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Women with ADHD: All You Need To Know 14 January, 2021   

ADHD in women is an extremely common condition. More than 10 percent of American women have ADHD, which is a disorder of the central nervous system. Women with ADHD also tend to have more difficulty concentrating on three-D projects, such as writing and reading. While researchers are not exactly sure why this occurs, most believe it has to do with changes in neurotransmitters known as dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine and norepinephrine are substances that allow nerves to communicate with each other. 


Common Symptoms of ADHD in Women:


  • Lack of concentration

  • Hyperactivity

  • Distractibility

  • Impulsiveness


The lack of focus and hyperactivity is considered "comorbid" with ADHD, which means they are both symptoms of the disorder itself. However, there are some instances where women are treated separately from their co-occurring conditions. For instance, children with ADHD that also have Asperger's syndrome or a co-occurring disorder such as obesity, depression, alcohol abuse or drug addiction may need to receive separate treatment. In these cases, the medications used to treat the child with ADHD will likely be used in conjunction with therapy and behavioural modification techniques. 


Women with ADHD have certain characteristics that are unique to the disorder:


  •  Women are much more likely than men to exhibit symptoms of both hyperactivity-impulsivity and ADHD combined with depression or other mood disorders. 

  • Women tend to be more emotionally intense and are much more prone to mood swings than men. 

  • Women with ADHD also report more frequent sleep issues than men. 

  • They also may experience higher levels of anxiety and depression and are more likely to engage in risky behaviours. 


There are four criteria for diagnosing Women with ADHD:


  1. The first is that symptoms must interfere with life and/or academic functioning. 

  2. The second is that females must be seen by a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a child psychologist or a nurse practitioner. 

  3. The third criterion is that the specialist must determine that the inattentive type of ADHD is present. 

  4. The fourth criteria require that the female must have been treated with psychostimulants for at least six months before she can be diagnosed with ADHD. 


Girls with hyperactivity disorder have been less well studied than ADHD in boys. There are a number of theories about gender differences in ADHD but no hard facts. Researchers believe that girls are affected more by biological factors than boys and that boys are more likely to be treated with prescription medications rather than behavioural therapies. It is believed that girls are less likely than boys to engage in risky behaviour and that genetic factors are responsible for the symptoms of hyperactivity disorder in boys and girls alike. 

Boys and girls respond differently to treatment regimens. Boys typically respond to positive parenting and positive reinforcement treatments. Girls generally respond to dietary changes and medication. 


ADHD Treatments:


Diet and Exercise have consistently shown to be effective treatments for women with ADHD. However, one important factor that must be considered in treatment is that women with ADHD are normally pregnant or nursing and are in a state of low nutritional condition. This can affect the results of the treatment. Women with ADHD may respond to treatment initially but once their babies arrive they may not be receptive to medication. The bottom line is that diet and exercise need to be part of an overall treatment program for women with ADHD.


Dietary interventions have particularly shown success in controlling obesity. Women with ADHD and obesity have a greater risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Impacts of ADHD on women varies by factors such as the level of body fat and activity, but all women with ADHD are at increased risk of becoming obese. Thus, diet and exercise must be a central component of treatment.


A well-controlled trial by Bahnsman et al. found that women with ADHD had a greater fat mass and a higher fat mass index than women without ADHD. Women with ADHD also had more significant reductions in their BMI than women without ADHD. These findings are important, especially since the typical treatment protocol for both genders, dietary control, has not been proven to reduce obesity in a meaningful way. This study is important because it adds another possible mechanism through which the hyperactivity-impulsivity factor may interfere with diet and exercise. This brings us to the second point made above: women with ADHD may be more sensitive to diet and exercise than women without ADHD.


The third important point is that women with ADHD are likely to be over-sensitive to diet and exercise. This means that the symptoms they exhibit are actually worsened by diet and exercise. Women with comorbid ADHD are also likely to report greater symptoms of over-sensitivity to diet and exercise. So, in addition to the potentially serious weight gain associated with ADHD, women with comorbid ADHD may be at even greater risk for obesity and other common diseases like osteoporosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and other systemic disorders. Exercise can help significantly in many of these conditions. It is especially important in women with ADHD because of their greater susceptibility to depression and lower self-esteem due to their dysfunctional relationships with diet and exercise, which can make them more receptive to diet and exercise-related challenges.


It's still not completely understood how diet and exercise affect obesity. Comorbid ADHD subjects who were given a special diet were found to have less body fat and increased muscle mass, but researchers are still uncertain whether diet and exercise are linked to obesity in general. Interestingly, women with ADHD had greater muscle mass and a lower percentage of body fat than did women without ADHD. Perhaps the extra calories from the exercise boosted the metabolism and produced additional hormones that helped suppress appetite. Either way, it is clear that diet and exercise in addition to medications for treating ADHD are important to both women with ADHD and those at risk for obesity.


There are certain times of life when diet and exercise may be particularly important to women with ADHD. The hormone fluctuations during pregnancy and adolescence can have an effect on child development and on symptoms of ADHD. As women enter their later years, they may be especially concerned about their weight and what can lead to obesity. Exercise also helps with depression and other emotional symptoms, which can be symptoms of ADHD as well. And while many women with ADHD tend to be overweight, most do not become obese or suffer from chronic obesity.


One area where research is particularly unclear is how diet and exercise relate to ADHD in women. Some experts think that women with ADHD are just as prone to developing obesity as women without, but there is no consensus on this. One reason for the disagreement is that there is no definitive test for ADHD. While some measures such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels seem to be able to predict obesity, no blood test has been developed that shows whether or not eating patterns will contribute to or worsen a woman's symptoms of ADHD.


Another area of confusion relates to whether diet and exercise can help control behaviour or just act as a mild form of antidepressant. As noted above, there are many studies that suggest the latter, but those studies do not show that diet and exercise alone can help control behaviour. In fact, those studies do not even control the ADHD condition itself. The only way to control diet and exercise is by using a behavioural scale in addition to using the measure of behaviour alone. The results may not always be the same for women with ADHD and those without, but the overall picture is that diet and exercise can help control some of the more common ADHD symptoms such as delayed discounting, impulse control problems and poor impulse functioning. If diet and exercise alone cannot control symptoms, then ADHD homoeopathic remedies may be an ideal alternative.

Women with ADHD may respond to one or more of the following treatments.


They could be given antidepressant medications, which are usually the first line of treatment because they are effective in treating both inattentive and hyperactive types. Antipsychotic medications can also help with symptoms of inattentive ADHD in females. Some believe that Risperdal (Latent-Rise) is effective in treating both subtypes of ADHD in females. In addition, a new type of dietary supplements called ADHD Friendly has been used for some time with positive results. 


In Conclusion:


Researchers continue to study the symptoms, causes, and treatments of ADHD in women. Although they have several symptoms, they seem to differ from males. There are still many unanswered questions about ADHD, including the exact cause. However, there are several reasons that seem to be more prevalent in females than in males. Women seem to be at a higher risk for suffering from hyperactivity/ distractibility, but researchers are not quite sure how this difference came about.


If you would like some further guidance and support on managing your ADHD, then you should contact your local experienced ADHD specialist for an in-depth ADHD assessment to improve your understanding of the disorder and to know what treatment method is fit for you or them.

adhd adhd symptoms adhd assessment women women with adhd

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