Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Women

ADHD and ADD are mental disorders classified by symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and lack of focus. ADHD and ADD are commonly occurring diseases; according to the CDC, 9.4% of children ages 2-17 were diagnosed in 2016. There are different types of ADD and ADHD, which are characterized by different manifestations of the lack of focus. ADD and ADHD are typically diagnosed in adolescence, as the disease can commonly cause problems in the classroom. However, there is a disparity between the amount of girls and boys who are diagnosed. According to a study of gender disparities in diagnosing ADHD, there is a 2.28:1 ratio of boys who are diagnosed to the number of girls who are diagnosed. For a disorder that is hereditary, why is there such a large gender gap in the number of people diagnosed?

Studies have been done on ADHD on why there is such a large difference in boys to girls being diagnosed. This study has reported that “molecular genetic analyses suggest that autosomal common variants largely do not explain the sex bias in ADHD prevalence.” This means that there is no genetic preference for boys to develop ADHD compared to women. Furthermore, why does this large gender bias exist if not for a genetic explanation?

ADHD presents differently in girls compared to boys. ADHD is more likely to present itself in boys as being loud, inattentive, and hyperactive. Boys who have ADHD are louder and are much more likely to be noticed by teachers and parents. Conversely, females are more likely to have the inattentive form of the disorder. Girls are likely to suffer silently, while not being focused in school or other engagements. ADHD tends to present itself in girls as inattentiveness, forgetfulness, and absent-mindedness. Girls are not likely to be noticed by teachers because they are typically chatty or keep to themselves rather than being outwardly disruptive. In addition, girls generally care about school more due to societal pressure and find ways to succeed in academic settings despite ADHD symptoms. For these reasons, teachers and parents are much less likely to see these symptoms in their students or daughters and recommend them for an evaluation. These combined factors have allowed for a large gender bias in the amount of ADHD diagnoses for women and girls.