Sir Alexander Crichton first mentioned what would later be called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 1798. And in true patriarchal fashion, it took “only” 224 years for women to enter the conversation. Those two centuries ago, female diagnoses were widely misunderstood — or missed entirely.
In the past few years, there has been a sharp increase in adult women diagnosed with ADHD. But women in their 30s and older didn’t magically develop the disorder overnight. It was there the whole time, hidden in plain sight.
Indeed, ADHD symptoms and treatments originated in a male-dominated medical world. And unfortunately, this male-centered approach has so far replaced the efficacy and accuracy of women’s health.
The Rise of ADHD Cases Across America
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association is a non-profit group that helps adults manage their ADHD symptoms. The membership of the organization doubled between 2019 and 2021. Although this may have been an attempt to reduce pandemic isolation, a study published in jama network open suggests otherwise.
the study found that annual adult ADHD diagnoses increased by 43% between 2007 and 2016. even more amazing data from CDC Which shows a 344% increase in women between the ages of 15 and 41 who filled ADHD drug prescriptions from 2003 to 2015.
Despite the rise in the number of female diagnoses, statistics such as this from 2006 20 reported that ADHD was more prevalent in males (5.4%) than in females (3.2%). Today, we know that could not have happened – doctors were simply ignoring female symptoms.
How ADHD Affects the Brain
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the pre-frontal cortex and limbic system. As a result, people with ADHD struggle with attention, organization, memory, and emotional regulation. ADHD brains also have low levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter for dopamine (the “pleasure and reward” chemical).
There are three types of ADHD: hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, or a combination. Hyperactive-impulsive is the easiest to spot (think squirming, fidgeting, etc.) and is the most effective diagnosis for men. Inattentive ADHD is far more elusive and, you guessed it, is the most common form found in female patients.
With inattentive ADHD, the symptoms are often silent. They include struggle to concentrate, sensory overload, disorganization, memory problems, difficulty planning, and problems performing multiple tasks. Inattentive ADHD also makes it difficult to process information, especially when it is something uninteresting.
What Makes Female ADHD So Easier to Remember?
That’s the million-dollar, multiple-answer question. for starters, Women’s Intrinsic ADHD Symptoms It’s hard to notice. Even the way they express impulsivity, a more outward symptom, looks different. Impulsivity in female ADHD can seem like excessive talking, self-harming activities, unhealthy self-discipline and an inability to maintain healthy relationships.
Additionally, female ADHD patients often have psychotic disorders including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Doctors can first notice these symptoms and treat the comorbidity, not the ADHD. And while these comorbidities may be distinct from ADHD, they may also be a direct result of symptom suppression and over-compensation.
The society encourages women to be able to manage stress in a pleasant, flexible and judicious manner. As a result, women with ADHD try to fuel their low dopamine levels by overworking their symptoms, impulsively exaggerating their resources, or through food, sex, or substances.
Untreated ADHD worsens symptoms of anxiety, depression, and OCD. Female patients often have low self-esteem. They make friends quickly but struggle to keep them. In addition, they often have more volatile—sometimes abusive—romantic relationships.
Sexism Behind Missing Symptoms
The stereotype that ADHD affects boys more than girls And Societal expectation of more mature girls has caused women to go undiagnosed for decades. They tend to internalize them and suppress their symptoms as individual defects rather than an easily treatable and general disorder.
Such is the case with many aspects of women’s health, including perimenopause and menopause. And considering ADHD and low estrogen levels is straightforward are linkedIt is essential for women in middle age and beyond to seek appropriate treatment, whether medication, therapy, or both.
ADHD complicates some of the most complex, misunderstood concepts of well-being: mental well-being, trauma response, hormonal regulation, and environmental influences. Its symptoms have tangible, potentially harmful effects on people’s lives. Women should have the opportunity to receive accurate, effective diagnosis and treatment.
Women’s health has come a long way from a diagnosis of “hysteria” in the late 1800s to benzo prescriptions in the 1950s. But we still have to go further. ADHD is just one example of women’s health being overlooked, misdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
However, this sharp increase in ADHD diagnoses indicates progress. Medical professionals are starting to listen to and help their female patients. At the same time, women have started advocating for themselves and their health.
The sexist tradition of women suffering in silence is dying out. And we can’t wait to experience the female wellness boom that will take its place.