We’ve spoken about the problem of women and girls in particular flying under the radar when it comes to diagnosing neurodiversity – mainly because the symptoms women experience are presented different from men and boys.
But gender disparity isn’t the only situation in which difficulties are experienced in gaining or providing a solid diagnosis for ADHD.
This blog explores some of the ways we face challenges in day-to-day life when dealing with ADHD. Knowing what factors to be aware of can help teaching staff and parents understand and identify support children need from a young age.
It’s much more likely that boys will receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls, depending on where they are in the world. For example, the rate at which girls are diagnosed compared to boys is somewhere between 1:3 and 1:10. It’s believed that this is due to underdiagnosis rather than the occurrence rate being lower. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been as much research and data collection done for girls and women with ADHD either, which only exacerbates this disparity.
While boys tend to demonstrate the hyperactive symptoms of the disorder, girls are more likely to tend towards inattention (though this can be misunderstood as female hyperactivity become internalised at an earlier age than males) – a symptom for which girls are likely to develop coping mechanisms to mask their difficulties. Add to this that girls may experience differing symptoms throughout their life stages and hormone changes and diagnosing in girls and women is even more problematic.
Highly intelligent and gifted individuals can very effectively mask symptoms of ADHD, autism and other learning differences such as dyslexia. In early education, ADHD symptoms can be missed because of excellent achievement, but as school or work gets harder, the dysfunction can become more noticeable, leading to later diagnoses and the risk of associated mental health problems.
Narrow definitions of what form a neurodivergence diagnosis have contributed to underdiagnosing.
People who present symptoms which differ from the narrow definitions can get lost in the mix. This is particularly worrying in females who display more inattention than hyperactivity, ethnicity groups that tend to need to stay compliant to stay safe, other gender identities that manifest their personalities in different ways and therefore fly under the radar.
The family and cultural situation in which a child is brought up can lead to missed diagnoses too. In families and settings where resilience and self-sufficiency are encouraged, mental and neurological health support is glossed over, or there’s a stigma attached to taking medication or talking about certain conditions, Neurodivergents could go unsupported.
Economic status, possible language barriers, health literacy, educational access, and healthcare availability will also often play a role.
It’s crucial to listen to Neurodivergents – hear and recognise their experiences, struggles and barriers so that we can improve the education system, healthcare services and social settings to include, nurture and inspire them.
The best thing you can do for yourself following a diagnosis is to find a supportive community of like-minded individuals to talk about your diagnosis with. You’ll feel validated, find solidarity and discover ways to navigate the new sense of identity you’ve uncovered.
You can join the ADHD Girls’ FREE WhatsApp community for women with ADHD. Use this link to join the group.
If you’d like to understand how to thrive with ADHD in your life and work, check out our ADHD Workplace Adjustments & Wellbeing course.
When you find that your ADHD co-occurs with other conditions, it can be hard to explain what this means in the workplace, you can request your workplace to book Sam for neurodiversity awareness training.
We also provide our neurodiversity training and consultations for the managers at your organisation.
A social impact company with a dual mission to empower girls and women with ADHD to thrive in society and to improve societal understanding of neurodiversity.