Adult ADHD misdiagnosed as anxiety? Roughly, eight million adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and that number is probably greater, as very few men or women with ADHD ever receive a diagnosis.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that affects boys and girls equally. Sixty percent of child ADHD carries into adulthood, regardless of sex, accounting for 4.4 percent of all American adults, according to psychological research.
Sadly, a disproportionately high number of adults who suffer from ADHD will ever see the connection, and an even lower percentage of women than men who seek mental health therapy are ultimately diagnosed with adult ADHD disorder.
Symptoms of adult ADHD include:
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
- Impulsive behavior
- Difficulty following directions
- Lack of organizational skills
- Moodiness, anxiety, and depression
- Difficulty making work deadlines or long-term goals, procrastinates
- Gets easily distracted while reading
- Chronic boredom
- Habitually late
- Low self-esteem, pessimistic personality
- Tendency towards addiction to things such as gambling, food, drugs, shopping, or video games
- Eating disorders, seeking comfort in food
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships
Why is there a gender bias towards males in ADHD?
In female psychology, many factors exist that would complicate a diagnosis of ADHD.
Physicians often ascribe underlying ADHD symptoms, including low sense of self-worth, depression, frustration, and moodiness to “female problems.” Often they’re correct in diagnosing stress, depression, or premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in their female patients, but they fail to catch any clues suggesting adult ADHD.
1. The myth of male ADHD
There is a public misconception that attention deficit disorder (ADD) and ADHD are male disorders. As a result, women who experience ADHD symptoms are not likely to seek a diagnosis, and doctors who treat them are equally unlikely to suggest treatment for ADHD.
2. It’s just anxiety
Adults and children with ADHD tend to suffer from anxiety or depression, as well. Therefore, when women ADHD sufferers seek psychiatric help for their emotional problems, they receive prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants, but the question of ADHD medication, such as Ritalin or Concerta, is never considered.
3. Only children suffer from ADD/ADHD
For many years, people viewed ADD/ADHD disorder as primarily a children’s problem. Only recently has adult ADHD caught the public’s eye, but the notion of grown-ups receiving ADHD medication is still far from mainstream.
4. It’s just girls being girls
Girls, as a whole, tend to be more chatty, impulsive, and passionate than boys- characteristics that are typical of ADHD. Therefore, it’s not unusual for young women who are hyperactive, overenthusiastic, or driven by their emotions to seek help for ADHD.
5. Learning how to fake it
Women are very self-conscious of their social standing. Likewise, girls with ADHD often learn certain defense mechanisms by the time they reach adulthood, effectively masking their social difficulties and feelings of awkwardness. Nevertheless, problems with low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety remain.
6. I am woman…
Today’s woman wears many “hats;” she is expected to hold down a salary, keep the household clean and orderly, and be a nurturing parenting role model to her children and wife to her husband. It’s no wonder, then, that women who struggle to make ends meet, despite suffering from ADHD, chalk it up to modern-day stress.
7. Self-fulfilling prophecy
Women with ADHD develop a “learned helplessness.” When things don’t go the way they’ve planned, or they have difficulty meeting others’ expectations or deadlines, they tend to just give up, blame themselves, and accept defeat. The same attitude applies to seeking therapy- she dismisses the notion that change is possible. This type of self-fulfilling prophecy becomes a vicious circle of failure and regret.
8. It’s a PMS thing
Hormonal fluctuations cause moodiness, depression, and attention difficulties, thereby masking any underlying symptoms of ADHD in women who suffer from PMS, pre-menopause, or postnatal depression.
9. Iron deficiency
Women are at high risk of suffering from iron deficiency caused by heavy periods. Unless you take iron supplements, you could experience symptoms such as disorientation, memory loss, and other delays in cognitive behavior, especially if you also have a disposition for ADHD.
10. It’s personal
Women who grew up in abusive homes may become adults who have personal problems socializing and generally “fitting in,” maintaining organizational skills, and accomplishing long-term goals. Similarly, women with ADD or ADHD who have suffered from a traumatic experience or lack parental role models might never suspect that ADHD is among their many other social problems.