Women with ADHD are at risk for mental and physical health disorders

According to the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada, girls and women with ADHD remain undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or diagnosed much later in life.

Women with for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have three times the prevalence of chronic pain, suicidal ideation, insomnia, childhood sexual abuse and generalized anxiety disorder.

Growing up, Sasha McCauley said she experienced an overwhelming emotional response to rejection, judgement, and criticism regardless of whether it was real or interpreted. It was not until later in life that she learned she had ADHD.

“I have had treatment from depression, insomnia, anxiety, and more. At no point had I [received] medical help until two years ago [when] somebody actually said to me that they need to test me for ADHD,” said McCauley.

Throughout her childhood, McCauley was told that she may have dyslexia, however, her teachers believed that to be incorrect due to her ability to read. It wasn’t until 2019 when she was diagnosed for ADHD. After being diagnosed, McCauley learned that she has rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD), which is a common symptom of ADHD.

“It was something I didn’t realize I had. It was a term I didn’t even know existed and then I learned about it and thought ‘this is something I am experiencing,’” said McCauley.

According to a survey done by the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada, 46 per cent of women with ADHD had been previously misdiagnosed with another disorder, with 60 per cent stating that their treatment had been delayed by two or more decades due to this misdiagnosis.

Recent studies led by the University of Toronto report that one in four women with ADHD have attempted suicide in their lifetime and are 69 per cent more likely to have an increased risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.

For Kyla Nyroos, it has been seven months since receiving her ADHD diagnosis. She said she does not know where she would be today if not for the correct diagnosis.

“I honestly was surprised that I made it to 25. I didn’t have any plans for after that. Now I want to know who I am in the next few years.”

Before her diagnoses Nyroos, struggled to identify the problems she had been dealing with. She said with her family and friends unaware of ADHD and its symptoms she continued to struggle.

“When you think of ADHD, you think the stereotypical hyperactive boy running around in the classroom, which was not the type of person I was. I was more quiet and shy,” she said.

After speaking with a friend diagnosed with ADHD, Nyroos realized that she needed to speak with a councillor.

“After speaking with a councillor is when I was recommended a doctor who then diagnosed me with ADHD. Now I am seven months in and I can already tell a difference.”