With children and youth, ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in biological males than females4 Gender bias and expectations certainly play a role in the diagnostic process. For example, its believed in the mental health community that women with ADHD tend to demonstrate more inattentive symptoms rather than the impulse/conduct symptoms that are prevalent in males diagnosed with the condition.4,5

Many people dont realize that difficulties with inattention and impulse control are often due to disorders that can be treated, says Professor Stephen Faraone. Those with undiagnosed ADHD will blame themselves for not doing better or not trying hard enough. Indeed, many had been told in childhood that they were lazy. This type of stigmatizing communication makes it difficult to get treated. If we add to that the misinformation about ADHD on the Internet, it is no surprise that many women are undiagnosed.

When looking at comorbidities or the presence of more than one mental health concern, women with ADHD are more likely to be diagnosed with major depression. Depressive symptoms are often treated before considering ADHD.5 With procrastination symptoms in ADHD like distractibility, disorganization, and poor concept of time, one might assume someone is depressed or lazy, when in fact, thats an assumption based on incomplete information.

Its important to keep in mind that men and women are expected to display behaviors differently, based on culturally created norms.

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What Are Symptoms Of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Inattentive Type In Adults

According to the American Psychiatric Associations diagnostic criteria, there are nine symptoms associated with inattention. Although nearly everyone experiences inattention problems at times, people with the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD frequently experience the following symptoms. These symptoms may intrude and interfere in their daily functioning at work, with family members or in social situations. The nine symptoms associated with the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD are:

  • Often has trouble staying focused on tasks at work, home or play
  • Frequently does not pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes at work or while doing other tasks
  • Often has trouble organizing tasks or activities
  • Is easily distracted
  • Frequently does not follow through on instructions or fails to complete work assignments, chores or other activities
  • Often forgets doing routine chores
  • Avoids tasks that require long periods of mental focus
  • Often loses items needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Does not appear to be listening even when spoken to directly

Adults may have predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD if they:

  • Experience serious or chronic problems due to five or more of these symptoms
  • Have no other mental health disorder that could be the cause of these symptoms
  • Have few-to-no symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity

Other psychological conditions, such as depression or anxiety, can also accompany ADHD in adults.

Diagnosing Adhd Inattentive Type

ADHD inattentive type can be diagnosed by a mental healthcare provider such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. A primary care physician, family doctor, or pediatrician can provide a reference to a healthcare provider who specializes in ADHD.

The diagnostic process may involve:

  • A detailed personal and family medical history
  • A standard rating scale or checklist of symptoms and their severity
  • An interview with the healthcare provider
  • Interviews with the childs family members or teachers
  • Other psychological tests, blood work, physical exams, or imaging scans required to rule out other conditions or confirm the diagnosis

The healthcare provider will determine whether the persons symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD inattentive type laid out in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual:

  • The person has had the symptoms for over six months.
  • The person has had many of the symptoms since before they were 12.
  • The symptoms are present in two or more settings, such as school/work, home, social settings, or while doing other activities.
  • The symptoms significantly interfere with the persons ability to function.
  • The symptoms are not better explained by another mental health condition.

Its important to note that a persons symptoms of ADHD may change over time, as they get older. Therefore, the type of ADHD they have can also change. So, even though they may currently have ADHD inattentive type, that could change in future.

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When Behavior Disorders And Problems With Relationships Appear

Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder occur with greater frequency in girls with ADHD than in controls8,9 and could play a role in the problems with relationships that are observed in girls with ADHD.8,9,27 Girls with ADHD tend also to engage in socially maladaptive behaviors such as aggression9 more often than healthy controls, which could contribute to problems with peer relationships. If problems in these areas develop, a girl should be referred for an evaluation for underlying ADHD rather than simply focusing on her behavioral issues.

Related Conditions In Adults With Adhd

Why Are Women Being Diagnosed With ADHD In Adulthood?

As with ADHD in children and teenagers, ADHD in adults can occur alongside several related problems or conditions.

One of the most common is depression. Other conditions that adults may have alongside ADHD include:

  • personality disorders conditions in which an individual differs significantly from the average person in terms of how they think, perceive, feel or relate to others
  • bipolar disorder a condition affecting your mood, which can swing from one extreme to another
  • obsessive compulsive disorder a condition that causes obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour

The behavioural problems associated with ADHD can also cause problems such as difficulties with relationships and social interaction.

Page last reviewed: 24 December 2021 Next review due: 24 December 2024

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Adhd And Other Conditions

Neurodevelopmental disorders frequently coexist. For example, you may have an autism spectrum disorder together with intellectual disability. Or you may have and a specific learning disorder.

We have clinical medical research suggesting that ADHD is hereditary. This means if your father or mother has inattentive or hyperactive symptoms, you are more than likely to have ADHD too.

In my clinical practice, I have noticed that ADHD diagnoses among women are on the rise and that more and more women are looking for answers to their difficulties. Most of the new patients who are diagnosed with Adult ADHD are relieved as they can make sense of their difficulties, which nearly always looks different to the typical male ADHD picture. Due to this traditional imagery of ADHD, these women are overlooked and less likely to be referred for mental health services.

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