ADHD in Women

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.

Woman with ADHD Writing in a Notebook
ADHD Woman Writing in a Notebook

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.

[Self-Test: ADHD in Women and Girls]

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Outdated diagnostic criteria and assumptions are also to blame for the low diagnosis rate among women and girls.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.

The more questions you answer in the affirmative, the more likely you are to have ADHD or ADD. Be sure to share your completed checklist with a doctor.

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

Sari Solden, M.S., LMFT, is a member of the ADDitude ADHD Medical Review Panel.

10 Comments & Reviews

  1. Thank you so much for this list. I started suspecting something when coffee made me tired. I’m diagnosed bipolar, but I wonder if I’m misdiagnosed? I meet ALL the criteria on this checklist.

  2. I answered yes to every question. I don’t remember how the subject of ADHD even came up for me to start researching it but after reading what the symptoms are and how people’s lives were affected I started crying because it’s me, I’m people’s!!! I have never been a self diagnoser lol as a matter of fact I don’t think much about being sick or about if I’m mentally stable or not. I know I’m sick so why would I want to research it? Mentally stable? Everybody already knows that the word challenged isn’t spelled s.t.a.b.l.e.
    Ok, enough with the humor. I really did cry and when I say cry I mean bawled like a baby, heaving sobs. Because there I was, in black n white and most of the examples given were the exact things that I do. The list that starts as a daily To Do list turns into one for the whole month?? ✋✋✋ reading about what we do and why we do it and that it’s treatable with medicine and/or lifestyle changes gave me an incredible amount of hope. Now I know I’m not really crazy. Weird yes. Crazy, no. I have struggled my entire life wondering why I just can’t seem to stop messing up! Why I can’t remember things! Why I thought I had hearing loss when it was really the loud annoying noises! My husband and I have fought over whether the tv stays on or gets turned off in the bedroom for years! I am excited to explore this, I’ve already called n made an appointment to get the ball rolling. It can’t be anything else. But if for some reason I’m wrong,,,, I will come back and tell y’all I was. But I’m not.
    One of the most memorable moments in my life was the day I came across this website. Thank you!!
    Ann B.
    53 yrs old

    1. Hi Annybaby, I recently came across this website as well- and I feel like I found “my people”. I am 46 years old- and just facing the music. For as long as I can remember, I thought I did have ADHD, but, I was never ‘hyper’ so, just sort of shrugged it off. Was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. Never a good student, and even today, can’t seem to read more than a sentence of anything that I’m not highly interested in. There a million other things that I read on here too- and I just keep saying- OMG, YES, that’s me, I can relate. It’s comforting to know that maybe I can really start to work on some of these issues and get help for myself!

  3. Has anyone else in the comments essentially got a tiktok diagnosis? I started to suspect at the end of last year as I had so much in common with people that have confirmed ADHD and then I am now 90 percent sure because my 6 year old boy has been referred for testing. I am in a particularly bad place at the moment and I am held together with tape – and not even the good kind of tape! I answered yes to all of these questions and have been on a deep dive for a week trying to find a set of symptoms that fit me perfectly and this is it.

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