Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment of ADHD in Children
ADHD in Women — Special Issues
Although fewer females are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD than males, women with this disorder face special problems.
By Gina Roberts-Grey
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For decades, the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) spotlight has focused on kids and men, but women with the disorder are beginning to gain more attention.
According to one Harvard study, roughly 4.4 percent of adults have ADHD — and about 40 percent of those people are women. Yet many women with ADHD are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Ari Tuckman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in West Chester, Pennsylvania, says this disparity may be due to a public misconception: Even though ADHD affects both males and females, many people think it occurs mostly in boys and men. Therefore, fewer women than men seek help for ADD/ADHD symptoms, and doctors are less likely to suspect that female patients have the disorder. The resulting missed diagnoses increase the chances that a woman with ADHD may develop one or more of the related conditions listed below.
Anxiety and depression."Females are often initially diagnosed with anxiety or depression instead of ADHD," Dr. Tuckman says. Although women may indeed have anxiety and depression, research has found that ADD/ADHD may be at the root of many of these problems. "Women's ADHD symptoms contribute to their becoming anxious and depressed," Tuckman notes. "And, if the correct diagnosis of ADHD is missed, they only partially benefit from treatment for the anxiety and depression."
Obesity and eating disorders.Research has linked women with ADHD to an increased chance of being overweight or having an eating disorder. "This makes sense, since organization and concentration are required to eat a healthy diet and work out regularly," says Tuckman." By contrast, scattered women with ADHD are more likely to grab quick meals, overeat, or look to food to provide comfort from their ADHD symptoms."
Addictions.Some research has found women with ADHD to be at risk for drug or alcohol abuse or other harmful addictions. "Habit-forming, impulse-related behaviors, such as gambling or shopping addictions, also often have a strong association with ADHD," says Tuckman.
Getting Help for ADHD
If you suspect that your ADHD is leading you down a harmful path, Tuckman suggests consulting a therapist, psychiatrist, and/or life coach. "Just make sure to consult someone who has experience treating adult ADHD and the unique issues faced by women with ADHD," he notes. The right therapist can devise an ADHD-specific cognitive-behavioral treatment plan that focuses on such issues as self-esteem, interpersonal and family problems, daily health habits, stress levels, and life-management skills. "This type of treatment combines therapy that focuses on psychological issues of ADHD, like self-esteem and self-blame, with rehabilitative tools that guide women away from destructive behaviors like overeating or alcohol abuse," Tuckman adds.
Joining a support group for women with ADHD is also helpful. "Talking with women who know firsthand how impulses can affect your life is a healthy outlet for frustration," says Tuckman. has several links to resources available for women with ADHD.
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