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ADHD in Women: How It Presents Differently Than in Men

Posted by Christen Barbercheck on


When it comes to neurological disorders, everyone’s experience differs. This is especially true of ADHD, where the intensity of attention deficits can vary from person to person.  

In the case of ADHD, one’s experience and symptoms can also differ based on sex.  If you are wondering just how ADHD differs between males and females, then read on.  



Men are more likely to show their hyperactivity more than women. For instance, a male with ADHD is more likely to disrupt class with distracting behavior. Fidgeting at a desk can be fairly easy to spot.  

Such externalizing behaviors can be the first step in a teacher, parent, partner, coworker, etc. noticing the signs of ADHD in someone.  

Because it is not as common for women to present this sign, an ADHD diagnosis can be overlooked or mistaken for something else.  



On the other side of hyperactivity is inattentiveness, which women with ADHD typically score higher for. Broadly speaking, females show the “attention deficit” side while males tend to exhibit the “hyperactivity” side of the ADHD disorder.  

Since the former tends to be harder to spot than the latter, inattentiveness can slip by unnoticed, worsening the disorder in the long run.  


Females Are More Likely to Get Misdiagnosed 

Due to the fact that hyperactivity in women tends to take less obvious manifestations, this can increase the chances that females will get misdiagnosed.  

Common misdiagnoses include anxiety or depression, when the real issue is an attention-deficit disorder. Inattentiveness can often manifest within those two disorders, which makes the mistake of misdiagnosing ADHD all too common.  


Coping Strategies 

A thing to note is that women are also more adept at developing coping strategies to deal with ADHD, which can make the disorder even harder to detect.  

Coping strategies are behaviors done to relieve the symptoms and feelings that spring up from a disorder or other neurodivergent differences.  

Coping strategies can be healthy or unhealthy. As a rule, a healthy coping strategy helps one confront and work through the issue for a deeper longer-form relief. An example of a healthy coping strategy is using a Time Timer visual timer to help with time perception problems, which affect individuals diagnosed with ADHD of all genders. An unhealthy coping strategy, on the other hand, offers short-term relief in the form of escaping from or avoiding the problem. The relief being temporary, the problem is bound to resurface, unaddressed.  


Environmental Response  

Another key characteristic of ADHD in women is a heightened sensitivity to structured environments.  

This includes educational and workplace environments, which can be troublesome for women with ADHD. When that structured environment puts pressure on your schoolwork or job, then conflicts that arise from ADHD can set you back.  


Remembering and Embracing the Positives of ADHD 

It is important to note that there are many positives that come along with any neurological disorder. For individuals with ADHD this can look like being great problem solvers, being incredibly creative and having a great imagination, or being able to laser focus on a task. The list goes on.  

These positive attributes show up in both men and women diagnosed with ADHD. Once women are able to get the correct diagnosis of ADHD, they can truly start to take advantage of their strengths that come along with it!  


Key Takeaways 

Overall, women are less likely to outwardly exhibit the symptoms of ADHD. This can make it harder for others to notice that something is going on, lessening the chance of a diagnosis.  

Additionally, misdiagnoses for women are more common, so needed treatment may not be gained.  

If you or someone you know my have ADHD or be exhibiting signs and symptoms, then do not hesitate to reach out to find help. Help comes in many forms, and healthy coping strategies is one such form. For instance, Time Timer products offer many uses for individuals with ADHD 

One of our favorite resources to learn more about ADHD is ADDitdue Magazine. They offer wonderful resources for children, teachers, parents, professionals, and all individuals who are impacted by ADHD. If you are curious to learn more about ADHD, specific to women or not, their website is a great place to start. 


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