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Women receiving late diagnosis of mental disorder

 Oestrogen is responsible for the silent manifestation of ADHD symptoms in women. [iStockphoto]

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD or previously referred to as ADD, is a mental disorder distinguished by a persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity that affects the functioning and development of an individual disorder.

From time immemorial it has been associated with men and boys leaving women and girls with ADHD neglected and overlooked.

While boys diagnosed with ADHD are viewed as ill-behaved/ hyperactive, girls who often portray comorbid and subdued ADHD symptoms of inattentiveness, disorganisation, and poor memory are overlooked.

Although there are comparable levels of impairment between the two sexes. Hyperactivity, hazardous behaviour, sensory dysregulation, and self-harm risks which are commonly associated with males can also be present in females who have ADHD.

In the article; 'ADHD in Females Across the Lifespan and the Role of Estrogen,' author Littman speculates that oestrogen is responsible for the silent manifestation of ADHD symptoms in women. Cognitive difficulties have been linked to oestrogen levels that are too low. Oestrogen affects the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, all of which are involved in the development of ADHD symptoms. During the course of the menstrual cycle, fluctuations in oestrogen levels may also affect the symptoms of ADHD.

Some may contradict this and suggest that gender disparity in ADHD diagnoses narrows in adulthood as a greater number of females may be affected by the condition and have largely begun to present themselves. However, the women who were interviewed in a BBC (2021) documentary suggest that in reality that is not the case.

These women who were all diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, narrated their experiences and all cited gender prejudice as playing a factor in the delay of diagnosis.

It is essential to increase understanding of ADHD among females and to promote awareness of the condition, particularly in educational and medical contexts. This may accelerate the promotion of justice and fairness for both genders when seeking a diagnosis. Subsequently, these women will be able to obtain a deeper understanding of themselves and their experiences after receiving a diagnosis.

- The author is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya who is passionate about mental health, specifically Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

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