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The Symptoms of ADHD and How It Affects Men and Women Differently

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a challenging mental health issue that can seriously impact the way people function and live their lives. It can lead to problems with work, school, and relationships, because adults with ADHD may struggle with time management and organization. This condition is typically diagnosed in children, but can also be found in adults, with about 5% of the total population being diagnosed with the condition. 

Despite ADHD being such a common condition, many people don’t understand how it manifests and how it can present differently in men and women. In this article, we will explore what ADHD is, some of the contributing factors (and some common misconceptions), ways it can manifest differently in men and women, and some treatment options. 


What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how an individual pays attention, controls emotion & impulsive behaviors, and stays organized. It is characterized by the inability to sustain attention and focus on tasks, difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors, and difficulty with establishing structure and organization. These symptoms can lead to problems with school, work, relationships, and daily activities.

Some common symptoms of ADHD like inattention, lack of impulse control, distraction, feeling overwhelmed, and difficulty in completing tasks, can also be attributed to other common conditions or habits though. One notable condition that exhibits similar symptoms is technology addiction or screen addiction. If you think you have ADHD, talk to a healthcare professional for a formal diagnosis, and to build an ongoing care plan for your needs.


Types of ADHD

Inattentive type: This type is characterized by symptoms of inattention, such as difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, and disorganization. Individuals with this type of ADHD may struggle with following instructions, completing tasks, and staying focused on one thing for a prolonged period.


Hyperactive-impulsive type: This type is characterized by symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, such as fidgeting, restlessness, interrupting others, and impulsive decision-making. Individuals with this type of ADHD may have difficulty sitting still and may act impulsively without considering the consequences of their actions.


Combined type: This is the most common type of ADHD and is characterized by symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Individuals with this type of ADHD may struggle with organization, time management, impulse control, and hyperactivity.


How do you get ADHD?

The exact cause of ADHD isn’t fully understood, but there are several factors that can contribute to someone developing ADHD, primarily related to genetics. ADHD tends to run in families, and the genes you get from your parents are considered a significant contributor to whether you’ll have the condition. This doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to have it if one or both of your parents does, but it could increase your risk. 


According to the CDC, other potential causes of ADHD are: 

  • Brain injury
  • Exposure to environmental risks (e.g., lead) during pregnancy or at a young age
  • Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy
  • Premature delivery
  • Low birth weight


There is no research supporting the common misconception that ADHD is caused by excessive screen time, eating a lot of sugar, parenting, or social/environmental conditions. These things may make ADHD symptoms worse, but there is no credible evidence that they cause ADHD.


Another common misconception is that children with ADHD will just “grow out of it” as they get older. According to CHADD, most ADHD cases will persist into adulthood, with only 14-50% of cases “going away” with growing up. People who are diagnosed later in life may have late-onset ADHD, or childhood ADHD that wasn’t diagnosed earlier. 


ADHD Symptoms in Women & Men

Studies have shown that ADHD can affect men and women differently. Though many of the core symptoms of ADHD can be present in both men and women, the observable presentation of those symptoms may differ. 

How ADHD affects women

Women with ADHD are more likely to experience inattentive symptoms. They may have trouble focusing on tasks, staying organized, and managing their time effectively. Women with ADHD may also struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, as they may feel ashamed or inadequate due to their difficulties with organization and time management.

Unfortunately, ADHD in women is often not diagnosed or misdiagnosed due to the differences in symptoms associated with men. Women with ADHD may be perceived as “spacey” or “scatterbrained” rather than hyperactive, leading to missed or incorrect diagnoses.


Some of the most common symptoms of ADHD in women are: 

  • Not paying attention to details
  • Inability to focus
  • Disorganization
  • Forgetfulness
  • Chronic lateness
  • Difficulty prioritizing tasks
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty with transitions


How ADHD affects men

The most common ADHD symptoms in men are hyperactivity and impulsivity, difficulty sitting still, being easily distracted, and struggling with organization and planning. Men with ADHD may also be more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior and have trouble regulating their emotions, which can have a significant impact on their personal relationships and work life. 


Some common symptoms of ADHD in men are: 

  • Fidgeting 
  • Being prone to mood swings
  • Always on the go
  • Disruptive behaviour
  • Impulsivity
  • Impatience
  • Restlessness


Treatment for ADHD in Adults

For both men and women, the most effective treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and therapy. As always, it’s important to work with a qualified healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan, as it may take some trial and error to find a solution that works best for an individual’s specific needs. For therapy options, these are some of the most common therapy treatments used for people with ADHD: 


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This approach helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to ADHD symptoms. It may involve setting goals, developing problem-solving skills, and learning coping strategies to manage symptoms.


Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): This approach combines mindfulness meditation with CBT techniques to help individuals with ADHD become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, and learn to manage them more effectively.


Family Therapy: Family therapy can be helpful for individuals with ADHD, particularly children and adolescents. It involves working with family members to improve communication, reduce conflict, and develop strategies to support the individual with ADHD.


Behavioral Therapy: This approach focuses on changing specific behaviors associated with ADHD, such as improving time management skills, reducing impulsivity, and increasing organizational skills.


If you’re looking for licensed and professional therapists, Focus offers online therapy via phone, video, or text therapy all across Canada. Easily book a session today and take the first step to feeling and living better. 

Final Thoughts

While ADHD can be challenging, it is a treatable disorder. With proper treatment and ongoing support, individuals with ADHD can learn strategies to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of ADHD, it is important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. With the right support and treatment, it is possible to manage ADHD and lead a fulfilling life.

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