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ADHD in women vs men

ADHD in Women vs Men

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Many people mistakenly believe that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, only affects adolescent boys. The truth is that people of all ages and genders can develop this mental health condition. In addition to expanding awareness of ADHD among adults, mental health professionals are also continuing to improve the public’s understanding of ADHD in women vs. men. 

Statistics of ADHD

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has provided the following statistics about the prevalence of ADHD among various demographic groups in the United States:

  • Experts estimate that the lifetime prevalence of ADHD among U.S. adults is 8.1%.
  • About 4.4% of U.S. adults currently have ADHD. Given the nation’s current adult population of about 257 million, this means that about 11.3 million Americans ages 18 and above are experiencing symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
  • ADHD affects 4.5% of adults aged 18-24, 3.8% of those aged 25-34, and 4.6% of people aged 35-44.
  • The prevalence of diagnosed ADHD is higher among men (5.4%) than among women (3.2%). This is a smaller gender gap than among adolescents. 13% of boys and 4.2% of girls aged 12-17 have received an ADHD diagnosis.

As these statistics indicate, one important difference when looking at ADHD in women vs. men is that girls and women are diagnosed with this disorder much less frequently than boys and men are. 

Does this mean that ADHD actually occurs more often among males than among females? Or, could other factors account for this diagnostic discrepancy? We’ll discuss that and other features of ADHD in women vs. men in the next few sections.

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About ADHD in Women vs. Men

A December 2019 study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience suggests that differing rates of ADHD among males and females are the result of differences in symptoms:

  • Boys, the researchers report, are more likely to have externalized ADHD symptoms such as restlessness, aggressiveness, and an inability to follow rules.
  • Girls, they wrote, have a greater likelihood of struggling with internalized symptoms such as inattentiveness. 

“Females with ADHD may be more easily missed in the ADHD diagnostic process and less likely to be prescribed medication unless they have prominent externalizing problems,” the researchers wrote. 

The team also observed that girls and women do a better job of masking symptoms than boys and men do. More efficient coping strategies means that school-aged girls with ADHD may perform at a higher academic level than boys who have the disorder do, which makes the girls less likely to be referred for assessment.

In October 2020, the open-access, peer reviewed journal PLOS One published a study of gender differences in cognitive functioning among adults who have ADHD. This study involved 69 people (41 men and 28 women) who were receiving outpatient care for ADHD at University Hospital Leipzig (Germany). 

Here’s a quick summary of what this research team found about ADHD in women vs. men:

  • Men and women were equally capable of self-assessing their symptoms.
  • The percentage of smokers was higher among women with ADHD than among men.
  • Men were more likely than women to have experienced ADHD symptoms during childhood. The severity of childhood symptoms was also greater among men than among women.
  • Men with ADHD were more likely than women to have received medical treatment, including methylphenidate and antidepressants.
  • Women with ADHD scored lower than men on tests involving reaction time and working memory.
  • Men with ADHD scored better than women on the Go/No Go test, which assesses impulse control. The researchers noted that when this test is given to people who do not have ADHD, women typically outperform men.

Is Treating ADHD Different for Men & Women?

In general, treatment for ADHD in women and men is basically the same. Of course, all treatment should be customized to meet the specific needs of the individual, so there may be variations in care from one person to the next.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder treatment typically involves medication and therapy. Adderall, Ritalin, and other medications that are incorporated into ADHD treatment can alleviate some symptoms, while therapy can help people learn to manage remaining symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely considered to be one of the best methods for helping people who have ADHD. CBT is based on the belief that self-defeating behaviors are the result of maladaptive thought patterns. 

Common negative ways of thinking among people with ADHD include:

  • Exaggerating failures and minimizing successes
  • Predicting that events will turn out badly
  • Believing that a task must be done perfectly or not at all
  • Interpreting one negative experience as evidence of a pattern
  • Unfairly comparing themselves to others

During CBT sessions, patients learn how to identify these and other negative thoughts. Following that, they then replace them with more positive ways of viewing themselves and the world around them. This, in turn, can lead to the adoption of healthier behavior patterns.

Contact Our ADHD Treatment Center in Los Angeles Today

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or another mental health concern, we are here for you. Our ADHD treatment center in Los Angeles, California, offers personalized inpatient and outpatient programming. In addition, we offer specialized services for young adults, college students, women, and veterans. 

With the help of our team of dedicated professionals, you can learn how to manage your ADHD symptoms and take greater control of your thoughts and behaviors. To learn more how we can help you, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.