Women With ADHD Gender Differences, Impacts, Strategies & Support

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Topic: Women With ADHD Gender Differences, Impact On Your Life, Strategies And Support. See the other Adult ADHD Issues.

Facilitator: Women with ADD was the topic for our November 2005 Vancouver Adult ADD support group meeting. We were fortunate enough to have Christine, an active member of our group, to give the presentation.

Christine was very instrumental in helping us out for our ADD Advocacy booth we had at Techvibes last March. Here are her notes from the presentation, along with some links to online articles about women and ADD with some excerpts.

You may also want to look at my Women and ADD article links


Christine’s Notes

As young girls (women) – were prone to addictive behaviours- sexually acting out, eating disorders, in an attempt to self soothe, to stimulate – as a way to seek structure and focus.

Can affect relationships and self esteem

Commonly under diagnosed – will have been treated for something else – depression, eating disorders, addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Difficulty screening out unneeded information – can’t filter out distractions – therefore becoming flooded – bombarded – assaulted – and overwhelmed.

Felt confused and in a fog can’t stay awake for the entire day.

Have trouble with small talk

Hypoactive – extremely under active have trouble beginning to move and can only concentrate on one thing at a time.

Inability to filter out distractions – feel bombarded by excess information sounds, smells, noises, movement, internal ideas from one’s own mind.

Lots of time spent hiding the symptoms pretending that they are fine as they try to be normal.

People pleasers- as girls try hard to conform to expectations but after a day are exhausted and then their ADD comes out in full force. (Interrupting others, reacting too quickly, getting angry at the wrong times.)

Some women have the stereotypical ADD: fast-taking, hyperactive, non-attentive, bouncing off the wall- but many more women have ADD without hyperactivity.

Unusual twist and turns in career path – life direction.

Usually overlooked in school if doing poorly as being withdrawn & quiet – appearing disinterested or depressed instead of ADD.

Women with ADD also suffer from more sever then other women form – PMS, menopause, eating disorders, obsessive symptoms, substance abuse, sexual relationships.

Women with ADD who say they are very organized are often obsessively – centering their entire lives on keeping it all together, if not they will be lost, everything in place to function, disorganization is taking a toll, as imbalance of focus or this area keep us from areas – creativity, recreational pursuits and productive lives.


Impact on your life



Emotional Reactivity

Impaired Relationships

Low self-esteem

Under – Achievement


Christine’s Online Articles Links on Women and ADD with some excerpted quotes

Christine recommended Sari Solden’s books.

Women with Attention Deficit Disorder – Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life By Sari Solden

Journeys Through ADDulthood: Discover a New Sense of Identity and Meaning with Attention Deficit Disorder By Sari Solden


Women and AD/HD. How does Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affect your life? by Carol Watkins, MD

“Women with AD/HD may discover that the disorder has its positive side. Her generosity, spontaneity and energy may make the household a Mecca for neighborhood children. Her high energy may enable her to keep up with a demanding job and a busy family life.

Sometimes, marriage between a spouse with AD/HD and a partner without AH/HD may work well. The husband may provide stability, structure and organizational skills. At the same time, the wife’s creativity and quest for novelty may provide color to her husband’s life and help him explore new horizons.”

“The husband without AD/HD may misinterpret his wife’s disorganization and procrastination as deliberate offenses.”

“It took a long time for each family member to learn their behavior patterns and it may take time to make lasting changes. The AD/HD may be an explanation, but no one should use it as an excuse. Instead, understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses can help her to develop creative coping strategies.”


The Latest in the Treatment of Women with ADHD

by Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW. Terry is the author of Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD: Beyond Piles, Palms, & Post-its

“For some women, just holding their own in a conversation can be a real challenge. Others avoid social gatherings because they miss social cues, making them feel out of step, thereby shutting down in order to save themselves possible embarrassment.

Many feel unable to entertain at home because the piles of clothes, papers and assorted knickknacks keep them away from inviting people over.”

“ADD impacts Women differently then Men

Have multiple roles – mother, wife, secretary, co worker, ect.

Responsibility that requires organizational skills

Women with children have more responsibilities for structure.

What’s the matter with me???”


Research Update on ADHD

Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 1998, vol. 19, pp. 77-83. Arcia, E., & Conners, C. K. Via ADD Consults

“It was indeed interesting that despite the fact that objectively speaking, males and females with ADHD looked similar on cognitive and neuropsychological measure at any age, by adolescence and adulthood, the females perceived themselves to be having more problems.

They perceived themselves to be having more problems not only with ADHD symptoms such as concentration and restlessness, but also with associated factors such as anger, self-confidence, feelings, and family relations. “


Gender Differences in Depression By Bob Murray, Phd

Symptoms in MenSymptoms in Women
Blames othersTendency to self-blame
Anger, irritability, ego inflationFeels sad, apathetic, worthless
Feels suspicious, guardedFeels anxious, frightened
Creates conflictAvoids conflict
Restlessness and agitationSlows down, nervousness
Sleeps too littleSleeps too much
Becomes controllingDifficulty maintaining boundaries
Shame (eg. sex performance)Guilt
Fear of failureProblems with success
Self-medicates through alcoholSelf-medicates through food
Over use of internet/TV/emailWithdrawal
Becomes over status-consciousAssumes low status


ADHD in Women

Question. Do adult women experience different symptoms of ADHD from men? Could you describe a typical presentation of a woman with ADHD?

Response from Michael J. Manos, PhD, Head, Section of Behavioral Medicine, Division of Pediatrics, The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio

“The difference is in the varied expression of symptoms in the daily life of men and women. Brain functioning, in many ways, is the same whether one is male or female; actual behavioral expression of brain functioning, however, can be very different.”

“The level of organization needed to manage families, to juggle multiple activities of family members, and to maintain the demands of the workplace make symptoms of inattention and disorganization even more pronounced in women with ADHD because symptoms of ADHD are exaggerated in the presence of significant demand.

In conclusion, the brain’s functions are similar enough for all, but the expression of those brain functions in women and men is likely to be different given cultural mores, practices, and expectations”


Ways that Women with ADHD Can Help Themselves

From the National Resource Center on ADHD

A woman with ADHD would benefit from the following strategies:

Create an ADHD–friendly family that cooperates and supports one another.

Develop healthy self-care habits, such as getting adequate sleep and exercise and having good nutrition.

Focus on the things you love.

Get expert parenting advice.

Identify the sources of stress in your daily life and systematically make life changes to lower your stress level.

Schedule daily time outs for yourself.

Seek structure and support from family and friends.

Simplify your life.

Understand and accept your ADHD challenges instead of judging and blaming yourself.

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