A recent article in WebMD The Magazine pointed out a little known fact: girls are often not diagnosed with ADD ADHD until they reach their late teens and often not until they’ve reached adulthood. If you’ve done any research at all on the subject and looked for any celebrities who have tackled their symptoms and become successful, you can’t help but wonder why men outnumber women by a factor of greater than 3 to 1.
Why is that? Typical symptoms most recognized and associated with ADHD are hyperactivity and impulsiveness. A third symptom is inattentiveness, a trait that that does not take center stage with brash actions and easily noticeable behaviors.
Boys are diagnosed early on with hyperactivity and impulsiveness because their gender is expected to act in a certain way. When their actions become extreme it sends up a red flag and testing is usually done to find out why.
Girls are expected to be more demure, quiet, less imposing. Because girls are often stereotyped as behaving a certain way, inattentive symptoms are often overlooked. And these symptoms are often very subtle – dreaminess, forgetfulness, easily distracted and disorganized are typical indicators.
Fortunately, in recent years there has been more awareness of the inattentiveness subtype of ADD ADHD. Even though there is more awareness, there seems to be a reluctance to provide adequate treatment based on gender.
Christina Boufis at WebMD wrote, “…a recent Australian study found that even when parents and teachers acknowledged the disorder in girls, they were less likely to recommend getting extra assistance in the classroom because they believed it wouldn’t help them as much as it would boys.”
I can only hope this outlook is due to the available treatments for boys with the more prominently diagnosed hyperactivity-impulsiveness as opposed to inattentiveness and not a gender-related outlook.
But ADHD in girls shouldn’t be treated lightly. The sooner an ADHD diagnosis is made, the sooner girls can learn to adapt their skills. “The failure to recognize ADHD symptoms in girls probably results in significant undertreatment…it is not a trivial disorder for them, and they are equally in need of professional care,” said Patricia Quinn, M.D.
Whether a woman is diagnosed in her adolescence or as an adult, it’s important for her to realize that her “condition” shouldn’t be treated as an abnormality, but as an ability that needs to be learned about and channeled to better herself in her everyday life and in her profession.
Hopefully in years to come more women will take their place as successful entrepreneurs and professionals who have learned to adapt their amazing ADD ADHD abilities alongside people like Richard Branson, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Gates and Suzanne Somers.