Many Women are Never Diagnosed for ADHD: Different than for Men

Many Women are Never Diagnosed for ADHD: Different than for Men

ADHD Girls are closing one gender gap we don’t want: diagnoses of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Between 2003 and 2011, parents reported an increase of ADHD diagnoses of 55% for girls. Compare this to 40% for boys, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

And yet misdiagnosis continues in spades for girls, with alarming consequences. Dr. Ellen Littman, clinical psychologist and co-author of Understanding Girls with AD/HD, tells Quartz. “The outcomes for girls are horrendously negative compared to boys,” she says.

ADHD materializes dramatically differently in girls.

“Anxiety and depression turn into low self-esteem and self-loathing. The risk for self-harm and suicide attempts is four-to-five times that of girls without ADHD,” 2012 research shows.

“This is not about having trouble with their homework,” Littman says.

Unlike boys, many of whom show hyperactivity, girls’ symptoms veer more toward inattentiveness and disorganization. Girls tend to develop ADHD later than boys. They also frequently mask it in an attempt to conform to society’s expectation that they show organization. And while some ADHD symptoms can become less intense for boys after they pass through puberty, for many girls, it gets worse.

“I think we have a lost generation of women who are diagnosed with ADHD later in life, who have had to manage the condition on their own and deal with it on their own for the majority of their lives,” Michelle Frank, a clinical psychologist and ADHD expert, tells Quartz. “The diagnosis is a blessing and a curse: it’s a great relief, but they wonder what could have been different if they had only known.”

ADHD is harder to recognize in girls

In Understanding Girls with AD/HD, Littman and her co-authors explain that ADHD was first diagnosed in young, white boys, with a key indicator being hyperactivity.

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