Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition that can affect adults if it is not diagnosed or treated as a child. Although it is the same condition in men and women, it often appears differently and affects different areas of their lives. Because of how ADHD presents in women, this can often lead to misdiagnoses, which delays the correct and most effective treatment.
It is important to understand the effects of the prescriptions you are given based on your gender. You may want to ask all the right questions before proceeding to take medication for ADHD. Questions like how long can you take adderall? Does it present any side effects? How does it function on a person with allergies? Does it affect one gender differently from the other? If you understand the gender differences, you may be able to better self diagnose ADHD and seek help sooner.
Differences Between Men and Women With ADHD
There are subtypes of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: inattentiveness, hyperactivity/impulsivity, and combined. In general, women have more inattentive symptoms, while men tend to be more hyperactive and impulsive.
Common symptoms found in men with ADHD include:
Inability to maintain focus on one task
• Frequent fidgeting and difficulty staying still
• Interrupting people or talking too much
• Disruptive behaviors
• Regularly losing things
• Trouble completing tasks
Men also tend to have additional disorders along with ADHD. These are often externalized, such as misconduct disorders, substance misuse, and antisocial personality disorders.
Typical ADHD symptoms in women include:
- Spacing out during conversations
- Feelings of shame and guilt and excessive crying
Hormonal changes often worsen ADHD symptoms in women. It is also common for women to have existing disorders that are internalized, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Potential Barriers for Women With ADHD
Because the typical ADHD symptoms for women are more internalized, it can make it more difficult for them to get a proper diagnosis. Oftentimes, a doctor will give a primary diagnosis like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or personality disorders.
As a result, the diagnosis process for women, and adults in general, should be more thorough. Different factors, such as trauma, comorbidities, medication, and medical conditions, make obtaining a correct diagnosis more complex and difficult.
Unfortunately, the associated symptoms of ADHD in women, such as low self-esteem, codependency, intense emotional reactions, and perfectionism, make it less likely that a woman will be completely honest and forthcoming about all symptoms.
Treatment for ADHD
Once a proper diagnosis is reached, you and your doctor can figure out the best treatment plan. Medication is often recommended, but the prescription drugs all have side effects, and some of them are dangerous. If you think that medication is an option, there are safer ADHD medications for adults that target specific receptors in the brain and do not have side effects.
Therapy and life changes are also effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common type of therapy for both men and women, as it helps:
- Regulate emotions
- Reduce impulsive behaviors
- Manage time
- Improve planning and organization
- Manage stress
If men struggle with anger issues, anger management may be beneficial. Psychoeducation is another form of therapy that helps you understand ADHD better and clarifies untruths and myths about it.
There is also a variety of skills training and coaching that address specific characteristics of ADHD, such as shyness. Another treatment option, although not as common, is neurostimulation.