Pay attention, girls. ADD isn’t just for boys. In fact, women are just as likely to have attention deficit disorder, but only a third as likely to be diagnosed as their male counterparts. Until recently, research has primarily focused on how the disorder affects adolescent boys. As it turns out, the female experience can be startlingly different from the stereotype.
Women are more likely to have symptoms related to inattention rather than hyperactivity.
These may include:
- difficulty recalling names of people and things (dysnomia)
- difficulty reading or completing uninteresting/monotonous tasks
- misplacing things, forgetting appointments, and missing deadlines
- failing to follow or remember instructions
Often symptoms involve “executive function” and a deficit in this area can have a serious impact on quality of life.
“Executive function refers to actions such as goal setting, planning, organization, monitoring one’s behavior during an activity, and changing strategies in response to alterations in a situation. These functions are crucial for long-term academic, social and occupational success,”
Girls with ADD are more likely to overcompensate in order to offset symptoms, become anxious, withdrawn, or be overly concerned with the approval of others.
Girls are more likely to be “people pleasers,” doing all they can to fit in—even when they know they are “different.”
This attempt to cope and the female inclination towards perfectionism is often cited as an additional factor in the rate of under and late diagnosis for women. It may not be until college or when a woman’s career begins to take off that the stress of managing the symptoms overwhelms her.
If difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness have always been a struggle for you and it is negatively impacting your daily life, consider being screened. A licensed psychologist or psychiatrist can help you rule out other factors, determine your level of impairment, and recommend treatment.