A study conducted in Norway has highlighted that adult women with ADHD are more likely to report severe inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms than their male peers. This imbalance suggests that some ADHD symptoms may be overlooked in girls during childhood.
Men and women with ADHD (n=682; mean age 34.0 years) recruited as part of the ‘ADHD in Norwegian Adults’ project, and a control group (n=882; mean age 29.3 years) from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, completed the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) to examine between-gender differences in ADHD symptomatology. The ASRS comprises 18 symptoms used to diagnose ADHD and asks respondents to score symptom severity on a 5-point scale from 0 (never) to 4 (very often).
Unsurprisingly, scores were significantly higher in the ADHD group than in the control group on all ASRS scales. Within the ADHD group, women had significantly higher scores than men for Total ASRS (46.4 vs 42.5; p<0.001), the Inattention subscale (24.2 vs 22.4; p<0.01) and the Hyperactivity/Impulsivity subscale (22.2 vs 20.2; p<0.001). These gender differences were not observed in the control group.
Women with ADHD also reported a significantly higher prevalence of some severe inattention symptoms (including difficulty with listening and ease of distraction) and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms (including excessive talking and blurting out answers) relative to men with ADHD. In the control group, men demonstrated a significantly higher frequency of some severe inattention symptoms than women.
It is suggested that childhood ADHD may have been left undetected in some girls, and that symptoms in adulthood may be more problematic for some women than men. Overall, further longitudinal studies are needed to fully explore symptom changes across the lifespan.
Read more about the severity of ADHD symptoms in women here
Vildalen VU, Brevik EJ, Haavik J, et al. Females with ADHD report more severe symptoms than males on the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale. J Atten Disord 2016 [Epub ahead of print].