Symptoms, Challenges, and Coping Strategies

If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and you’re going through menopause, life can get pretty challenging to manage. While ADHD is commonly thought of as a disorder that affects children, it affects about 4 percent of American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. ADHD impacts how different parts of the brain work together and manage executive functions like focus, concentration, impulse control, and emotional regulation.

But exactly how ADHD symptoms manifest appear to be different in males and females, which may affect diagnosis. The hormonal changes that women undergo during menopause may also have an effect on ADHD symptoms.

ADHD Is Often Missed in Women

One of the chief difficulties faced by women going through menopause with ADHD is that many may not even know they have the later condition. In childhood, boys are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, with a diagnosis rate of 13 percent, compared with 6 percent in girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But this doesn’t necessarily mean more boys have ADHD. Research suggests that girls tend to experience ADHD symptoms differently from boys, leading to underdiagnosis.

“Girls with ADHD tend to present with more internalizing symptoms like inattention, disorganization, and distractibility,” says Allison Deutch, MD, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City. “Internalizing symptoms are more subtle and may delay diagnosis.” Boys, on the other hand, often exhibit more externalizing symptoms such as oppositional, disruptive, or hyperactive behavior, which may lead to higher rates of referral for diagnosis and treatment.

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