Many ADHD Women Go Undiagnosed

Post Highlights

    Many ADHD women go undiagnosed, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. ADHD is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It affects men and women differently with symptoms often being more intense in girls than boys. ADHD can present differently in females when compared with males decreasing the likelihood of timely diagnosis.

    Why does ADHD look different in women?

    Symptoms often go unnoticed in ADHD women because they are typically disorganized and forgetful. ADHD girls have a higher risk of being misdiagnosed with depression or anxiety, especially when ADHD goes undiagnosed during adolescence. ADHD is also associated with impulsivity which makes it harder for females to recognize the disorder as an adult. There has been research that ADHD symptoms may not be as apparent in adulthood. ADHD women often struggle with their self-esteem. It is a common reason why it goes undiagnosed because it isn't as apparent to others, but it causes distress behind the scenes.

    How does ADHD present in school-age girls?

    ADHD girls can have a difficult time in school because ADHD symptoms usually go unnoticed. ADHD doesn't always show itself through easily recognized behavior, but it does present itself through the lack of organization and forgetfulness which could make ADHD girls seem lazy or careless to teachers. Girls are not often as disruptive because they sit quietly. ADHD girls are often highly creative and they have an outside-the-box perspective which is very useful.

    Can ADHD be misdiagnosed in girls?

    MRI Images of ADHD brain

    Photo by MART PRODUCTION on

    ADHD can be misdiagnosed because these girls are usually less disruptive than their male counterparts. Functional MRI shows promise but can be expensive. Many ADHD women go undiagnosed until adulthood when they realize other people's perception of them is different from their own self-perception. ADHD diagnostic criteria were developed around boys so medication has not been studied nearly as much on females. Girls are also more likely to have a comorbid disorder which means they could have another mental health issue along with ADHD, but there's no research on how these disorders affect each other so it can make diagnosis difficult.

    Do menstrual cycles worsen ADHD symptoms?

    ADHD woman suffering from a menstrual pain

    Photo by cottonbro on

    ADHD symptoms could get worse during menstrual cycles. ADHD girls are more likely to skip ADHD medication doses or not take them at all during their menstrual cycle because of perimenstrual symptoms worsening. Women also experience ADHD differently than men so ADHD treatment could be different for ADHD women as well. There is less research on how ADHD affects women throughout their life which can make it difficult to find the best way to manage the symptoms in women during their cycles.

    Does Grandma have ADHD?

    Different generations of ADHD

    Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

    Grandma may also struggle with undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues that could be mistaken for other disorders such as depression or dementia. ADHD is commonly found within families which means ADHD can be passed down from one generation to the next.

    Grandma had different life choices when she was younger. The lack of education about what these conditions actually do affects people differently over time which makes living well today much harder. Many girls could also be the first ADHD diagnosis in their family which means grandma and others may not understand ADHD as well making it harder for them to get support.


    ADHD is a difficult condition to live with and can lead to many struggles in life. Furthermore, it is often missed in girls and women. We are familiar with how this diagnosis impacts your health care needs.

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    Devang Patel

    I am a board certified family physician. I am married and have two beautiful girls. I have ADHD too (hence blog name I was diagnosed with ADHD during my residency training AFTER medical school. Now I want to help others lead more productive lives by giving practical examples and suggestions.

    DISCLAIMER: The content in this blog is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog or on this website.

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