Posted October 25th 2023
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions, affecting around 1 in 20 young people.
However, in clinics only one girl will receive an ADHD diagnosis for every seven or eight boys.
This gap in diagnosis is something that Dr Joanna Martin and her team are investigating in research into ADHD in girls, young women, and non-binary people at Cardiff University.
What do we know about ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental condition with symptoms including age-inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that interfere with daily functioning. When most people think of ADHD, they are often referring to this combined type.
However, there are also subtypes of the disorder which only include difficulties with focus and attention, or hyperactivity and impulsivity.
It was this image of ADHD that Ellie, a participant in this recent study, attributes to their diagnosis in adulthood, as they didn’t realise that symptoms can mean inattentiveness, as well as more internalised hyperactivity.
“One of the reasons why I didn’t think that I might have ADHD for so long is because I had a set idea of what it looked like, I thought it was just physical hyperactivity in young boys”.
It is this difference in ADHD presentation that initially intrigued Dr Martin, whose research aims to capture more symptoms of the disorder in order to provide a clearer picture of what this can look like in girls, young women, and non-binary people.
These findings will also assist in the development of an assessment tool that includes a more diverse range of ADHD traits that can be used in schools which will potentially lead to fewer young girls missing out on a diagnosis.
Ellie touches on the impact of a late diagnosis throughout the episode, suggesting that they might have had access to more university support had they known about ADHD, as well as the support they have since found through online communities.
The importance of inclusive research
Dr Martin emphasised the initial struggles to find more information about ADHD in girls and young women.
“So much of the data that is already out there is focused on ADHD in boys and young men”.
However, Dr Martin also notes that when initially targeting the research at girls and young women because of this it became clear that gender identity is a much more fluid concept, as not everyone identifies as the sex they were born with.
When looking at the existing datasets available, information about gender identity is not available as more often than not it hasn’t been collected.
This is something that Dr Martin aims to change in her research by keeping the inclusion criteria for those taking part as broad as possible to increase this data with the aim of also helping AFAB people benefit from earlier support.
Dr Martin’s research, which is looking to hear from young women and non-binary people with an ADHD diagnosis, as well as parents/carers, and healthcare and educational professionals has been overwhelmingly positive.
Ellie also emphasised the importance of getting involved in research as well as continuing the conversation around ADHD.
“I hope that in sharing my experiences other people might be able to relate and recognise that they too might have ADHD”.
Participation from young people, parents and carers, and healthcare professionals in this research has now closed. However, if you are an education professional the team are still looking to hear from you.
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