Female ADHD - research-based question... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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Female ADHD - research-based questionnaire for diagnosis?


Hi all,

New to ADHD amd this group, have tried search, but hope you shortcut me...

I read that female ADD or ADHD is slightly different. I’ve seen “magaziney” sympton lists and self-questionnaires for women...

(Eg Additude’s... really reads lighthearted)

But is there anything researched, or even used in UK?

Many thanks!

34 Replies

This is the example I found, that feels a bit chatty, rather than researched...


HowCome in reply to HowCome

This article does cover some female adhd research, but not specific on symptom list differences...


Hi there, welcome to the gang!

I hope you won't mind me very gently correcting you on the 'female ADHD being different' point. While there is a sense in which this is true, I think it's really important to remember that there is no such thing as male or female ADHD - there is just ADHD. The underlying causes and mechanisms are completely identical.

What CAN be different is male and female socialisation - and this in turn affects the outward presentation of the ADHD in some cases. This is because boys and girls are still treated differently in many respects and society has different expectations of men and women.

So for example, all kids with ADHD will find it hard to sit still and listen carefully to others. But this behaviour is traditionally seen as more acceptable in boys, whereas girls are supposed to be good and quiet and friendly. So when girls with ADHD don't fit this stereotype they are more likely to be punished or ostracised, and we work extra hard to suppress and mask our natural traits as a result. In other words we are actively trying to hide our ADHD.

This is why it's more common for girls/women not to outwardly express their hyperactivity symptoms - we've learned that we're not accepted when w do. So this is really the only reason it can be said to be different or 'harder to spot'. It's a really important distinction I think! Especially since it's resulted in many of us being late diagnosed :(

So how did diagnosis work out for you? Did you always suspect you had ADHD or was it a bit of a surprise?

Thanks for reply!

And for being very gentle!

(Love the profile name distractonaught!)

Yes, I see what you’re saying.... explains why i’m not really finding very much that’s helpful when i look for research into adhd in females.

Hoping to find more on research or medical position on emotional hypersensitivity, and rejection sensitive dysphoria, too... early days... this adhd idea only clicked for me last week!!

No diagnosis... not sure whether to go after one... talking it through with a counsellor i’ve worked with for a long time, thru the ongoing struggle with untidiness, lateness, chaotic living and overwhelm since I had a child.

I think i was on the edge before, and the parental sleep deprivation and postnatal depression prob just pushed me over the edge. 8 years on, i’m not depressed or anxious as such, but I’m totally sick of the rollercoaster i seem to live on, where life’s little challenges throw me about so hard.

The “no other more suitable diagnosis” might be a hindrance. Also “symptoms since before age 12”. I thought i was ok at school, bit of a misfit, but did well, went to uni, worked professionally.

But if I had to go back to proper work, I don’t think I would cope now... and I just can’t figure out why... what stops me getting my head together, if there isn’t a panic deadline (like school starting at 9.00, leave house 8.55!!)

Reading about ADHD seems to ring loud bells at the moment. (I looked at it 3 or 4 years ago, read I’m not lazy, sad or crazy by Peggy Raymundo and tye other lady.)

Counsellor is on a self-esteem and couple counselling/relationship track, though i’m not making much progress, by myself or with hubby.

But i’m wondering, now, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

If i tidy up, my husband will suddenly pay me all the positive attention i need... really??

But i can’t get through all the muddle. Its like wading thru deep mud.

Puzzled moan over, thanks for listening!!

Some definite traits there from what you're describing.

Btw I wouldn't read too much into academic achievement, as ADHD doesn't affect intelligence per se - you can have ADHD and a high or low IQ, similar to the situation with autism. I myself am an Oxbridge graduate and was formally diagnoses as an adult, so I can attest to this!

Work is a whole other story though and like you, I have struggled to be consistent in my career and progress in the well-trodden linear path that most of my peers have taken. My CV is all over the place - some really impressive and interesting 'stints' here and there, some big names but never for very long and no obvious upward trajectory. My longest 'real' job was 3 years in a marketing role and I'm now in my early 40s. It's hard not to feel down on yourself when you have high flying friends who think you're just not driven like they are.

Returning to your experience, I think motherhood can often bring these symptoms to the fore as well, particularly with the absolute torment that is sleep deprivation and the pressure to breastfeed around the clock etc. After careful consideration I chose not to have children - not because I don't want them, but because I simply couldn't keep up the routine and organisation needed to be the sort of mother that society expects me to be. I take my hat off to anyone who even tries tbh.

Anyway, I would certainly pursue a diagnosis as soon as you can. Speak to your GP. Get on the NHS waiting list. It took about a year for me to be referred but was so worth it. It may be unfashionable to say so but the drugs really do work, and I was lucky enough to live near a good ADHD clinic where I've met lots of people in exactly the same type of situation. I wouldn't go private personally because it can be harder to get into the NHS system post diagnosis, but it's another option if your local trust is not one of the good ones. Overall things are improving though, so I would go for it.

Thanks for 2nd reply, distractonaught

Some very interesting insights.

How do you know you can't keep up with children, routine and being organized? Other women with ADHD have children and learned how to cope. I have also. YES. YOU WILL BE DIFFERENT COMPARED TO other so called normal people, that doesn't mean you are not able to cope. Everyone is different, we all are. Trying to be like other women will never work. EVERYONE is different, so no one can be the same as another. WE all need to be who we truly are, not another clone. I am sure you will be a better mother than many others. Judging yourself or others only makes life crazy.. Be good to yourself always; because you are perfect just the way you are. Your uniqueness is what makes life so interesting. So with ADHD you find that there are many ways to do things, and you will choose what works for you, and if that doesn't work try a different way. There are so many ways to live with ADHD and learning those ways are usually trial and error. Thats is how we all learn. I am sure when as you learn more about ADD and how to make it easier to live. Like the proper diet; raw foods are best but they have to be organic, it's more expensive but it is really worth it. GMO verified is the next best, and if you find you need to buy non-organic food. Look up the list of foods that are the least harmful. Strawberries bad, banana better, avocados are good, but grapes are worse. on your computer lookup how to eat organically. Pesticides, fertilizers, food stabilizers, added hormones, antibiotics etc.. are things that are very bad for anyones body. They are known to cause cancer, and many other diseases.no form of sugar, breads some are OK, many are not. Check all labels to make sure there is no form of sugar, corn syrup, etc. For sweets there are many organic fruits that taste sweet, dark chocolate at least 70%,and organic. Check the internet, you could also checkout Dr Amen at BrainMD. there is a lot of information on his site and he is the leading doctor on ADD/ADHD. There are others but I know he is the best. go from there, the internet is a lot cheaper than other avenues in general.

When I brought up my daughter I was unaware of my ADD, I just knew I was different from most. I wasn't perfect, and I learned how to adapt which took patience and determination. I did my best and most of all I had to learn to love myself just as I was. That's very important! NO more judgment of me or others. I could burn my whole dinner, and that had to be OK, but I did not like that, so I tried ways of remembering to stay in the kitchen self because you don't think an I am still trying. I am better but I burn a pot occasionally. So What. I go to a garage sale or a place like Good Will and buy another. Vitamins, supplements are important, but they need to be of high quality or they don't work well.

If you really want to have a child p lease don't deprive yourself of the happiness and joy they bring to yourself. Personally I adopted, because my husband couldn't put his 2 cents in. I asked for help when I thought I needed it, screen those people so you won't take the wrong advise. People mean well but doesn't mean they can help you, especially if they don''t have ADD.I hope you will look into it again. You are not damaged goods and you will bring a lot of love to a child. Want any more ideas, just ask, I will happily tell you what has worked for me and what hasn't . It is you who must judge what will help you. My daughter is 37, married and in the process of buying a new home. If anything she learned many ways to do things, and cope in this crazy world.

HowCome in reply to StoneJeweler

Thankyou for your reply, StoneJeweler

RenewedAt42 in reply to HowCome

Touching on the post natal depression, hormones can play a significant role in the severity of ADHD symptoms in women. Mine was unknown to me until after a full hysterectomy. Even at that, it was a scary 3 year process of declining focus, the loss of a great job, and increased depression and anxiety before a clinician was able to diagnose me. I feel for you with the counseling issues. I had seen a few and none of their "talk about it" or relaxation strategies could fix me. And the deep mud, it is exhausting to feel like you are wading through that 24 hours a day! My best moment knowing I had the correct diagnosis was when I felt the lightness of losing that mud ( I called mine partially hardened concrete). I didn't realize I had been living with every muscle tightened as if I was about to jump off a tall cliff at any moment. Once I got my life going back in the right direction and had some hindsight, I could definitely identify that many of the symptoms had been with me all my life, I had just built up coping mechanisms to get around them.

So with this said, it sounds like you may be on to something. Trust yourself and be sure to find a prescribe that will truly listen to you and ask you the right questions.

And, the book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden helped me a lot. Well, the first half anyway, I got sidetracked and never finished it...

Best of luck!

Yes, the impact of hormones in women with ADHD is huge and very well known at a clinical level but (as ever) there's a lack of research in this area. Anecdotally we know that oestrogen is beneficial in alleviating symptoms, and anything that decreases oestrogen levels (hysterectomy, menopause, the second half of the menstrual cycle) has a known impact on severity of ADHD.

My psychiatrist has actually given me the green light to double my usual dose of Elvanse/Vyvanse in the second half of my cycle, which I think is a good tip for anyone similarly affected.

Hidden in reply to distractonaught

I did not know this link between ADHD and hormones. I always joked I thought I was allergic to my hormones. This is a light hearted response to years of struggling with my cycle and having children etc..

Very enlightening for me. After menopause, I improved so much, so much more even keel. It's crazy! The underlying ADHD is still there of course, and in fact is much clearer for me to see and understand. But thank you and if you find research or written info on this whole ADHD /hormone link, please share. This is fascinating to me. There's, so much I didn't understand. And my thyroid fluctuated wildly while going through menopause, and a few years after that but now seems at a really good level. Never understood that either. Thank you for your post

distractonaught in reply to Hidden

Hiya! Yeah it's fascinating isn't it? I've found some relief from going on the hormonal coil, as this evens things out a bit. I'm relieved to hear there is hope of this happening naturally at some point...the research is pretty limited unfortunately, due to the usual lack of interest and data on women's health. But I'll keep looking.

Hidden in reply to distractonaught

Thank you for your reply. Yes keep going 👍

HowCome in reply to RenewedAt42

Thankyou, RenewedAt42 (great name too!)

I think I’ll be ready for “its probably the menopause”...!!

Isn't it true that females manifest early as very talkative? Or is that also true for both genders? Although I was in my early 60s (I'm now 69) when I learned I had ADHD, I was always excessively talkative , as was my mother, and her father. So that symptom was quite significant to me when I read somewhere that girls manifest as excessively talkative and that ADHD is usually genetically inherited.

Or does that fit in with the fact that in general girls are more talkative/verbal than boys? You can see that developmentally when they are toddlers and learning to talk. It's not blanket across the board, but as retired educator I can assure you it is the general trend.

It's just an ADHD thing. It's related to the impulsivity and hyperactivity. Nothing to do with sex at all IMHO.

Thanks so much for inspiration!

I have booked a GP appointment...

anticipating a war of attrition, as I have some autoimmune issues, inc underactive thyroid, none of which she is interested in looking beyond basics.

But i might be pleasantly surprised.

My counsellor admitted she doesn’t have ADHD expertise, so i hope she may have had time to reflect and take a look at it... i doubt I will want to talk about much else next week (ha ha)

In the meantime, its great to find some company on here - thankyou! I’m feeling a bit isolated, trying not to burden family & friends straight away... I don’t plan on telling my husband about this either, just yet, ...going to try on my new label in private for a little while.... I don’t want to be accused of finding a new excuse... he’s had alot to put up with, at work this year, as well as with me at home (for the last few years!), and he’s busy fixing Xmas, bless him!

Thanks agaib!

RenewedAt42 in reply to HowCome

You bring up another interesting topic! There are some books and articles that discuss a link, or symptom mimic, or some type of correlation between ADHD and thyroid issues. I could not tell you what it is, even though it was explained to me pretty well in a support group used to attend. It may be something to read up on a bit and see what you find.

Would be interested to see that research! I also have an underactive thyroid, diagnosed at 20 but possibly affected and not spotted a lot earlier than that.

I will bear in mind both your replies, and look at that...

Thyroid folks talk of brain fog, but now I’m thinking about inattention and over-attention, and I’m wondering if this fits me better...

though I think its worth some longer reflection....

But I was never quite sure I was on the same page as those describing brain fog.

Sometimes I take a few moments to answer (drives hubby mad, and makes him unreasonably impatient with his next question... i feel under fire, and usually start to over-react... daft spirals!!!)

...but i think its cos he (and my son) are trying to get my attention (which is usually elsewhere.... either thinking about something else, or trying to do something else...)

Rather than my brain can’t keep up.


I wouldn't get too sidetracked by it (or let your GP dismiss it as thyroid symptoms). Quite possible there is a link, but not one we need to worry about.

HowCome in reply to HowCome

My thyroid is considered “treated”... my T4 hormone level is usually within the expected range...

but there is quite a lot of discussion about the range for T4, and for other hormones that the NHS GP rarely looks at...

i’ve got to book an endocrinology referral i did persuade my GP to offer...

but I’ve got stuck!!! :-0

(Would like to identify one who is more open-minded.... people’s experiences of endo’s seem to vary so much.)

Mrynelson in reply to HowCome

I cut a huge paragraph here you’ll be glad. I haven’t written about this in a long time. I would like to suggest that you get advice tailored for you. I would also like you to ask your husband to develop some patience and how would he like it if you treated him to impatience. Please stop blaming yourself. We all give into anger sometime but anger about something you can’t help is unkind. It’s like being angry at someone with a stutter. Sometimes people with attention deficit are described as having a tendency to talk to much I worked with a group of people who had access to some information very general about attention deficit and because of the information they found they would not allow me to speak. Be careful don’t pigeon hole yourself there are common sense strategies for dealing with problems of every kind. As well as specific strategies for attention deficit. I don’t think I would set myself up for long periods of conversation . I have’t had a chance to try it but I entertain myself a bit humorously by thinking I could concentrate if I had a stationary bike with a desk attached. I will let you know after my knee replacement. (Not kidding) looks like I just replaced one paragraph with another. I am from the US. This is the only place I have been comfortable speaking about this issue.

HowCome in reply to Mrynelson

Thanks Mrynelson, good luck with the knee!

That's great to hear - I'm really glad you've got an appointment arranged and hope your GP will be sympathetic. Worth remembering that some are not very clued up on this subject and may be dismissive, so don't forget that you can always speak to another doctor if yours doesn't want to refer you.

I've known people be put off by one GP's unhelpful attitude, so probably worth preparing yourself for this outcome just in case. I got really luck with mine - although I don't think he necessarily 'gets' it he could see that I'd done my research and had a legit reason to want further investigation so he referred me as soon as I brought it up.

Interesting about thyroid stuff cos I have that too (underactive). It's crazy how little info we get on this condition.

Tenacity is something i can find for some things.... will channel towards GP, endo referral, (and getting back diet and omega-3 up together).

Have you seen any of the functional medicine stuff on autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s/underactive?

eg Isabella Wentz, “thyroid pharmacist dot com”


Mark Hyman, neurologist and “FM” practitioner, with “Broken Brain” podcast and other stuff?

Both US based. Many others there.

Also in a similar vein, is Marilyn Glanville in the UK. Probably others here too, but she’s got the marketing team up & running!

Wentz (and Glanville) does try to point to research, but there is also alot of “clinical experience”, as food-as-medicine obviously doesn't attract money for research on the scale the pharmaceutical industry can offer. And trialling dietary changes to good randomised-control standards is more difficult.

Wentz, Hyman and many others do try to turn health interest into income with their books and subscriber docu-series and supported-protocol courses.

(I saw a nutritional “therapist” in UK, also into this stuff. Have tried gluten-free diet, as a “simple” step, but not improvement in my antibodies. Didn’t implement all the supplement advice at the same time...

Would like a traditional dietician’s view next, as a sense check... another stuck task!)

Good luck. I don't even know if my UAT is the autoimmune type or not! I have no idea how to improve the symptoms. Mine are odd though - I am borderline underweight and can't put it on. Every so often I get a weird result where my TSH spikes to 20 or once 50, and they up my dose - only for it to go too far the other way and I invariably end up on the original dose again. It's a complete mystery.

It likely is... you can request tests for the autoimmune antibodies. My area only test for one. (You can test privately, relatively inexpensively.)

But GPs don’t usually do do, as there is no recognised drug treatment.

Really interesting to hear how your TSH varies... i’ve not heard anyone tell if such highs!

I’ve lost weight over the years of motherhood(stress)..... if only it was a reflection if a super healthy diet and a great exercise regime!!

There is a theory that you can get overactive symptoms at times, and variations in thyroid hormone levels, as the autoimmune thing breaks down the thyroid tissue, releasing hormone into the blood. (I imagine icebergs melting in big chunks!)

Thanks so much for replies and for sharing. I’m going to have a couple of days away from the forum... get to grips with some organisation. (Am dying to read up and ask around about the emotional hypersensitivity i’m seeing cropping up, but i’ll get in a pickle, and I really need to try and focus elsewhere for a day or two!! And to be fair to you all, i should get a book or two and read up before I throw out more questions! Maybe Renewedat42’s Sari Solden book recommendation....

Many thanks and best wishes!


Reading all the responses to your question and experience is really making m me think of all the experiences I had with ADHD, menstrual cycle, having children, raising children, thyroid problems etc. I'm new to this forum and have gone through so much of what you and others describe in all those areas. When it comes to help I've seen the good , the bad, and the ugly. It is critical to get properly diagnosed . I got diagnosed with everything in the book before finally being diagnosed with ADHD and being prescribed a stimulant med which helps some (but a multi modal approach works better).

We are all human and all wired uniquely. Do not compare yourself to others or beat yourself up when you think see others having it so together and having great executive function. I know the frustration, the anguish you feel. But remember you are just as worthy as a human being. Nobody is responsible for their neurogenetic wiring. But you have to do you. I think Dr. Russell Barkley describes this well on YouTube .

But I've never heard all these women's issues described in one place with ADHD. This is enlightening to me because I've struggled immensely during my life with so much of these. As a l child I obviously had ADHD but that wasn't even on the radar. (Was so long ago).

After I had my first child was when I was really blown out of the water at 23yo. I've been in this supplement since 30, and yes I've had some wild fluctuations which I never understood.....

I will say one thing... I'm hearing 60 and so much emotionally improved after menopause. So much better. These are things I've always wondered why about

I've still got lots to learn but if I can say anything, don't be hard on yourself, love yourself. There are strengths you have. You may be more cued in to your kids emotional needs. As long as they know you love them and are there for them, they will do ok in life. Give them unconditional love, and smile at them alot. My kids really appreciate some of my wackiness. Sometimes it makes you more relatable.

Make sure you take care of your basic needs. Sleep is essential. Grounding is essential. Take time to do something for you, that totally gives your brain a break ( for me that activity was learning to ice dance- it was like a reset button).

I'm going to check out that book that someone suggested earlier. Try to put calm into your life. Life goes so fast. And so much that we beat ourselves up for and compare ourselves to, doesn't really matter

Last thought which I recently can across is this;

We are not here to make others understand us,

we are here to understand ourselves.

Don't listen to what you think others are thinking about you or what they think of you. Work on knowing and understanding you, trusting and believing you. Get away from judging. It's a journey. One we'll always be on and never finished. We do the best we can at the time. One step at a time. I'm new to really looking into ADHD and while I hope something I said may have clicked with somebody , sometimes I feel like I'm giving myself a pep talk because sometimes it feels with ADHD, , no matter how far down the road we are in life experience, treatment, learning strategies etc. , we can still be at the same moment, because that's the nature of the wiring. I want to go forward and, start thinking positively about myself, just like one of the other m members said.

HowCome in reply to Hidden

“Work on knowing and understanding you, trusting and believing you”

Very interesting phrase.

And the rest of your post - thankyou For sharing you experiences and thinking with me, Lovedandworthy (great name!!)

Hidden in reply to HowCome

Your welcome. The name came out of the last three years of immense personal struggle. I believe it is a truth God revealed to me at the depth of my most alone moment. I start there,knowing that I am loved and worthy at the core of who I am. I experienced this profoundly, and I even write it on the inside of my forearm ( sounds weird maybe). Loved on my left arm,and worthy on my right . It's there so I see it and remember it throughout the day. And it calms me, and I can ground myself and know I'm loved and worthy. I use tattoo markers. Never had any tattoos before and my husband said some negative comments about it, but it doesn't matter. It also gives me strength to be me. No apologies. Every human being is worthy and loved and you can rest in that. I'm beginning to love and respect myself, and I'm working on understanding myself, and who I am. I'm working on getting away from judging myself and others,and trying to please others and coming up to what I think everyone's standards demand of me. I don't know what the future holds for me,it's scary to think about. I'm definitely in a transition phase of my life. But I'm trying to untangle the ball of thoughts and ruminations that have me stuck. I recently joined a group/course called the empathy sanctuary and I'm hoping by learning to understand my fears and anxiety and how my nervous system reacts and change those patterns, my path or several paths will be illuminated for me . But it all starts with loving yourself, your true,human self. Understanding yourself and your particular nervous system and how you react to stress. Learn what your triggers are and get out of your unhealthy reactions to those triggers. Sorry I maybe going ahead of myself.




HowCome in reply to Hidden

Will really try this:

“Don't listen to what you think others are thinking about you“

This is heavily ingrained.

And one of the loudest voices is my poor, long-suffering husband and his disappointment....

There was a bit of a shift, as he had a lightbulb moment, after watching “ADHD Not Just For Kids” (on Channel5 uk and Netflix).

He sent me the uk NHS symptoms list, and said “don’t shout at me, but this is you.”

But patience and understanding has naturally waned, i guess.

i need to find a coach for me, get a diagnosis, and persuade him to some specific family therapy, to get under what this condition might be doing in a relationship.... so many habitual arguments, and ingrained negative reactions - by me but also by him....

HowCome in reply to Hidden

Knowing oneself.... Nadyia, on UK BBC tv at the moment, is talking about her anxiety....

OMG the bit about safety-seeking behaviour.... maybe that’s why i “react” to certain subjects.... to divert attention & energy....

(Eg regular niggle about weeds in the garden.... if i shout about “go on then, if my gardening is not good enough. But don’t destroy the nice green appearance!”.... he only gardens in a “clear everything” way, and i’m sure he’s dealing with some demon of his own. Anyway, he retreats to the tv. So i got my wish... no unbearable change in my garden.... for now. But also no meeting of minds.... but then i had no idea why i was so defensive about the weeds.... not even sure now, but can check it out with my counsellor.... she doesn’t “get” ADHD, but i need a bit of continuity in lockdown.)

What was very noticeable was Nadyia’s husband’s tenderness and understanding.... we’ve gone way past that. Need to sit hubby in front of that. But i’m struggling to spend time with him, i’m so reactive and sore! (And totally hopeless at certain times of the month, when i am like a firework factory, with a lit match thrown inside!)


I just read my response and had a big error,. Please add..... I've been on a thyroid medication since 30 y.o.

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