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Women and ADHD

How ADHD typically affects women, and how to cope with it.

Later Diagnosis

Women's ADHD sometimes gets overlooked until college, when they begin to show a lack of self-regulation and self-management, Rostain says.

“Risks for them include things like being influenced by a sorority or the recreational drug scene,” he says. “And they are not as wild as the guys [with ADHD], but compared to other girls, they are more risk-taking.”

The underlying mechanisms of ADHD are the same in males and females. Both have difficulties with planning, organization, recalling details, and paying attention.

But how ADHD plays out in symptoms is where the gender differences often lie. And the reason for that is likely social.

Because inattention is much more subtle than hyperactivity, this may be why boys are almost three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. By the time they reach adulthood however, that gap shrinks to two to one. This is likely because girls are often diagnosed later in life, compared to boys.

Girls may "slip through the cracks" and get diagnosed later, Walfish says, because they may be able to cover up their ADHD symptoms.

Women With ADHD: When Life Overwhelms

For women, responsibilities including family and work can make it difficult to cover up or manage ADHD. But there are some things women can do to cope with life's demands.

Nadeau recommends making sure family and friends understand ADHD so they will be more supportive and have realistic expectations. Women should also simplify wherever possible: Reduce unnecessary stresses and commitments and negotiate with their family and partner to take over tasks that challenge them most.

It may also help to hire a professional organizer or work with a coach to develop good organizational habits and systems. One of things Sarkis recommends is hiring an assistant who can come in for 6 to 8 hours a week to do light cleaning, go through papers, and help organize things.

“I have people tell me that it will be too expensive, and it may be, but people with ADHD can’t afford not to have help,” Sarkis says.

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Reviewed on September 23, 2013

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