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ADHD in Women: Symptoms and Management Tips

June 10, 2024
Written By: Hero Journey Club

Millions of people deal with ADHD across the gender spectrum. However, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is twice as commonly diagnosed in young boys as in young girls. Even so, current research shows us a closing gap between the number of adult men and adult women with ADHD. That might mean the disorder isn’t always as obvious to girls and their parents until they get older. 

If you’re reading this as a woman and wondering if you might have ADHD, we’re here to help. Below is a quick guide to the unique ways ADHD manifests in women. We’ve also gathered some supportive resources that can help you navigate life with ADHD confidently, including gaming-based support groups through Hero Journey Club.

How Does ADHD Manifest in Women? 

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. While trouble focusing and constant restlessness are the symptoms you might hear about the most, they’re far from the only struggles that women with ADHD face. Other symptoms include issues with time management, disorganization, trouble listening, mood swings, irritability, and more.

While these symptoms often appear to some degree for all folks with ADHD, women often struggle in unique ways. Daily life for a woman with ADHD may include:

  • Silent or Internalized Hyperactivity: Hyperactivity is one of the most widely-known and recognized ADHD symptoms, but it may look different for women and girls. Factors like societal pressure, expectations from friends and family, and more can make a woman internalize her restlessness and hyperactivity, making it difficult for others to see this symptom of adult ADHD and provide help and support. For this reason, many women feel like they’re dealing with ADHD on their own.
  • Hormonal Fluctuations Impacting Symptoms: Research tells us that hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, menstrual cycles, menopause, and other life milestones can bring out symptoms like forgetfulness, impulsivity, and inattention even more. This is one of the key areas where we see differences in sexes when it comes to ADHD. 
  • Predominance of Inattentive Symptoms: The inattentive subtype of ADHD is more common for girls and women than for boys and men. This means that ADHD in women may go undiagnosed, as the inattentive type is less obvious in many cases.
  • High Sensitivity to External Stimuli: ADHD is sometimes misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed in women because of the impact of external stimuli. Women with ADHD may be especially sensitive to noises, textures, smells, and other sensations, which can cause female ADHD to mimic autism spectrum disorders and other mental health conditions.

In addition to the points listed above, some women with ADHD feel the need to overcompensate by disguising and internalizing their symptoms, which can lead to burnout. 

Unfortunately, many women deal with undiagnosed ADHD because the condition isn’t always as easily recognized as it is in men.

Why Is ADHD in Women Often Misdiagnosed or Overlooked? 

It’s no exaggeration to say that society and the clinical world both have biases when it comes to the symptoms of ADHD as they appear in women. Healthcare providers, friends, and family might not notice the symptoms of ADHD as readily in a woman as they might in a man. 

Because ADHD symptoms often get overlooked in women, misdiagnosis or a late diagnosis of ADHD are both extremely common. In some cases, a woman’s ADHD may be mistaken for an anxiety disorder, depression, or another condition due to a possible gender bias in clinical settings. 

Getting an accurate diagnosis and access to care and treatment options can be life-changing for a woman, which is why it’s so vital to get rid of the negative stigma and bias in both culture and the professional setting. 

What Are the Traditional Therapeutic Approaches for Managing ADHD in Women? 

Treating ADHD often involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, potential hormonal treatments, psychoeducation, coaching, and more. Below, we’ll walk through each of these treatment measures in brief.

Prescription ADHD Medication

Antidepressants, stimulant medications, and non-stimulant drugs are all used to treat ADHD in some cases. Some of the most commonly prescribed meds in these categories are Adderall, Wellbutrin, Vynase, and Focalin. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Therapy plays a key role in successful ADHD treatment in many cases. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help a woman address symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity while building up resilience and setting new goals.

Hormonal Treatments

If menstrual cycles or menopause affect a woman’s ADHD symptoms, a clinician might recommend hormonal treatments like birth control. 

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation can better equip women to understand themselves, their ADHD symptoms, and mental health care in general. It combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and education.

Coaching

Personal coaching can help women with ADHD complete tasks, manage time, and move forward in aspects of life like career, family, and romantic relationships. 

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback uses real-time data to help people with ADHD improve their ability to focus and reduce oversensitivity to stimuli. 

What Are Practical Management Tips for Women with ADHD? 

Below are a few of the top coping strategies recommended by mental health professionals for women with ADHD.

Implement Structure and Routine

Planning, following a routine, and adding more structure to your day can help you fight distractibility and better manage your time.

Prioritize Physical Health 

Taking good care of yourself through exercise, sleep, and nutrition can give you a healthy outlet for your hyperactivity and help you manage ADHD symptoms in general. 

Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Finding ways to slow down, relax, and be mindful can help you learn how to center your body and mind, making you less vulnerable to distraction. 

Seek Social Support Groups

You’re not alone in your struggles with ADHD! Consider joining a virtual support group, which can connect you with other ADHD-diagnosed women and give you weekly encouragement and connection.

Break Tasks Into Manageable Parts

When a task feels too overwhelming to take on, try breaking it up into smaller sections and completing them one at a time. This approach to productivity can be especially helpful if you struggle with motivation and time management. 

Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself — living with ADHD is an ongoing journey. When you catch yourself fidgeting or daydreaming, use it as an opportunity to gently ground yourself instead of feeling frustrated or ashamed.

How Can Hero Journey Club Support Women with ADHD? 

We use evidence-based techniques to support women with ADHD in a truly one-of-a-kind way. Our therapist-led support groups meet weekly within video games like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, giving you a safe space to connect with others who share your struggles. 

Why meet up within a video game? We take this approach based on over 50 peer-reviewed articles that support the use of gaming as a healthy outlet and source of personal growth. In addition, gaming while working through difficult aspects of life can be especially helpful for ADHD — it gives your mind something constructive to engage with as you process.

It’s important to mention that while professional therapists lead Hero Journey Club’s support groups, our team cannot diagnose you with ADHD. Use HJC as a complement to your appointments with a psychiatrist and therapist for the best combination of care.

Final Thoughts: Empowering Women to Navigate ADHD Successfully

Women often struggle with symptoms of ADHD without the help and support they need. That’s why it’s so important to shift the stigma and gender bias related to women with ADHD to open the door for equal representation of all folks affected by this condition. 

If you think you have ADHD based on what you’ve just read, we can’t recommend a formal evaluation and professional treatment. A psychiatrist and therapist can help you start your journey, equipping you with all the tools you need to manage your symptoms and take back control of your life. 

In addition to psychiatry and therapy, joining a weekly support group through Hero Journey Club can help you connect with other women who are on the same journey as you. Within the virtual world of a game like Minecraft or Stardew Valley, you have the freedom to be creative, build new relationships, and grow as a person. 

Join Hero Journey Club today to get started!

Sources:

Women and Girls | CHADD

Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD | CDC

ADHD and Hormonal Changes in Women | Healthline

Physical exercise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – evidence and implications for the treatment of borderline personality disorder | PMC