Women Also Affected
by ADD

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

It was once widely believed that attention deficit disorder (ADD) afflicted only little boys.  As more and more kids were brought to clinics for ADD evaluation, fathers began to talk about the similar problems they had ever since their childhood, and their continuing significant difficulties at work and home.  Experts now believe that about fifty percent of boys who have ADD  will continue to have significant difficulties as adults.  Well, what about girls?  The professional consensus was that the ratio between boys and girls was 6 - 10 ADD boys to 1 ADD girl.  

The theory that ADD is primarily a male disorder has taken several hits lately. In an excellent book for ADD kids, "You Mean I Am Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?," Kelley and Ramundo claim that there are as many girls with ADD as there are boys with ADD.  Experts are beginning to realize that most girls have a "silent and quiet" type of attention deficit disorder, that is, that they do have a significant problem with attention, but they are not hyperactive.  It is estimated that only one in six or perhaps one in ten ADD girls are hyperactive.  

Since the "squeaky wheel gets the attention," a child who is hyperactive, aggressive, or impulsive forces attention of parents and teachers to try to do something about it. ADD may be too quickly and often too hastily (mis)diagnosed if a child is hyperactive, aggressive, or impulsive.  Significant others start demanding to put such a child on Ritalin, a popular medication for ADD, while the real problem may be of poor parenting, traumatic event, or a dysfunctional family.  

Some experts say that girls are often overlooked and underdiagnosed because they do not pose a significant "management" problem for caregivers and teachers.  ADD girls who are inattentive but not hyperactive are likely to be seen as withdrawn, shy, or depressed.  It is difficult to diagnose ADD when a child is not hyperactive, be they boys or girls.  Such children get wrongly labeled as disinterested, withdrawn, or depressed   Considering the tendency for underdiagnosis in girls and overdiagnosis in boys, however, there may be as many ADD girls as are boys.  We just didn't know it.

To draw a parallel, until medical scientists began to specifically study  the incidence and nature of heart disease in women, it was thought that only males had this problem.  Historically, males were the breadwinners, so they got to see a doctor when they had a problem.  As researchers and heads of funding projects were males, they felt at home to focus on heart problems of their brethren.  However, since the National Institute of Health launched the women project, a lot of information and understanding developed about women's heart problems.  Likewise, now the attention is drawn to attention deficit disorder in females.  In the coming years we expect to learn a lot about the problems that are unique to ADD women. 

When it comes to women, our culture has much less tolerance for any deviation from the norm.  Let's face it, we want women to look perfect and behave perfectly at all times.  They have more pressure to tightly fit into the image that our society defines for them.  To fit that image, untold number of women go on dieting or purging, and in some cases simply stop eating.  As for boys, well, "Boys will be boys."  So men will be men.  When men are messy, moody, distant, disorganized, or forgetful, we are more likely to "understand" that as a male behavior.  .    

What about women?  Can they expect the same understanding when they are messy, moody, distant, disorganized, or forgetful?  Afraid not.  We tolerate less and criticize more when we see such behaviors in women.  Perhaps the reason for that is that society places more responsibility on women.  They have joined the work force but they are still the "official" homemakers.  If visitors come to a home and find the house in a state of disarray, they perceive the wife as neglectful and lazy.  The wife is still responsible even though both spouses may be working equal hours.  

Silent ADD is a disorder of inattention and difficulty in organizing one's actions.  A woman who has a full time job and a husband and children to take care of, needs super organizational and time management skills.  She must take care of several different chores all at one time requiring super attention, particularly if she is without help.  It is difficult enough for men with ADD, but for women with ADD, it is like having arm "buds" instead of arms, and made to perform as a circus juggler in front of a very picky audience.     

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor