ADHD is going undiagnosed, or even being misdiagnosed, in girls and women because of the false stigma attached to it.
It is usually misconceived as a male disorder causing solely hyperactivity; this leads to girls, who don’t display ‘traditional’ symptoms, to go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Males with ADHD are more likely to show more obvious, external signs of the disorder, such as hyperactivity and aggression.
However, in females, ADHD is often presented in more subtle and internal ways, such as anxiety and inattention.
Dr Tony Lloyd, the CEO of the ADHD Foundation, said, “Girls manage to stay under the radar because they are generally more compliant and emotionally more mature than boys, so they often remain under the radar.”
Furthermore, due to the stigma attached to ADHD, girls and women are often embarrassed to come forward and seek help.
Dr Lloyd said, “Unfortunately undiagnosed, unsupported ADHD will often manifest itself as mental health problems in later life.
“We don’t usually find out about the majority of girls until after puberty when they are presenting things like anxiety, depression, self-harm and eating disorders.”
In order to tackle this problem, Dr Lloyd explains that there needs to be better education and training for GP’s and teachers so that they are able to detect ADHD in females early on.
— SmartGirls with ADHD (@SmartGirlsADHD) February 9, 2016
Beth Harvey, the Founder of Smart Girls with ADHD (an informative blog for females with ADHD), didn’t discover that she had the disorder until she was 28 years old.
Mrs Harvey said, “I saw my GP, who didn’t fully believe that it could be a thing, he said adults don’t get diagnosed with ADHD, especially women!”
Furthermore, talking of her late diagnosis, she reveals that she wishes someone had noticed it earlier as she would have been a happier child and teenager had she had the support she so desperately needed.
This account of just one young women’s experience when seeking help with ADHD highlights just how crucial it is that more people are educated about this important issue.
The ADHD Foundation host training courses for teachers, which is one step towards stripping away the stigmas attached to the disorder and allowing educators to correctly refer young people on for further help.
Dr Lloyd said, “It’s about greater awareness and challenging stigma.”
Furthermore, Mrs Harvey, who has single-handedly created a supportive and informative community for women and girls online, is another key step in the right direction.
She said, “It’s a really impressive group of people who look at the positives of their ADHD and feel empowered by it…once you feel empowered yourself, you can help educate other people.”