ADHD in Women: A Symptom Checklist for Adults
ADHD in women often goes undiagnosed. Too many women grew up being called lazy, selfish, spacey, or dumb because their symptoms were ignored or disregarded. If you endured a childhood of insults and low self-esteem, take this self-test to see if you exhibit common symptoms of ADD. Then share the results with your doctor before seeking a diagnosis.
ADHD in Women
Attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) is not gender biased. ADHD symptoms exist almost as often in girls as they do in boys, and the majority of kids with ADHD never outgrow it. What’s more, scientific research strongly suggests that ADHD is hereditary. Which means that, if you are the mother of a child with attention and impulsivity problems, chances are quite good that you have ADHD, too.
This revelation comes as a shock to most women who grew up assuming that ADHD is a diagnosis for hyper little boys. Indeed, it is not. ADHD in adults is very real. And ADHD exists in women, too.
According to the 5th edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, ADHD symptoms may fall into three subtypes: predominantly hyperactive, predominantly inattentive, and combined type. Inattentive ADHD symptoms are still largely misunderstood and misdiagnosed by medical professionals who mistake them for mood disorders, anxiety, or another related condition. Inattentive ADHD is also more common in girls and women than it is in boys and men. This is part of the problem.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed in Women?
Outdated diagnostic criteria and assumptions are also to blame for the low diagnosis rate among women and girls. To help combat that problem, we’ve compiled the following symptom checklist for women. If you suspect that you have or your daughter has ADHD, please answer the questions below and share the results with your mental-health professional — the only person who can officially diagnose symptoms of ADHD.
NOTE: This test is not intended to diagnose ADHD or to replace the care of a health care professional.
ADHD Symptoms in Adult Women
- Do you feel overwhelmed in stores, at the office, or at parties? Is it impossible for you to shut out sounds and distractions that don’t bother others?
- Is time, money, paper, or “stuff” dominating your life and hampering your ability to achieve your goals?
- Do you often shut down in the middle of the day, feeling assaulted? Do requests for “one more thing” put you over the top emotionally?
- Are you spending most of your time coping, looking for things, catching up, or covering up? Do you avoid people because of this?
- Have you stopped having people over to your house because you’re ashamed of the mess?
- Do you have trouble balancing your checkbook?
- Do you often feel as if life is out of control, and that it’s impossible to meet demands?
- Do you feel like you’re always at one end of a deregulated activity spectrum — either a couch potato or a tornado?
- Do you feel that you have better ideas than other people but are unable to organize them or act on them?
- Do you start each day determined to get organized, and end each day feeling defeated?
- Have you watched others of equal intelligence and education pass you by?
- Do you despair of ever fulfilling your potential and meeting your goals?
- Have you ever been thought of as selfish because you don’t write thank-you notes or send birthday cards?
- Are you clueless as to how others manage to lead consistent, regular lives?
- Are you called “a slob” or “spacey?” Are you “passing for normal?” Do you feel as if you are an impostor?
- Is all your time and energy taken up with coping, staying organized, and holding it together, with no time for fun or relaxation?
ADHD in Women: Next Steps
- Read: ADHD Looks Different in Women. Here’s How — and Why.
- Learn: How to Recognize ADD Symptoms in Adulthood
- Subscribe: The ADDitude Newsletter for Women with ADHD
- Understand: Why ADHD in Women is Routinely Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Treated Inadequately
- ADHD in Women: A WebMD Guide
Sari Solden, M.S., LMFT, is a member of the ADDitude ADHD Medical Review Panel.