There is a widespread misconception that attention deficit disorder or ADD is a condition that only affects school-age boys. However, more than 5 million women suffer from ADD and recent evidence shows that the disorder is significantly under-diagnosed in girls and women 1. In part, this discrepancy stems from the fact that ADD symptoms tend to vary in males and females. As a result, girls with ADD may be overlooked by parents and teachers. Since ADD typically persists into adulthood, adult women are suffering longer before receiving an accurate diagnosis 1.
In all forms of ADD, the executive functions of the brain are affected. These include the brain functions involved in planning and focusing on a specific task. The executive functions are central to organizing thoughts, maintaining motivation and controlling impulsive behaviors. In general, ADD sufferers report feeling easily distracted, overwhelmed and confused by simple daily tasks.
Male and female ADD patients differ when it comes to the hyperactive subtype of ADD. Males are more likely to exhibit this form of ADD. At a young age, this might include calling out in the classroom, an inability to sit still and poor self-control. These types of disruptive behaviors are more likely to be noticed by parents and teachers. In contrast, the inattentive subtype of ADD is more common in females. Girls with ADD are also distracted in the classroom, but their lack of focus usually leads to daydreaming or socializing with other students. Teachers tend to label them as "spacey," without recognizing the underlying cause, according to the ADDitude website.
Symptoms in Women
Women with ADD may report feeling disorganized and incapable of focusing to achieve their goals 1. They are easily distracted and have trouble planning their time and prioritizing. This may cause them to be chronically late, miss important deadlines or fall behind on paying bills. Many women with ADD feel overwhelmed, and even routine tasks such as arriving at a job on time or helping children with homework become frustrating and challenging 1. Some women report depression and feelings of failure 1. Since ADD has a genetic component, many women become aware of their symptoms only after their child has been diagnosed with ADD, says ADDitude.com 1.
Women who suspect they might have adult ADD are encouraged to discuss their symptoms with their family doctor 1. There are no biochemical tests for the definitive diagnosis of ADD and instead doctors rely on an examination of the patient's behaviors. A simple questionnaire-based assessment will be used to help professionals make a diagnosis.
There are a variety of medications to treat ADD, and the majority of patients find a regimen that works well for their symptoms. Psychological counseling should also be a part of the initial treatment for all patients. Counselors can suggest lifestyle changes to help adults manage the impact of ADD on their daily lives. These might include strategies for improving focus, reducing distractions and clutter, and using organizational systems to remember job and household tasks. Many patients find a great deal of value in support groups and ADD coaches.
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images