Even as children, boys who have ADHD are more likely to get a diagnosis than girls who have ADHD. 13% of boys with ADHD receive a childhood diagnosis, compared to just 6% of girls. This problem persists into adulthood. Many of the commonly known signs of ADHD--such as hyperactive behavior--tend to be more prevalent in boys.
Here, we'll take a look at how to get diagnosed with ADHD as a woman, with tips including how to choose the right professional and how to recognize whether you're showing signs of ADHD.
Barriers to diagnosis
As we mentioned, many women with ADHD struggle to get diagnosed with the condition. Boys are three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. Even in childhood, it takes longer for the girls who do get diagnosed to get the help they need, as the average age of ADHD diagnosis for girls is around 12 (most boys are diagnosed around the age of 7).
Often, professionals and patients alike think of a person with ADHD as a young boy who struggles to sit still. While this is one way the condition can be expressed, girls and women often show different symptoms. People with ADHD may show symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, or both. Girls are most likely to have inattentive-type ADHD, which is often dismissed as a tendency to daydream. Since the girls who have this type of behavior are often thought of as underachievers, their condition often goes unnoticed until they reach adulthood and begin to seek out help for their ADHD symptoms.
Recognizing ADHD symptoms in women
Many adult women who have ADHD do not get an accurate diagnosis until their 30s or 40s. Typically, these women have been experiencing the symptoms of ADHD throughout their entire lives. In childhood, many of these symptoms are missed by teachers and other care professionals, as they aren't typically as obvious as ADHD symptoms in boys.
ADHD can be experienced differently, and your symptoms may ebb and flow depending on your stress levels, medication, life circumstances, and more.
Common signs of ADHD in adult women include:
- Money management problems
- Time management problems
- A constant struggle to stay organized
- Feeling overwhelmed often
- Chronic overeating
- Chronic lack of sleep
- Problems with alcohol consumption
Many women who are diagnosed with ADHD as adults have a history of anxiety and depression, and studies indicate that these conditions tend to occur together with ADHD. If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with ADHD, it's more likely that you'll develop the condition.
Many women who have ADHD find that they notice their symptoms more easily when a friend or family member is diagnosed with the condition and their symptoms begin to dissipate with therapy and medication.
Choosing the right professional
If you're showing symptoms of ADHD, it's important to choose a mental health professional who is well-versed in the condition and how it affects adult women. Your regular doctor may be able to diagnose your condition, or you may need a referral to a mental health provider who specializes in ADHD.
Treatment options after diagnosis
Getting a diagnosis of ADHD can feel like a relief for many adult women, as you have a renewed sense of hope for feeling like your healthiest, happiest self. While there is no cure for ADHD, treatment can help you manage your symptoms. It can take some time to find the right combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes that help you manage your symptoms. It's important that you work closely with your healthcare provider to determine what types of treatment are the best fit for managing your ADHD.
In children, most medical professionals recommend trying therapy to learn ADHD coping skills before moving to medication. This isn't the case for adults. While therapy can be helpful, your care provider will likely prescribe medication along with therapy.
Medications prescribed for ADHD fall into the category of psychostimulants. These medications work to help control your attention, focus, and behavior symptoms associated with ADHD.
The two most common ADHD medications are methylphenidate (brand names include Concerta, Daytrana, Focalin, Focalin XR, and Metadate) and amphetamines (brand names include Adderall and Vyvanse). As mentioned, it may take some time for your doctor to find the right medication and dosage that works to control your symptoms.
It's likely that your doctor will give you a low dose of a new medication. Over the course of about a week, you'll keep track of your symptoms to see whether the medication works well for you. Your doctor will work with you to determine which medication is the best fit. They'll also consider any other health conditions that you have to ensure that the medication prescribed for you is safe and effective.
Lifestyle strategies for managing ADHD
While medication is the first line of defense for adult women who are diagnosed with ADHD, your doctor may also encourage you to try therapy and other lifestyle changes that can help you learn how to manage your symptoms. Many adult women who have ADHD have success with life coaching. Working with a life coach certified to help adult women with ADHD can teach you valuable strategies for boosting your self-esteem, improving your time management, and developing coping skills for dealing with your ADHD symptoms.
In addition to working with a licensed therapist or life coach for adult women with ADHD, you may find success with using other stress management techniques, including yoga, exercise, meditation, and spending time outdoors.
Using other types of coaching and counseling services related to your unique life situations can also be helpful. Women with ADHD who are mothers may benefit from working with a parenting coach who can help you learn how to manage busy schedules, behavioral issues, and other issues that come along with parenting. If you find that you're having trouble reaching your potential in your career, working with a licensed career counselor who is well-versed in the needs of professionals with ADHD can help you develop your strengths and work on opportunities for improvement.
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If you're a woman living with ADHD, it can be helpful to have tracking tools in place that help you make the most of your health data. At Evidation, we've got you covered. Download the Evidation app today and get started with making your health data work for you.