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Understanding ADHD in Women

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was once thought to primarily affect men. In fact, CDC figures show boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls at 13% compared to 6%.

Before we explore that gap in diagnoses, let’s look at the three types of ADHD:

  • Inattentive type: getting distracted, having poor concentration and organizational skills
  • Hyperactive-impulsive type: trouble slowing down, talking and fidgeting, difficulties staying on task and interruptive, taking risks
  • Combination type: exhibits both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive type behaviors


An ADHD diagnosis requires the following:

  • Patient must experience at least six of the nine major symptoms that are categorized under a specific type of ADHD
  • A combination ADHD diagnosis must show at least six symptoms of inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior
  • There must be at least six months of present and disruptive behavior to everyday life in order to be diagnosed


Historically, males tend to have a hyperactive/impulsive form of ADHD. This form can be characterized by mood swings and being fidgety, disruptive, restless, talkative, impatient and impulsive.

Symptoms in women, on the other hand, are attributed to inattentive ADHD. These symptoms include difficulty focusing and paying attention to details. Plus, women with ADHD tend to have trouble staying organized, listening and remembering things. Another thing to consider is the effect of hormones. For women, changes in estrogen levels, pregnancy or going through menopause can increase ADHD symptoms.

At first glance, these symptom types aren’t as obvious compared to the hyperactive/impulsive form typically associated with male diagnoses. It could help explain the gap in ADHD diagnoses. For decades, girls who grew up showing symptoms of ADHD found themselves being labeled as “spacey” or “disorganized.” So, instead of being diagnosed and receiving treatment, many girls suffer self-esteem and academic issues that extend into adulthood.

Undiagnosed ADHD in women can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders and difficulty maintaining relationships. That’s why it’s so important for early detection and treatment.


Support is here

Millions of Americans live with ADHD, and potentially millions more are undiagnosed—many of whom are women. If you or someone you know is struggling with ADHD symptoms or are affected by mental health issues, help is never far away.

With FEP, you can find support for your mental health and well-being. Get access to a variety of experienced mental health professionals. Plus, you can access myStrength by Livongo®, which is a self-guided mental wellness program designed to help with everyday stressors. Facing life’s challenges shouldn’t be a solo mission. We’re here to help.




Published on: January 26, 2023