We are failing girls and women with ADHD. Research and clinical practices are built around male presentations of ADHD, and science has historically paid little attention to female manifestations and impairments. As a result, many girls and women still battle to receive a proper referral, diagnosis, and treatment – and face dire consequences when these medical rights are denied. To the right these gender wrongs, it’s time to seriously rethink how ADHD is assessed, diagnosed, and treated.
ADHD in Women and Girls Is Still Inadequately Understood
For too many years, women with ADHD have been routinely dismissed, disregarded, and misdiagnosed when they pursue evaluations and diagnoses for impairments like distractibility, executive dysfunction, and emotional dysregulation. Despite a growing canon of research on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) in girls and women, many clinicians continue to get it wrong — misattributing symptoms of ADHD in females to anxiety, mood disorder, or even hormones.
Partially to blame is clinical and research bias that has long centred and overvalued male presentations of ADHD. When women present non-conforming symptoms of ADHD – which we know is a highly impairing and stigmatised disorder in females – those symptoms are often not recognised or treated correctly, with severe consequences.
Empirical evidence on female manifestations of ADHD – including findings on self-harm, peer relationships, trauma, and more – reveals crucial aspects of the condition that are as devastating as under-appreciated. Along with recognising public sex and gender differences, these factors must inform this group’s future research practices and clinical approaches.1
The bottom line is that our approach to ADHD in women and girls has been broken for too long. We must challenge everything we know about the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of ADHD today to fix it.