How does ADHD present differently in women and girls?

adhd in women and girls

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is one of the most common neurological conditions diagnosed in children in the UK. It affects people’s behaviour, in particular, the parts of the brain that controls emotions, learning, self-control and memory. It is thought that around 1.8 million adults in the UK today are affected and there are often adults and children that are undiagnosed. 

ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders frequently coexist, and you often find that ADHD runs alongside another specific learning disorder, so starting a journey to find out if you or a loved one has ADHD can often result in more discoveries. There is also clinical research suggesting that ADHD is hereditary, so it is worth having a conversation with your mother or father to see if they have had a diagnosis in the past or whether they suspect they carry the traits above. 

Today, more and more women are getting tested and diagnosed for ADHD, many feeling they have struggled for years and want answers to their difficulties. The typical picture painted of a male with ADHD is rarely the same picture for women and girls, which can make it difficult to take those first steps into finding a clinic and gaining a diagnosis, leading to many women and girls becoming overlooked.

Let’s look a little bit further into the 3 main types of ADHD and the symptoms of these types and further on we will look at how these present differently in women and girls.

Types of ADHD and symptoms of each type

There are 3 main types of ADHD:

  •     Inattentiveness, which affects the ability to focus, concentrate and finish tasks
  •     Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness, which affects the control of behaviours, such as needing to move and talk constantly, not seeing able to sit still
  •     Combined, this is a mixture of both symptoms mentioned above.

Below are 9 symptoms of each ADHD type. To gain a diagnosis, you must exhibit at least 6 of the 9 symptoms from each list-

9 symptoms of Inattentive ADHD:

  •     Forgetfulness of daily activities e.g. appointments, paying bills, remembering school work.
  •     Easily distracted by other things and own thoughts.
  •     Misplacing and losing things often.
  •     Avoid engaging in difficult tasks that require a lot of mental effort for a long time.
  •     Difficulty with organising themselves, others and tasks and activities such as meeting deadlines, and time management.
  •     Difficulty finishing tasks and following instructions.
  •     Difficulty listening to and understanding instructions given.
  •     Finding it hard to sustain focus and attention over a long period.
  •     Difficulty working with details and often makes mistakes.


9 symptoms of Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD:

  •     Difficulty remaining still, often fidgeting.
  •     A feeling of constant restlessness.
  •     Talking excessively.
  •     Often interrupting conversations.
  •     Difficulty waiting their turn or waiting in line.
  •     Finding it hard to remain seated in work meetings or school classrooms.
  •     Not able to engage in social or leisure activities quietly.
  •     Finding it hard to remain still over a long period such as in work meetings or school assemblies.
  •     Often answers questions before they have been completed or finishes someone else’s sentence.

What does ADHD look like for women and girls?

It wasn’t so long ago that the typical picture painted of someone with ADHD was the “disruptive schoolboy, who couldn’t sit still or listen in class and ultimately ended up in punishment” and for many years it has been predominantly males diagnosed with ADHD, up to 3 times more diagnosed.

Many women present very different attributes than men, with inattentive ADHD being more common in women and girls than it is in men and boys, and this often leaves them feeling misunderstood. Some examples of how ADHD presents in women could be; the chatty one in social situations, often feeling shy but nervous pushes them to talk excessively, often interrupting others’ conversations and being more social than others. Sometimes women’s difficulties can often be mistaken for being hormonal or anxious. 

Research has shown that both women and girls are less likely to be diagnosed correctly as parents and teachers often are not quite sure what to look out for, even if they do notice they have some difficulties. Some examples of how ADHD can present in girls, especially within education are; seeming to daydream, often zoning out and being inside their thoughts and doodling on their work when they should be listening in class. Oftentimes, women and girls with ADHD tend to be very intelligent, due to their symptoms being more subtle and having a better ability to hide them, however, when it comes to exams, they may find that they struggle with the concentration and focus necessary to complete the task.

Why do women tend to get an ADHD diagnosis later in life?

Due to the inattentive ADHD type being more prominent in females and the signs of ADHD being more subtle in girls, it is very common they will go through their childhood and into adolescence without a diagnosis. The busyness of school, college, and university exams, then onto finding a job and possibly into marriage and children means that women often get overlooked until later in life when they begin to struggle to make sense of the difficulties they have faced so far. Women and girls are also better able to cover up their ADHD symptoms and it’s only later in life, when the responsibilities of careers and children arise, that it becomes difficult for them to manage their ADHD.

Some common ways that ADHD may show up in life for women are:

  •     Finding it difficult to concentrate on a conversation, unless you’re the one talking, or you find the topic particularly interesting.
  •     Difficulty keeping on top of projects, appointments, household bills etc.
  •     Struggle to relax and switch off your brain.
  •     A feeling of frustration of not meeting goals either within your career or personally.
  •     Struggle to move forward with your goals.
  •     Nervous at social gatherings and feeling the need to talk excessively, sometimes interrupting others.
  •     Finding friendships a struggle and social rules complicated.
  •     Endless energy in childhood but now an almost constant feeling of exhaustion and burnout.
  •     Difficult managing money, often overspending when you don’t have the funds available.
  •     Shopping trips and making decisions on what to buy tend to be overwhelming.


How talking to a specialist ADHD clinic can help

Although it’s true that navigating an ADHD diagnosis is overwhelming, it doesn’t have to have the negative stigma attached to it. ADHD can really be a superpower, and is part of your genetic makeup, making you, wonderfully and perfectly, you. Endless enthusiasm, energy and the ability to hyper-focus are traits that are extremely sought after, especially in education.

There are some steps you can take to make your journey smoother. Consider talking to school teachers about your suspicions, they will be able to keep an eye on your child and even help with a diagnosis on what they observe in the classroom. In the workplace, it is worth mentioning something to your boss, supervisor, or line manager, as not only will this take some of the stress and stigma away from trying to hide your symptoms, but your employer may be able to help with the workload and your working environment.

 Here at Sanctum, we provide bespoke treatment for neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD. Our expert ADHD psychiatrists provide a wealth of high-end wellness services and an ultra-personalised approach, ensuring that 100% of our attention is on you. Speaking with one of our ADHD psychiatrists to gain an accurate assessment and diagnosis can be the first step into finding the right treatment path for you, which in turn could lead you to live a healthier, happier life.

If you would like to speak to Sanctum’s friendly team about obtaining an ADHD assessment or about ADHD treatment plans, you can get in touch here.


Related Tags


Recommended articles

Get your first free online consultation

Skip to content