There’s a common myth that ADHD is overdiagnosed, but the truth is that in adults and women it’s actually commonly underdiagnosed and undertreated.
There are a number of reasons ADHD goes underdiagnosed in adults, and in adult women in particular. A few of those reasons include:
- ADHD is easier to spot in children
- Adults often exhibit more subtle symptoms of ADHD
- Symptoms are often confused or misdiagnosed as symptoms of anxiety or depression
- Common belief that ADHD does not persist into adulthood
- Understanding of ADHD through men’s symptoms–because of the way men and women are socialized, the way their symptoms show up often varies between genders, making it easier to identify ADHD in boys and men
Just as in children, ADHD in adults is characterized by things like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. However, the ways in which these symptoms present themselves can vary significantly from person to person. There’s no one definitive experience of ADHD–which is also why many adults may not realize they have it. The symptoms they experience may be different from the ones commonly known for identifying it in children.
So how do adult symptoms of ADHD differ from symptoms in children?
In childhood ADHD often presents through behaviors like being overly active in class (constantly fidgeting in their seat, unable to wait their turn, yelling out answers, etc.), or being unable to sit and focus on one thing for a long period of time, being unable to sit quietly, or constantly interrupting others while they speak or invading their personal space. These of course aren’t the only ways in which ADHD shows up in kids, but they are some of the most commonly known symptoms.
Just from those, however, we can start to see why it may be underdiagnosed in women. Girls often are held to different behavioral standards than boys, so things like interrupting others, constantly fidgeting, or being unable to wait their turn, often aren’t tolerated in girls as they would be in boys. So if they are instead holding that distress inside, rather than letting it come out as it would in their male counterparts, it is harder to identify ADHD as that source of distress.
Some children do outgrow it as they get older, but all adults with ADHD, whether they were diagnosed as children or not, have had it their whole lives.
Some common problems people with adult ADHD might experience include things like:
- A history of poor academic performance
- Frequently switching jobs/history of poor professional performance
- Consequences of impulsive behavior like frequent speeding tickets, constantly running low on funds, etc.
These are obviously not ways in which we’d be able to identify ADHD in children! It’s also common that the hyperactive component of ADHD becomes mainly internal as people get older–meaning there’s no or very little outward hyperactive behavior. Instead, symptoms of inattentiveness often increase or become the main obstacle, within adult ADHD.
Other symptoms of adult ADHD can include:
- Inability to sit still for long periods of time; ex. getting through a meeting at work or an entire movie is often difficult
- Impatience, drawing rapid conclusions or talking over/finishing what someone else is saying
- Preference for being extremely active
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Excessive distractibility
- Constantly spacing out
- Frequently losing train of thought
- Chronically late
These of course aren’t the only ways in which ADHD can show up in adults, and just because you experience one or two of them doesn’t necessarily mean you have ADHD. ADHD presents slightly differently in everyone, but if you think this sounds like you, consider our ADHD Testing services. With our ADHD testing services, you and your therapist will take a holistic approach to your diagnosis and work to clarify who you are on a core level.