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The Hidden Struggles of Women With Inattentive ADHD

Updated: Apr 7

✎ Written by: Dubravka Rebic

Your mom, friend, sister, or colleague might feel bad about themselves right now but have no idea what the reason is behind those insecurities.

Maybe this morning they forgot to reply to an important email or pick their clothes up off the floor. And they probably feel ashamed because they believe the people in their circle who tell them they're lazy, erratic, or have some kind of severe character flaw. But what many girls and women don't realize is that their behaviors might result from struggling with undiagnosed inattentive ADHD symptoms.

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a neuro-behavioral disorder characterized by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity. During their lifetime, 13% of men will be diagnosed with ADHD whereas just 4.2% of women will be diagnosed.

This is not because more men have ADHD than women; the reason behind these statistics is that so many women go undiagnosed due to a combination of factors, such as diagnostic criteria that are based on observations of men as well as a lack of understanding of symptoms in women.

Let's go over some common experiences of women with ADHD and the unique struggles they face.

1. Women Tend to Be More Inattentive Than Hyperactive

​​There are three types of ADHD: hyperactive/impulsive type, inattentive type, and combined type. And even though the symptoms can vary by type, they are also not the same for every person and can present differently between genders.

For example, women and girls with ADHD are usually less hyperactive and more inattentive than boys and men with the disorder. They also tend to be less disruptive.

In girls, the inattentiveness may appear as frequent daydreaming, difficulty processing information or following directions, and being easily distracted, forgetful, and introverted.

When a girl with ADHD does have hyperactive type, her behaviors may often look very different than they do in a boy with hyperactive type. For instance, a girl may be hyperverbal or hyperreactive (crying often or slamming doors) – behaviors one may not typically think of as being associated with ADHD.

And because these symptoms don't look like “typical” ADHD symptoms, they're often dismissed, which may result in women and girls being blamed for their mood swings or for being too distracted.

As a result, rather than question their behavior as being caused by something more serious or receiving a proper diagnosis, they’re subject to harsh criticism or rejection. For years, their ADHD can go undiagnosed and, even though their symptoms won’t hinder them from living a functional life for years to come, they can potentially lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.

2. Hormones Can Influence ADHD Symptoms in Girls and Women

Studies have shown that for most women and girls, the sever