How ADHD Affects Men/Boys and Women/Girls Differently?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD has today become one of the most common conditions that affect children. ADHD is a mental disorder that causes many types of disruptive and hyperactive behaviors in children. Some of the common symptoms of ADHD include having difficulty in focusing, sitting still, or staying organized. Due to these symptoms, children often have problem adjusting and sustaining in school. Most children start showing signs of ADHD before they reach the age of 7, though in some it may remain undiagnosed till well into adulthood as well. Previously the treatment for ADHD was the same for both girls and boys, new research has now shown that there are substantial differences in how ADHD manifests in girls and boys, which is why the process how ADHD is recognized and diagnosed also needs to be different for both the genders. Let us take a look at how ADHD affect men and women differently.

ADHD and the Role of Gender

It is important to watch out for symptoms of ADHD and to be aware that the treatment options for ADHD will depend on gender. However, it is important to keep in mind that the treatment does not solely depend on gender alone. In fact, the fact is that ADHD symptoms are not the same for each child, regardless of gender. Even two siblings can suffer from ADHD, yet display different symptoms and also respond differently to the same treatment.

Typically, ADHD is usually associated with hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, as well as a lack of focus. However, there are many different shades of ADHD and the condition affects different people differently. While some children may have trouble in sitting still, others will face problem in completing simple tasks, such as school homework. Some children may display a wide range of emotions or just randomly blurt out some inappropriate comments. Additionally, another type of ADHD involves children showing symptoms such as forgetfulness, boredom, daydreaming, lack of focus, and difficulty in organizing things in their lives.

Research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that boys are 3 times more likely to receive a diagnosis for ADHD when compared to girls. This does not mean that girls are less likely to have ADHD, but it is because symptoms of ADHD tend to present in a different manner in girls as compared to boys. ADHD symptoms in girls are more subtle than in boys; and therefore harder to identify.

In fact, the researchers found evidence that boys who have ADHD tend to show many externalized symptoms, such as impulsivity, unable to sit still and running around. On the other hand, girls who have ADHD tend to show internalized symptoms such as low self-esteem and inattentiveness. Boys having ADHD are also more aggressive physically, whereas girls are more aggressive verbally. Due to the fact that girls having ADHD often display less behavioral issues along with fewer noticeable symptoms, the difficulties these children face with ADHD tend to get overlooked by parents and doctors both. As a result of this, these girls are not referred for further evaluation and treatment, which can result in having more problems in the future.

When ADHD goes undiagnosed in girls, it can negatively impact their self-esteem and their mental health. This is because girls who suffer from ADHD tend to keep their anger and pain bottled up and when they continue to go undiagnosed with the condition, they become more likely to develop problems in social settings, school, and even their personal relationships. This is different from boys as they tend to externalize their frustrations.

How to Recognize ADHD in Women/Girls?

As the symptoms of ADHD vary in girls, one has to pay more attention in order to diagnose the condition in girls. Girls suffering from ADHD are known to display inattentive aspects of ADHD. Boys, on the other hand, display hyperactive characteristics of the condition, making it easier to identify the ADHD symptoms in boys both at home and at school. Meanwhile, inattentive behavior in girls is usually more subtle and the child is also not disruptive in school, making it difficult to identify the condition as ADHD in girls. Often times, the condition actually gets mistaken for being laziness or even a learning disability. Some of the symptoms of ADHD that girls display include:

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Being withdrawn from friends or family.
  • Anxiety.
  • Trouble focusing.
  • Intellectual impairment.
  • Difficulty with academic performance.
  • A tendency to ‘daydream’ or not paying attention in class.
  • Verbal aggression such as name-calling, teasing and taunting.
  • Appearing to not listen when talked to.

Women suffering from ADHD are also likely to witness more conflicts at home, mothers who have ADHD may feel overwhelmed, and also have trouble managing their household if married. Many women who have ADHD and who remain undiagnosed till adulthood remember suffering from issues since their childhood. A lot of women after being diagnosed with ADHD complain that they had trouble understanding what their teacher was saying in school, and many times had no idea what was going on at their home or school. In women whose ADHD stays undiagnosed till college, it has been seen that these women generally suffer from self-regulation and self-management. Some of the potential risks these women face include being influenced by recreational drugs or by a sorority. While they will still not become as wild as some men with ADHD, but when compared to girls who don’t have ADHD, these women will be seen as being more risk-taking.

How to Recognize ADHD in Men/Boys?

It is safe to say that ADHD often goes under-diagnosed in girls, it may very well be missed in boys as well. Boys are generally being perceived as being energetic and this is why when boys run around and act out, parents often tend to simply dismiss it as ‘boys being boys,’ and not link it with ADHD. However, studies have shown that boys who have ADHD are more impulsive and hyperactive than girls who have ADHD. This does not mean, though that all boys who have ADHD are impulsive and hyperactive. In many cases, boys also display inattentive aspects of ADHD and therefore the condition might not get diagnosed as these boys are not physically disruptive.

While this is for boys, in men also ADHD symptoms tend to be more pronounced than in women. For example, many studies have found that men who have ADHD tend to have more car accidents, are more prone to substance abuse and have more behavioral and anger issues as compared to women.

Some of the symptoms that boys with ADHD tend to display include:

  • Hyperactivity such as hitting, running around, having restless leg syndrome, etc.
  • Inability to sit still.
  • Impulsive or ‘acting out’.
  • Not being able to focus and generally being inattentive.
  • Physical aggression.
  • Talking too much or non-stop.
  • Interrupting other people’s activities and conversations.


There is no doubt that the symptoms of ADHD present differently in boys/men and girls/women. No matter the symptoms, it is imperative that parents pay attention to their children, as undiagnosed ADHD can create even more problems in the long run. ADHD symptoms do not lessen or become less severe with age and they can continue to impact many areas of a person’s life. Not only do ADHD patients struggle with school, the disorder also affects their relationships at home and at work. ADHD also increases the risk of having other mental conditions, such as anxiety, learning disabilities, and depression. Being aware of how ADHD manifests in girls/women and boys/men differently, will allow you to be more aware to detect any symptoms in your child. Take them for an evaluation for ADHD at the earliest to prevent the condition from worsening.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 1, 2018

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