Societal Expectations Impact Women with ADHD

When looking at both men and women with ADHD, the underlying mechanisms of adult ADHD are the same. Both men and women have difficulties with planning, organization, paying attention and in the ability to recall details. It is however important to look at how ADHD’s symptoms are tied to gender differences with reason for these differences to be tied to society expectations.

Male vs. Female with ADHD

When looking at children, boys are diagnosed almost three times as often as girls. Besides other outwardly observable behaviors typical of ADHD, inattention issues more commonly seen with females are more subtle than the typical hyperactivity behaviors of boys, allowing many girls to slip through the cracks for both diagnosis and treatment due to the societal expectations involved. In adulthood the ratio of men versus women being diagnosed drops from three times as often in childhood to two times as likely indicating that more women are diagnosed later in life.

Is it ADHD or Not?

In adulthood, men and women do exhibit different symptoms. Men with ADHD tend to have more episodes of anger and behavioral issues, car accidents, and substance abuse; women are more likely to see conflict at home where they may often feel overwhelmed. Evaluation by a qualified psychiatrist or mental health professional is critical as men typically have those similar issues in general without having ADHD. The same occurs for women – women with ADHD are more prone to having an eating disorder, having low self-esteem, depression and anxiety – however women in the general population experience these issues as well allowing societal expectations for these symptoms to appear “normal.”

Society Expectations

Society’s expectations for those women with ADHD makes them harder to achieve. In the U.S., women’s traditional social roles include being the organizer, planner, the one expected to remember birthdays, anniversaries, school events, the one who have primary responsibility for child care, household tasks including cooking, laundry and cleaning, grocery shopping which need to be accomplished in addition to work and child rearing. For a woman with ADHD trying to “manage it all” is almost impossible without proper diagnosis and treatment.

Later Diagnosis for Women with ADHD

If you feel overwhelmed, have difficulty pulling everything together and keeping it together, have episodes of depression, anxiety and feelings of not being “as good” as other women you know, give the office a call. You may have adult ADHD which can be successfully treated, allowing you to live your life more fully and more confidently.

About Darvin Hege

Dr. Darvin Hege, MD, PC, is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. He is an Emory Hospital residency trained psychiatrist who has been practicing psychiatry for more than 25 years. He maintains over 50 hours of AMA certified education each year to stay informed of advances in psychiatry.

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