Statistics show that in the UK for every 4 boys that are diagnosed with ADHD, it equates to just one girl getting diagnosed (2019, NHS). Are we to take it that there are more boys out there with ADHD than girls?
It is an interesting question, particularly when you look at the structure of the male brain. Biologically speaking boys are more practical minded, which means their biology drives them to do things that are more action orientated.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that girls cannot do physical or practical things, I’m just saying that the male brain is more structured for this, and this stems back to an evolutionary survival of the fittest structure. Going back to the time of the cave man, it was the man’s job to hunt and fight, while it was the woman’s job to bore children. It’s sexist, absolutely, but that’s what happened and while evolution has moved on a couple of thousand years we still carry those first biological instincts within us.
“If a child uses masking as a coping strategy, then chances are they will never learn to feel comfortable in their own skin or new situations.”ADHD Girl
Another explanation is that women are more able to regulate their behaviour, again stemming back to being less action-orientated, which tends to mean that they are better at something called masking. Masking is where a child or adult copies the behaviour of those around them to adapt to their surroundings.
While this can be great for hiding the symptoms of ADHD, it means that the child will never become someone who can manage their own behaviour. Hence when they are in unfamiliar situations they are likely to become overwhelmed and their behaviour will be significantly worse. Not to mention the fact they will never feel completely comfortable about themselves and who they are.
The problem is that while girls do have ADHD they would tend to be undiagnosed, and this is probably because with masking or without the action-orientated part of ADHD their symptoms display more as ADD which causes less problems for teachers in the classroom. ADD is basically ADHD without the hyperactivity; it doesn’t mean the brain isn’t all over the place, it just means the child isn’t physically displaying hyperactivity.
“As horrible as it was, I’m glad I was disruptive at school.”ADHD Girl
The predominate way ADHD is diagnosed is through a child causing problems in the classroom. In fact it wasn’t until I started formal schooling that my parents even realised there was an issue with my behaviour. This presents it’s own set of questions, but the point is that if it’s only through being disruptive that ADHD is recognised then girls, who are more likely to have ADD or who are masking ADHD are not going to get diagnosed or recognised as having a problem at all.
I know it seems odd to say this, but I feel extremely lucky that my symptoms manifested themselves as disruptive in the classroom. It wasn’t nice for my teachers, it was annoying for my peers and frustrating to me, but at least I was seen and heard. I’ve actually never been one of those people whose good at masking and I think it’s partly because my mum raised me to be incredibly honest. Honest to the point that I actually value my authenticity and originality. I can act with the best of them, but I can’t be disloyal to myself; it feels more wrong than other people thinking badly of me.
In summary, it’s time that females get equal recognition with men in the ADHD department even if they have ADD. Not only are we fighting against the lack of support for adults, but we’re also fighting against a condition that is predominately seen as child or male orientated.
“I’m so happy for these women who have been struggling for most of their life, before finally achieving the validation of a diagnosis.”ADHD Girl
I am part of several ADHD online support groups and there are many women out there who are only just getting diagnosed with ADHD/ADD in their thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties. They’ve had to struggle their whole lives and only now are they being validated. Being told that their struggles are real, that they have been misunderstood for years and are not just a nuisance to those around them.
While I’m extremely happy for these women that they are now seen and heard, so many females with ADHD still suffer in silence while the men get all the attention…..NO MORE! Somethings got to change and it’s only by women standing up and saying, “THIS IS ME AND I AM STRUGGLING!!” that we are going to change the status quo.
“Don’t give up, you know yourself and your children better than anyone. You might not know what’s wrong, but you know when something is wrong.”ADHD Girl
Maybe you think you have ADHD, and you have ignored by your doctor, dismissed by your family, and are still seeking that validation/ understanding. Don’t give up, you know yourself better than anybody and if you know there is a problem with how your brain processes things then keep pushing. Nobody else has to go through what you’re going through so nobody else gets to give you the final answer until you are willing to accept it.
Perhaps you have a daughter or a child at school and you suspect, even in your gut, that something is not right, then fight for them, tell them to stand up and be counted because girls can have ADHD too and we deserve the support and validation that comes with it.
ADHD can be difficult enough without validation, understanding and support. We’ve got to kick and scream every step of the way, but we are people who deserve to be seen and heard just as much as our male counterparts.
NHS (2019) Delivering Effective Services for Children and Young People with ADHD [Online] Available at:- https://www.england.nhs.uk/north-west/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/GM-wide-ADHD-guidance.pdf (Accessed 27/10/21)