Lack of awareness and outdated attitudes can affect the identification of ADHD
Identifying ADHD is not without its challenges. Primary care practitioners, often the first point of contact, may lack awareness of existing ADHD guidelines. In addition, short visits to the doctor do not leave enough time for systematic assessments, which need to include developmental history, medical examinations and tests. The combination of hyperactivity being a very visible sign and many healthcare professionals still associating ADHD with boys can lead to overdiagnosis in boys and underdiagnosis in girls. It is also important to consider the hormonal changes during a woman’s life, particularly during puberty, pregnancy and menopause, as evidence suggests that these affect ADHD characteristics.
Disorder or difference?
There seems to be a growing tension between the medical model for ADHD and the neurodiversity approach, as mentioned at the beginning. In the humble opinion of this author, both approaches offer evidence-based solutions for people with ADHD – in particular, girls and women.
The medical model can help identify the condition more precisely, and, in severe cases, which are characterised by dysfunction in the dopamine pathway and a high risk of self-harm, medication and therapy can significantly improve a person’s quality of life. On the other hand, the neurodiversity approach can increase the acceptance and awareness of behaviours associated with ADHD and draw attention to its potential associated strengths. It can also lessen the stigma of expected gender behaviours and increase awareness of the different ways in which boys and girls typically cope.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Health Policy Partnership.