fbpx
Skip to content

Why ADHD Diagnosis in Women Is Still a Challenge

Research has found that the prevalence of ADHD is two to nine times higher in boys than girls. By adulthood, the prevalance between the genders evens out a bit, with 5.4% of men and 3.2% of women being diagnosed with ADHD. Even so, diagnosis of girls and women with ADHD is still a challenge. There are a number of reasons for this, including the way women and girls present with this disorder and how they employ compensatory behaviors. Providers also have gaps in their knowledge about the ways that gender affects ADHD.

Specific Symptoms and Comorbidities

One challenge with ADHD diagnosis for women and girls is that they often present with different symptoms than men and boys. They are more likely to have symptoms that they internalize, including attention deficits, anxiety, and depression. Men and boys are more likely to have externalized symptoms like poor impulse control or being hyperactive.

Comorbidities (conditions that are more likely to occur in the presence of other conditions) can also make diagnosis more difficult. In a review of 18 other studies, researchers found that, when compared to girls without ADHD, girls with an ADHD diagnosis were 9.4 times as likely to also have a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and 5.6 times more likely to have a conduct disorder (CD). ODD is defined as hostile or defiant behavior towards those in authority. CD is defined as behavior that violates others’ rights or rules or norms in society.

Compensatory Behaviors

Women and girls often develop better ways to cope with the challenges of ADHD than their male counterparts. However, this can often mean that it is easier to overlook or underestimate the impact of ADHD on their lives. One of the mechanisms that women with ADHD can choose is perfectionism; this helps them cope with feelings of inadequacy or of not being in control of one’s life. But experts consider it maladaptive — because it can cause or exacerbate the anxiety that is already prevalent in the woman or girl.

Gaps in Provider Knowledge

Another part of the challenge of diagnosing women and girls is a lack of provider knowledge. Andrea Lynch, a researcher with the National University of Ireland, has noted that “one of the most significant knowledge gaps related to ADHD is in the area of gender.” This is partly because so much of the research done on this disorder has been exclusively on male subjects. Even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which defines and classifies mental health disorders, has itself has been criticized in regards to the criteria it has set up for ADHD diagnosis, since these have been developed from large studies of mostly school-aged males.

It is important, then, for women and girls — as well as their families — to understand that ADHD does look different depending on gender. And to understand that several factors (including how females present, the ways they cope, and lack of knowledge on the part of providers) can make getting a formal diagnosis more challenging.

Sources:

The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders

Pediatrics

Psychological Medicine

Journal of Attention Disorders

Women’s Therapy Institute blogpost

Behavioral Therapy

  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Missouri
  • Texas
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

Medical Treatment

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio Oregon
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina*
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Assessments

Assessment services are available in all 50 states.

Assessment and Treatment Plan Development & Implementation**

The patient completes our asynchronous assessment and receives the report from a doctorate-level psychologist within 3-5 days.

The patient schedules an initial appointment with one of our providers to develop a treatment plan through a secure virtual appointment.

The patient schedules subsequent follow-up visits with our providers for ADHD medical treatment or behavioral therapy.

**If available in your state

Assessment and
Treatment Plan Development**

The patient completes our asynchronous assessment and receives the report from a doctorate-level psychologist within 3-5 days.

The patient schedules an initial appointment with one of our providers to develop a treatment plan through a secure virtual appointment. We provide you and your patient with a copy of our full report. You take it from there.

**If available in your state

Assessment

The patient completes our asynchronous assessment and receives the report from a doctorate-level psychologist within 3-5 days.

We provide you and your patient with a copy of our full report. You take it from there.

Assessments available in:

All 50 states

Medical Treatment available in:

Arizona
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky

Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina

Ohio
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina*
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
Wisconsin

Teletherapy available in:

Florida
Georgia
Indiana
Michigan
Missouri
New Jersey

Ohio
Pennsylvania
Texas
Tennessee
Virginia

*Prescriptions via telemedicine for Schedule II (stimulants) medications are not permitted by state law in South Carolina. Patients can receive prescriptions from our providers for non-stimulant medications.

south carolina

*South Carolina allows for the prescribing of non-stimulant medications through telemedicine visits. Please contact our support team to learn more about state regulations of stimulant medications and how we can help.