What Are the ADD Symptoms in Women?

Signs and Symptoms of ADD in Women

Disorganized woman making a dress
Many females with ADD remain undiagnosed until adulthood. Some are overlooked altogether and never diagnosed. John Burke/Getty Images

It is important to understand ADD symptoms in women. Many females with ADD remain undiagnosed until adulthood. Some are overlooked altogether and never diagnosed. For some women, a diagnosis is made after their own children are diagnosed. As she learns more and more about ADD, she recognizes the ADD traits in herself. It is often a huge relief to finally understand and put a name to the condition causing the problems.

Hormonal changes and fluctuations during puberty, the monthly premenstrual time, pregnancy, and menopause can all affect ADD symptoms. This has further complicated the understanding of ADD in women.

Read Responses to the question:
How Have Your Symptoms Changed in Relation to Normal Hormonal Fluctuations?

Understanding ADD Symptoms in Women

People are becoming more and more aware of adult ADD in general. There is also a better understanding about the differences in the way symptoms can often present in women versus men with ADD. In addition, there appears to be more and more awareness of the “predominantly inattentive” subtype of ADD that is more common in females. Rather than displaying the hyperactive, disruptive symptoms that are more noticeable, these females may present as introverted, shy, distractible, disorganized, forgetful, and daydreamy. They may have a low tolerance for stress, be extremely sensitive to criticism, and work hard to conform to adult expectations.

If a female has more of the hyperactive-impulsive symptoms of ADD, she may present as hyper-talkative and hyper-social. She may have intense emotional reactions or be described as stubborn or argumentative. She may have poor self control, in addition to being distractible, inattentive, and disorganized.

(Read more about How Hyperactivity May Present Differently in Adults with ADD v. Children)

ADD Symptoms in Women are Real

Women with ADD face the same overwhelmed and exhausted feelings a man with ADD may have. Psychological distress, feelings of inadequacy, low self esteem, and chronic stress are common. Often women with ADD feel that their lives are out of control or in chaos. Daily tasks may seem insurmountable. Though many women are expected to be caretakers, this role can be extremely frustrating and difficult for a woman with ADD. When things feel out of control and she has trouble organizing and planning her own life, taking care of others seems nearly impossible. It also may exacerbate her feelings of inadequacy. Read more about Identifying and Treating Parents With ADD.

Accurate diagnosis and treatment can help. Things can get better. To learn more about finding help, go to Help for Adult ADHD. Read about treatment considerations for women with ADD.

Conditions that Can Commonly Occur with ADD in Women

Many women with ADD also experience the following conditions.

  • Dysphoria
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Chronic Sleep Deprivation
  • Compulsive Overeating


Nadeau, Kathleen G., Adventures in Fast Forward: Life, Love, and Work for the ADD Adult. Brunner-Routledge, New York. 1996.

National Resource Center on ADHD, Women and ADHD, What We Know series. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Landover, MD. 2004.

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