ADHD: Why is it underdiagnosed in women?

By Argie Dabrowski

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent issues with concentration and attention, as well as frequent hyperactive and impulsive behavior. For many years, ADHD was believed to only affect young boys, but it is now known to affect both men and women of all age groups. Even today, though, ADHD is often underdiagnosed in girls, many of whom only get a diagnosis much later in life or not at all.

This underdiagnosis of ADHD in girls has multiple causes. Primarily, ADHD presents differently in girls than boys, with boys demonstrating symptoms more stereotypically associated with the disorder. When most people imagine ADHD, they think of a young child, calling out randomly in class, bouncing up and down in their desk, fidgeting, and unable to remain still. This image can make it difficult to pick up on ADHD in girls, who display it differently.

Girls tend to display more internal symptoms than external symptoms, as boys do. This is mainly through inattentiveness and daydreaming. Internal symptoms are more subtle and, therefore, difficult to pick up on in order to make a proper diagnosis. Additionally, girls with ADHD often display intense emotional responses, rather than typical impulsivity and hyperactivity. This can be misinterpreted as immaturity, so it is not often picked up on as a symptom of ADHD.

Oftentimes, as well, girls have co-occurring conditions that can cause ADHD to be overlooked. Girls and women with ADHD are more likely than their male counterparts to suffer from depression and anxiety. Both of these conditions can present with some symptoms similar to ADHD, such as restlessness and issues with concentration. All these factors combined make it difficult for women and girls to get the proper diagnosis and treatment for their ADHD, but with awareness and education, this can change.

If you or someone you know is struggling with ADHD, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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