why is ADHD underdiagnosed in women, and what are symptoms?
For starters, it's because the ADHD conversation has long been "centered on hyper little boys," said Dr. Hamdani. Which means that many women who might've had ADHD decades ago — but didn't, say, disrupt class like some of the boys did — went underdiagnosed. Thing to know: Boys are more than twice as likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls.
And in adulthood, women might continue to mask their ADHD symptoms. Think: sitting on your hands or crossing your legs in a board meeting so you're not bouncing around. Or writing down an idea before you speak to make sure you don't say something impulsive (which is something Dr. Hamdani does). Other ways ADHD can manifest: having trouble starting or finishing tasks, being unable to remember routine things like whether you brushed your teeth, and constantly forgetting where you put your wallet, Dr. Hamdani said.
She added that a number of women don't get diagnosed until they have trouble managing their work and life, and start looking for answers. Or until they have children with ADHD symptoms, and realize they also identify with the condition.
When should you seek an ADHD diagnosis?
According to Dr. Hamdani, as soon as you find yourself asking, 'Do I have ADHD?'
You could find yourself asking that question if you're having trouble focusing at work, communicating in a relationship, or keeping your home organized. Or maybe a (legit) TikTok really spoke to you. If that sounds familiar, then it might be time to talk to a therapist or psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD (like Dr. Hamdani) about an evaluation. (Here's a guide for finding the right therapist.) Getting diagnosed with ADHD could help you understand "your internal environment," Dr. Hamdani said.
But she also said that it's problematic when people become immediately convinced they have ADHD. And try to use certain prescriptions right away, without the supervision of a physician. Because ADHD drugs that are improperly used (think: taking Adderall or Ritalin when you don't have a medical need for it) can cause side effects like sleep disruption, stomach pain, shortness of breath, depression, tics, and eating issues.