5 ADHD Symptoms That Are Often Overlooked in Women, According to Experts
"Symptoms in girls and women are usually less obvious than in boys."
Do you have a hard time maintaining friendships? Are you a life-long impulse shopper? Or are you constantly fatigued? What you may easily dismiss as just personality quirks or even consider to be “lazy,” could actually be symptoms of having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At least, that was the case for me, when in my late 20s, I was officially diagnosed. After a lifetime of losing my keys, missing deadlines, and finding it hard to focus, I finally had answers.
According to the CDC, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder often characterized by the inability to “pay attention.” It’s usually associated with children (specifically male children), and is, in fact, one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood.
However, because most of the ADHD symptoms that are discussed are usually found in young boys or men and not females, girls and women are often diagnosed much later in life due to their lesser-known symptoms, which are more about impulse, rather than excess energy. “Symptoms in girls and women are usually less obvious than in boys. From an early age, girls’ symptoms are often more inattentive or apparent in social interactions with peers,” psychologist and director of The Help and Healing Center, Dr. Jessica Myszak, tells HelloGiggles. “That’s why we don’t talk a lot about what [ADHD] looks like in adult women,” Dr. Myszak adds. “Women may be less likely to share this information with a healthcare provider due to feeling discomfort and shame.” This shame can mean we are not getting the help we need.
Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed, believe you have ADHD, or know someone who does, it turns out ADHD can impact your life in a variety of ways you never expected—and we don’t talk about enough. Below are five lesser-known symptoms of ADHD you should know, especially if you’re a woman.
ADHD symptoms in women:
1. Time blindness.
People with ADHD have a very hard time, well, keeping time. This is actually called “time blindness,” which is an inability to comprehend the passing of time, according to ADDtitude, an ADD organization. Making time-based commitments (yes, including work) is a real struggle and even if you rigorously plan your day, you may look up at the clock and notice significantly more time has passed than you thought.
2. A loss of working memory.
Ever tried to remember why you walked into a room? Yep, same. In studies, children with ADHD have statistically lower visuospatial ability and short-term memory. Some experts even associate declining thinking skills with ADHD. In short, the ability to retain information is severely impacted, which can have all sorts of implications in our everyday lives.
3. Imposter syndrome.
Believe it or not, having imposter syndrome may also be tied to issues with memory. “If you can’t get a handle on your memory, there are so many reasons to doubt yourself,” says Dr. Kimberly Douglass, a coach for neurodivergent individuals. That doubt can manifest itself into imposter syndrome, or the feeling that you’re undeserving of the achievements in your life. Not celebrating successes, disregarding your accomplishments, and dwelling over perceived failures are all signs of imposter syndrome and can be debilitating all on its own—ADHD only exacerbates these feelings.
4. Extra sensitive to receiving rejection and criticism.
Receiving criticism and rejection is hard for anybody, but having ADHD might make it a lot harder, as you may have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). ADDtitude defines RSD as, “extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life.” People who suffer from RSD may experience extreme mood swings and even physical pain when confronted with rejection. Although it may take doctors a while to identify RSD in patients, it is actually a common symptom in adults with ADHD.
5. A difficult time keeping friendships.
Also known as Friendship Degradation Mechanics, in a nutshell, this term means people with ADHD find it difficult to retain friendships because we often (unknowingly) go long periods of time without contacting people. A Reddit user described it best: “The friendship degradation mechanics OP [original poster] mentions just reminded me of how friendships work in Sims 4. If you don’t keep in touch with someone, you go from even best friends to distant friends to acquaintances fast.” We know that some people with ADHD struggle to maintain relationships; however, this is much more prominent in girls with ADHD. This is also one of the reasons ADHD can be lonely and frustrating, another symptom nobody mentions.
Once I realized how many things in my life were impacted by my ADHD, it was honestly a breath of fresh air. I may never be anywhere on time (sorry friends!) but being able to identify the ways my neurodevelopmental disorder show up in my life means I can make an effort to work on them, and more importantly, give myself some grace. If you have experienced any of the above or suspect you may have ADHD, contact your healthcare provider. As for me? I’ll live by my “four alarm rule:” if it don’t have at least four alarms set on my phone, it simply isn’t important.