Women with undiagnosed ADHD have greater comorbid risks and a greater severity of outcomes than males, but when problems surface in adulthood, these are often misdiagnosed with depression, eating and/or anxiety disorders as well as other comorbidities ( Prof Sandra Kooij, UKAAN conference 2014).
Females with ADHD are more likely to have inattentive symptoms and a tendency to internalize their difficulties. The hormonal changes during puberty and the menopause often intensify ADHD symptoms, which makes it even more difficult for those who are undiagnosed and untreated. Conforming to society’s expectations is much more difficult for these women and their sense of inadequacy increases. Most women with undiagnosed ADHD experience chronic psychological stress, anxiety and depression, are prone to having unhealthy relationship dynamics and maritial discord.
In women with a high IQ and undiagnosed ADHD who seem to have academic and professional success, there is a great disparity between their intellectual and social/emotional functioning. To mask symptoms, they compensate to the detriment of their mental health; perfectionism is rife in this group and a reluctance to seek help so that they are less likely to be diagnosed. Burn-out is a common occurrence in high-functioning women with ADHD and sometimes, – but not always – this may lead to their being diagnosed with ADHD and related comorbidities. In too many cases, however, it leads to misdiagnosis of observable behaviours; depression, eating and/or anxiety disorders again being the most typical (Dr. Ellen Littman, Conference Brussels October 2017).