ADHD symptoms in women can be difficult to manage.

Common Ways ADHD Shows up in Women That’s Often Mistaken for Anxiety

ADHD symptoms in adult women often remain undiagnosed or mistaken for anxiety symptoms. This is thought to be because the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in the DSM-V were originally developed for children. It is thought that over 80% of adults with ADHD are undiagnosed.

Women with ADHD are more likely to be misdiagnosed than men. This is due to the differences in how ADHD presents itself in women and men. Men tend to show more obvious ADHD symptoms, whereas women’s symptoms can be more subtle and resemble the symptoms of other mental health conditions such as anxiety.

Why Is ADHD in Women Often Misdiagnosed?

Historically, ADHD was thought to be a male mental health condition. Only recently, have clinicians started to diagnose ADHD symptoms in females. Even with these steps forward, it is still more likely for women with ADHD to go undiagnosed than men.

The majority of ADHD diagnoses are made in childhood. Boys tend to display more overt symptoms of ADHD than their female counterparts. ADHD symptoms in girls are often mistaken as part of the “female temperament” as opposed to being the symptoms of an underlying mental health condition.

This means that females don’t often receive a diagnosis until later in life. However, by the time women reach adulthood, many of the symptoms of ADHD can be mistaken for other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Common ADHD Symptoms in Women

Signs of ADHD can present themselves across different aspects of a woman’s life. Some symptoms might be more prevalent in certain settings, such as work or relationships. Women might find that they have to apply a lot of time and effort in an attempt to just appear “normal.”

Daily Life

Living with ADHD can mean that women feel like the moments of each day are spent reacting to problems and requests. This often results in a sense of survival as supposed to making progress. Living like this can instill feelings of frustration and sadness.

These feelings of being overwhelmed are often misinterpreted as anxiety, although there are some differences to be aware of. Anxiety often presents itself as a feeling of being overwhelmed or worried about something. This constant sensation can make it difficult to concentrate on daily life.

With ADHD, it is often the inability to concentrate on certain aspects of daily life that leads to feeling overwhelmed. It might feel like important tasks such as budgeting, organizing paperwork, and housework are piling up. This can often lead to worrying, which is why ADHD is often misdiagnosed as anxiety.


ADHD can have a profound impact on relationships. Society has expectations of how people should behave. Even if you think you’re breaking the mold, there are still social norms that seem to apply to every woman.

Living with ADHD can make it difficult to do all the things you see other people doing in relationships. ADHD can make it difficult to arrive on time or remember important dates. It can leave women feeling like they are not good friends or partners.

The inability to relax can add stress to your relationships. In some cases, it might appear to the people in your life that you don’t care. This is why a diagnosis can be useful in helping relationships move forward with a better understanding of the condition and how it affects the individual.

Social Life

Social interactions can be quite difficult for someone with ADHD. Often when women with ADHD are growing up, they are described as tomboys. This is because they have a lot of energy and like to be active.

As an adult, this energy presents itself differently. It can make it difficult to navigate the social rules associated with relationships. People might find that people with ADHD talk too much and listen too little.

Although ADHD might render a person talkative, it can make an individual more likely to display the introspective traits that might be associated with someone suffering from anxiety. Social gatherings can often make women with ADHD feel shy and overwhelmed. This can cause an anxious response to the idea of socializing.

It might be difficult to pay attention to people speaking. The mind of someone with ADHD tends to drift out of focus when it is doing something passive such as listening. Being aware of these difficulties can lead to social anxiety.


Work can be a challenge for someone with ADHD. The noise of the office or the presence of other people can make staying on task difficult. Women with ADHD might find that they need to arrange their schedule so they work earlier or later than everyone else. It is only in these quiet periods that they can focus on the task at hand.

Difficulties focusing in a work environment can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, perhaps by upcoming deadlines or the workload in general. Women with ADHD might be more likely to worry about their job security if they feel as if they are underperforming.

Key Differences Between ADHD and Anxiety

There is an overlap between some of the symptoms of ADHD and anxiety. The three most commonly shared symptoms are:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping

In cases where individuals have both ADHD and anxiety, it can be difficult to differentiate the cause of the symptoms, and the symptoms can be more extreme.

One of the key differences is how the symptoms manifest. In cases of anxiety, symptoms often present themselves when the individual is faced with a situation that triggers their anxiety. In cases of ADHD, symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and restlessness are present most of the time in any situation.

Being able to differentiate between ADHD and anxiety symptoms is often a case of watching symptoms closely over time. It is also important to be aware of what symptoms become apparent first. ADHD can lead to anxiety, but anxiety will not develop into ADHD.

Getting the Right Mental Health Care For ADHD

There are several different treatments available for women who are suffering from ADHD. The recommended treatment will be dependent on several factors, including the severity and nature of the symptoms presented.

Speaking with a qualified therapist is a vital first step in receiving the best mental health care for women with ADHD. ADHD symptoms in women can place huge amounts of stress on their daily life, including their work life and their relationships.

Additional reading about ADHD:

Coping Skills You Need If Your ADHD Partner’s Inattentiveness, Distraction, Or Lack Of Focus Is Hurting Your Marriage

7 Ways Your Partner’s ADHD Affects Their Mood Swings & How To Best Address Your Worries

ADHD & Relationships

7 Tips For Improving Communication In Marriage & How PACT Therapy Helps


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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