ADHD in Women: Different Gender, Different Treatment
ADD/ADHD not only presents different symptoms in boys and girls, but it often requires a different treatment strategy, says Nadeau. Both genders benefit from stimulant medications, she says, but girls may need treatment for anxiety. They frequently cannot tolerate stimulants without extra pharmaceutical support.
Hinshaw says he’s not convinced that girls need extra meds to tolerate stimulants, compared to boys. He notes that, to the extent that girls are likely to develop depression and anxiety, evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapies may be helpful. Nadeau also recommends group therapy, as a gender-specific strategy, to encourage girls and women to use their verbal skills to give one another support, develop coping strategies, and not feel isolated.
Nadeau and her colleague, pediatrician Patricia Quinn, M.D., have been trying to persuade their peers to adopt a diagnostic tool with symptoms that would help more girls understand that they might have ADD/ADHD. Nadeau says she’s not optimistic that such change will come in time for the next edition of the DSM-V, in 2013.
Hinshaw’s study, as well as other research that follows girls into adulthood, offers hope for more interventions over time, but, for now, parents and teachers have to work to help girls who are struggling with distraction — spotting them at home and in classrooms, and supporting them in getting diagnoses, even if they may not precisely fit the symptom profile.
Women with ADD/ADHD should spread the word. While a little adversity makes you stronger, imagine what women with ADD/ADHD could accomplish if we could turn the energy we use to beat ourselves up to going out and changing the world.