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Women and ADHD: A Troubled Tale

Women and girls are not supposed to be talkative. Their heads shouldn’t be in the clouds, their imaginations shouldn’t be running wild, and they shouldn’t be so full of energy that they’re practically bouncing off the walls from morning until night. Women, and the stereotyped expectations which precede them, are supposed to be quiet, subdued, and reserved- what might be called “respectful”. Women are supposed to be well grounded and realistic, focused on the present, and thinking about a future full of marriage and reproduction. Women are supposed to be calm, collected, and graceful. Fortunately and unfortunately for the rest of the world, women are not that way. Women can be hyperactive.

Many women are hyperactive because many women are ADHD, meaning they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, the statistics of women being diagnosed with ADHD would not indicate such a strong population. Until the early 2000’s, women and girls were severely under diagnosed for the condition, leaving them with a plethora of unmanageable and difficult symptoms. Of course, those symptoms are different, because they do not compare to the hyperactive symptoms presented by boys. Boys experience ADHD differently than girls. Boys are generally hyperactive in their energy. Girls display their hyperactivity differently, by being inattentive, distracted, forgetful, and unorganized. Girls, according to professionals, have it much worse when it comes to their experience of ADHD.

Quartz reports that “Girls tend to develop ADHD later than boys.” Girls do a better job at masking their symptoms of ADHD than boys because girls feel the pressure of their stigmatized gender to do so. “And while some ADHD symptoms can become less intense for boys after they pass through puberty, for many girls, it gets worse.” Untreated ADHD in older women can cause problems in personal relationships, parenting, and work environments. The article states that “Anxiety and depression,” which commonly accompany ADHD, “turn into low self-esteem and self-loathing, and the risk for self-harm and suicide attempts is four-to-five times that of girls without ADHD.”

There is a demonstrated connection between a preexisting disorder of ADHD and the development of substance use disorders. Science flip flops on the subject- one study saying ADHD does contribute and another saying it does not. Many of the characteristics of ADHD, namely a tendency toward impulsivity, are common in substance use disorders.

Going to treatment for a substance use disorder might be the first time a woman is properly assessed by a psychiatrist and given a diagnosis for ADHD. Treatment for co-occurring substance use disorder and ADHD can be transformative in a woman’s life and give her the tools she needs to stay organized, cope, and make life manageable in sobriety moving forward.


Your recovery doesn’t end after primary treatment. Transitional living programs like our program at Villa Tranquil offer women a unique opportunity to extend their care while they build their sober lives in recovery. Independently owned and operated by skilled clinicians, our beautiful home in Jupiter Farms, Florida serves women ages 18-65. For information, call us today  214-799-3080.