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12 min read

Signs of ADHD in adult women: why women go undiagnosed

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: Apr 23, 2024

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

Table of contents

Millions of adult women struggle with disorganization, forgetfulness, indecision, difficulty listening to others, and mood problems. While some are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nearly half of the women who struggle with this disorder remain undiagnosed. It’s important to recognize the signs of ADHD in adult women.

In this article, we discuss the signs of ADHD in adult women, why women often go undiagnosed, and how you can get a diagnosis and treatment if you think you might be a woman living with undiagnosed ADHD.

Signs of ADHD in women vs men

Males and females tend to display symptoms of ADHD differently. Men and boys tend to exhibit more hyperactivity symptoms, such as outbursts and causing disruption. Women and girls tend to exhibit less disruptive and more inattentive symptoms, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and tendencies to daydream, which can easily be mistaken for other conditions. 

The disparity is why, for years, ADHD was characterized as a condition that affected young boys. Some studies show that nearly 50% of women and young girls with ADHD symptoms go undiagnosed.

But, while males are diagnosed with ADHD more frequently, female patients suffer the same consequences, including poor work performance and behavior-related problems if ADHD is undiagnosed and untreated. 

If you think that you have ADHD, get guidance from a healthcare provider. On Klarity, you can connect with a medical professional for quality ADHD evaluation and treatment online or in person. Find an ADHD provider today!

Why wait to prioritize your mental health? Get started toward a happier, healthier life on Klarity now.

Signs and symptoms of Adult ADHD in women


Inattentiveness encompasses a wide range of characteristics, such as a lack of attention to detail, losing items, leaving tasks unfinished, and making careless mistakes. 


Lack of control and inability to stay with a plan are hallmarks of disorganization. Examples of disorganization include messy workspaces and clutter. 


Lapse of memory ranges from simple annoyance to very traumatic. Not knowing where your car keys are as opposed to not knowing where you parked your car are examples of the degree of this common ADHD symptom. A woman with ADHD usually can look back on a lifetime of examples and be astounded that they didn’t notice the pattern. 


Women with ADHD tend to frequently put off tasks, especially those with lots of details. This can be related to poor time management, difficulty establishing priorities, or forgetting the necessary steps involved in completing a task.


Distractibility is characterized by a lack of ability to maintain attention and having your attention drawn quickly to something else. Women with ADHD may recognize this in themselves but feel powerless to stop it, which leads to multiple unfinished projects. While this symptom is common, its opposite, hyperfocus, can also be common. 

Inability to plan

The inability to plan results from a lack of focus as well as a cognitive impairment that prevents an individual from organizing cohesive thoughts into an executable flow. 

Lack of attention to detail

Missing details is a hallmark of ADHD, and boring or monotonous tasks can exacerbate this symptom.

Inability to focus

The inability to focus is a lack of concentration. While some individuals with ADHD exhibit this symptom, they may also exhibit hyperfocus, which can cause them to lose interest in other important tasks.


Hyperfocus is highly focused attention, to the point of blocking out all other things going on around you over a significant amount of time. It’s the opposite of the inability to focus and distractibility, but women with ADHD may exhibit all these symptoms, making reaching a diagnosis hard.

Poor time management skills

Similar to the inability to plan, managing time when you have ADHD can be a significant challenge. Because you may be distracted easily or hyper focused on one task over another, you lose track of time and suffer the consequences. 

ADHD in women

While it’s still unknown if you are born with ADHD, the condition is tied to genetic factors. Most women diagnosed with ADHD typically had it as a child and simply weren’t treated for their symptoms earlier.

While ADHD is typically associated with children, the American Psychiatric Association reports that an estimated 2.5% of adults have ADHD. Other sources put that figure at more than 4%, and the number may be growing as diagnostics continue to improve and more people seek treatment. Single-digit percentages translate to millions of adults.

Why women with ADHD often go undiagnosed

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), ADHD symptoms generally fall into 3 types: predominantly hyperactive, predominantly inattentive, and combined type.

In women, inattentiveness symptoms are more prominent, while males typically display hyperactivity or impulsivity. This leads to inattentive ADHD symptoms in women being commonly mistaken for a mood disorder, anxiety, or other related conditions.

Women may also develop better coping strategies than males. These strategies can mask symptoms needed for proper diagnosis and may explain why men appear nearly 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than women. 

Internalizing issues associated with ADHD

Women are more likely to internalize their issues, which can lead to a host of additional symptoms that ADHD specialists are becoming more aware of. In addition to anxiety and depression, women with ADHD may exhibit compulsive overeating, substance abuse, low self-esteem, and chronic sleep deprivation.

Depression can coexist with and mask ADHD in women

Depression in women with ADHD is common. They often develop coping strategies to hide their symptoms, but the condition remains. Masking may not be a conscious decision for women with ADHD, but it can make it more difficult to receive an accurate diagnosis. 

Why it’s important to diagnose and treat ADHD in women

ADHD is complicated, and there are unique issues related to hormonal effects on ADHD that women may face. If you’re a woman with adult ADHD, you deserve the best diagnostic and treatment options.

Just as no 2 people with adult ADHD express the disorder exactly the same, there’s no “one size fits all” way to treat symptoms. In general, people benefit from comprehensive treatment plans that consist of diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, behavior modification techniques, and ongoing care from an experienced provider. 

If you think you have ADHD, a provider on Klarity can help

If you think you have ADHD, find a healthcare provider for personalized ADHD treatment on Klarity. Find a provider for an online or in-person appointment today!

ADHD in women FAQs

How does ADHD differ between men and women?

While the core symptoms of ADHD — inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity — are consistent across genders, how they present in women vs men differs. Women are more likely to have the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD. This means they might struggle more with attention to detail, organization, and follow-through on tasks rather than overt hyperactivity. Social expectations and gender roles can also affect how symptoms are perceived and managed, with women often developing coping mechanisms that mask their ADHD.

Can hormonal changes affect ADHD symptoms in women?

Yes, hormonal fluctuations can significantly impact ADHD symptoms in women. Estrogen, in particular, plays a crucial role in regulating neurotransmitter activity associated with attention and mood. During periods of hormonal change, such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, women with ADHD may notice fluctuations in their symptoms. For example, some women report increased ADHD symptoms before their menstrual period when estrogen levels drop.

How does ADHD affect relationships and social interactions for women?

Women with ADHD may face challenges in relationships and social interactions due to symptoms like inattentiveness, forgetfulness, and impulsivity. These can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and feelings of inadequacy or rejection. Emotional dysregulation, another common aspect of ADHD, can make it difficult to manage responses to social cues and conflicts. Recognizing these challenges and seeking support through therapy or support groups can be beneficial.

Are there specific coping strategies recommended for women with ADHD?

Effective coping strategies for women with ADHD often involve a combination of organizational tools, self-care practices, and seeking appropriate support. Techniques can include using planners or digital apps for organization, breaking tasks into manageable steps, or setting reminders for important tasks. It’s also helpful to build a supportive network of friends, family, or a support group who understand ADHD.

Are there gender-specific support groups or resources for women with ADHD?

Yes, there are support groups and resources specifically tailored for women with ADHD. These groups provide a platform for sharing experiences, strategies, and support among women facing similar challenges. They can be found in various formats, including online forums, social media groups, and local in-person meetings. Organizations focusing on ADHD also often have resources, articles, and workshops designed to address the unique needs of women with ADHD, providing valuable information and community support.


The ADD Resource Center, “ADHD Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You,” Kimberly Holland, September 4, 2014,

American Psychiatric Association, “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR),”

American Psychiatric Association. “What is ADHD?”

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. “General Prevalence of ADHD.”

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. “Women and Girls.”

PubMed, “Prevalence and Correlates of Adult Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Meta-analysis,” Viktoria Simon, March 2009,

ADDitude. “What Are the 3 Types of ADHD?” Penny Williams. Sept. 1, 2019.

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