Why are so many women struggling with ADHD?

Why have so many women had their ADHD missed or misdiagnosed?

Women may tend to display more inattentive traits than hyperactive ones, which is one of the reasons they often go without the recognition or support they need. Because these symptoms of ADHD are often less obvious or ‘loud’, women with ADHD frequently fly under the radar or are misdiagnosed with other issues like anxiety and depression.

Many women with ADHD have faced long journeys with their mental health and may have explored medications for anxiety and depression with mixed or poor results. The issue is that these disorders are usually present in addition to, not instead of, ADHD. Often, depression or anxiety is even a direct result of living in a world that doesn’t understand or accept them for who they are.

The additional social pressures on women to behave nicely, fit in, and not make a fuss also play a role. Girls and women suffering from unexplained challenges with cognition and focus are often more skilled at developing coping strategies than boys and men. They can be excellent at ‘masking’ their symptoms.

Sadly, when women are eventually diagnosed, they face even further challenges. They may grieve for their younger selves, who deserved more understanding and support. They also face frequent stigma, shame, and gaslighting from people around them who insist they couldn’t have ADHD or imply that they are using the diagnosis as an excuse.

People misunderstand that while someone may have been able to act neurotypical or ‘normal’ for many years, this performance came at an excruciating cost and ravaged their self-esteem, ability to form meaningful relationships, and their mental and physical health.

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If someone trusts you enough to share their ADHD diagnosis with you, resist the temptation to dismiss the information or reject the idea because it is incongruent with your beliefs of who they are.

You should also avoid giving them the ‘compliment’ of saying, “I would never have known,” or “you don’t look like you have ADHD!”. While well-intended, this response can feel invalidating and imply that the less obvious their ADHD, the better, further ingraining the idea that it is something to feel ashamed of or hide.