Suffering in Silence: Women and ADHD

When most people hear the term "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD), it conjures images of children, usually boys. And there's some data to support that: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, experts estimate that, of the 3 to 5 percent of school-age children affected by ADHD, the majority of them are boys.

But ADHD also affects adults, and more and more females are being identified as having it. Many adults are unaware that they have the disorder—they often just feel that they're failures when it comes to getting organized, keeping a job, or staying on schedule.

It's not always easy to diagnose ADHD in adults, but a correct diagnosis may bring a sense of relief. Many ADHD adults have shown signs of the disease since childhood but were never diagnosed.

Women's challenges

Women with ADHD may face special challenges in being accurately diagnosed. Medical professionals are more accustomed to seeing males with ADHD and might incorrectly diagnose female sufferers as having depression.


Outward expressions of ADHD symptoms may also be different in women, due to cultural norms and expectations. Women in general are apt to suppress signs of aggression or hyperactivity, so symptoms may be masked. Also, many women are hesitant to come across as complainers, so they may suffer in silence instead of voicing their concerns.

Diagnosis of ADHD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an adult must have childhood-onset, persistent, and current symptoms to be diagnosed with ADHD. A diagnosis of adult ADHD should be made by a medical professional with expertise in the area of attention dysfunction.


For an accurate diagnosis, a history of the patient's childhood behavior, together with an interview with his or her life partner, a parent, close friend, or other close associate, will be needed. A physical examination and psychological tests should also be given.

Treatment options

As with children, adults who have ADHD may start treatment with medication or antidepressants. Education and psychotherapy have also been shown to be successful in treating adult ADHD. Discuss the options with your doctor to determine the best choice for you.