Chatting with an UK psychologist over a pint, I asked if the UK, like my native Finland, currently struggles to accommodate the large number of women coming to the clinic with ADHD symptoms. He confirmed it did, and so does The Guardian, headlining “ADHD services ‘swamped’, say experts as more UK women seek diagnosis”. Likewise, the New York Post declaims how women “are diagnosing themselves with neurodivergent conditions such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) after watching trending TikTok videos”.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disability characterized by differences in sustained attention, impulse control, and motor activity. Not all symptoms need to be present for all patients: symptom presentation can differ among people with ADHD. In the 1980s and 1990s, responses to this heterogeneity have included the advent of concepts such as ADD (attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity) and ADHD ‘subtypes’. However, neither subtypes nor a differential ADD diagnosis are any longer recognized, and it is instead accepted that ADHD presents in many different ways.
In the 1980s, ADHD was conceived of mainly as a disorder of motor hyperactivity, as a disorder that only affects children, and that mainly affects boys. However, we now know that for some people with ADHD, their symptoms persist to adulthood, although the symptom presentation may change. We also now understand that ADHD has long been underdiagnosed in girls and women.