ADHD in women is often missed and goes undiagnosed from an early age. When ADHD goes untreated for years women can develop anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. 

ADHD in women is often missed and goes undiagnosed from an early age.

Women with untreated ADHD often find ways to hide their struggles well. But in silence, they feel ashamed and suffer from low self-esteem. They find it difficult to make lasting social connections and feel frustrated when things don’t go according to plan.  

MISSED DIAGNOSIS 

ADHD in women is often missed and goes undiagnosed from an early age. The ratio of boys to girls diagnosed with ADHD is high – nine boys are diagnosed for every one girl. This is because ADHD presents itself differently in boys than it does in girls.   

Boys with ADHD are traditionally known for hyperactivity and disruptive behaviour. These symptoms are more ‘outward’ and are noticed by parents and teachers more easily, which leads to ADHD being diagnosed and treated.   

In girls, the symptoms of ADHD typically aren’t as disruptive. They’re often quiet daydreamers, who keep to themselves, which is seen as less problematic. As such, they fly under the radar at school and the ADHD is left undiagnosed and untreated. But the impact in later life is substantial – when ADHD goes untreated for years women can develop anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, along with the condition itself.  

SOCIETAL PRESSURE  

It may be societal expectations that make life with ADHD so challenging for women, which leads to feelings of inadequacy. Women are traditionally expected to be organisers, planners, and multi-taskers. They’re often expected to keep track of important dates and school events and facilitate day-to-day household tasks. This can be all the more difficult for women with ADHD, who might struggle to prioritise, plan ahead, and focus on one task at a time.   

Their inability to achieve academically, provide support for their partner and children, and maintain a healthy schedule means they constantly feel judged, disorganised, and scattered.  

The price of being unable to perform is often low self-esteem, which in turn can result in other complications. Women with ADHD show higher rates of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, all of which can precipitate negative self-image.   

Divorce and unemployment are also more prevalent in women with undiagnosed ADHD, which can be either the cause or effect of low self-esteem.   

Encourage patients who report any of these symptoms and are depressed or anxious about not having their life together to see a doctor determine if it could be ADHD. Explain that accurate diagnosis along with an effective treatment plan will alleviate symptoms and allow them to better manage their life.  

BOOST SELF-ESTEEM  

Low self-esteem, although a significant psychological challenge, can be improved. Reassure your patient that once they’ve consulted their doctor and decided on an effective treatment plan, they can start the journey to improving their self-esteem.  

4 tips you can give your patient: 

  • Replace negative self-talk with positive. 
  • Set small, achievable goals and reward yourself for completing tasks. 
  • Reduce unnecessary commitments and stress and negotiate with colleagues, friends, or your partner to assist with tasks, and find room to work the way you need to. 
  • Seek out professional psychological help if need be. 

The diagnosis of ADHD, at any stage of life, might come as a welcome relief for your patient. It might help explain the many struggles experienced throughout their life – in work, relationships, and negative self-image. And with an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment, the symptoms can be effectively managed for a more organised, peaceful, and happier future.