Mental Health

A Girl With ADHD Diagnosed When She Became 42

Photograph of student looking bored
Image Source :

Brenda Nicholson was a quiet kid who did well at school. But the self-professed daydreamer struggled with attention and concentration, having difficulty knowing what she wanted to do with her life. She frequently changed jobs and majors. She got bored easily. Despite garnering an impressive collection of credits, she never attained a college degree. It wasn’t until she was 42 that Nicholson discovered the underlying cause of her problems: ADHD.

Like Nicholson, many women with ADHD may not have a diagnosis until later in life. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2005 found a ratio of 1:3 between girls and boys with ADHD compared to 1:2 and 1:1 between women and men.

ADHD is often viewed as a “male” condition that expresses itself in hyperactivity. But girls with ADHD are generally not hyperactive; instead, they appear to be inattentive and forgetful.

“Unfortunately, most clinicians continue to see this disorder through the lens of how the elementary-school aged boy presented, and often miss these girls with ADHD,” says Patricia Quinn, a developmental pediatrician in Washington, DC.

Although the male and female forms of ADHD differ, the neurobiology underlying this distinction remains uncertain. A small study of 119 adults with ADHD and 107 adults without condition published in 2014 in the European Neuropsychopharmacology journal looked at the amount of caudate—the brain structure involved in both motor processes and learning processes—in both men and women.

Men with ADHD had lower right caudate volumes than men without disorder—a result that did not appear to extend to women in the sample. A much larger study, published in The Lancet in 2017, failed to validate this difference between the two genders.

Although ADHD may be expressed differently in the actions of girls and boys, there do not seem to be significant variations in brain anatomy or biology that could explain this, says Barbara Franke, professor of molecular psychiatry at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, senior director of the ENIGMA ADHD working group and the ADHD working group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium.

Categories: Mental Health