Treatment options for ADHD are hampered by gendered assumptions – North Texas Daily

The lesson Additional shortage is an obvious threat to people with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. What is more alarming is the lack of alternative treatment options for ADHD and how it disproportionately affects women and gender non-conforming people. There is an estimate 1.2 million people who identify as non-binary in the United States. So why are they completely overlooked in ADHD research?

Historically, ADHD research mainly focused on boys and men, leaving people who identify otherwise without many resources or a variety of treatment options. ADHD presents differently in men and women, depending on Children and adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Without reliable research on how the disorder presents in non-binary people, mental health providers are ill-equipped.

There are three different types of ADHD: hyperactive, inattentive, and combined. Research suggests that men are more likely to experience external symptoms associated with hyperactive or combined types of ADHD. During this time, women usually have internal symptoms indicating inattentive ADHD.

In childhood, ADHD in boys is 2 to 2.5 times higher than its prevalence in girls, but the number is almost equal in adulthood. The causes of ADHD are still unclear, but the ADHD brain does not develop neurotypically from birth and there is a link to genetics, according to ADDitude magazine.

So, it’s not that women suddenly develop the disorder – instead, the symptoms are overlooked or misdiagnosed in childhood. Typically, women request an ADHD evaluation once their child is diagnosed. Other women don’t receive a diagnosis until untreated symptoms have taken their lives out of control.

ADHD symptoms persist into adulthood a third of patients diagnosed in childhood, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. It’s not something a person can develop from watching too many cartoons and eating too much sugar, nor is it a disorder that people “get rid of”. However, the severity of symptoms can vary across life stages.

Access to a range of accessible, research-based treatment options is necessary to meet patient needs as symptoms fluctuate. Medications, skills, training, academic support, counseling, ADHD coaching, and educational resources are some of the ADHD treatment options. Using a combination of treatments is most effective in relieving symptoms, but they may not be as effective for non-binary people and women.

ADHD counselors and coaches are not prepared to meet the needs of non-binary people. Surely there are counselors out there who know the unique challenges faced by non-binary people and women with ADHD. Yet treatment options will not be sufficient until all mental health care providers are sufficiently informed.

In addition, thorough research can allow educators to better recognize the various presentations of the disorder. I was diagnosed with mostly inattentive ADHD during my sophomore year of college. I sought an assessment because engaging in everyday tasks has seemed like an uphill battle my whole life.

In high school, teachers would sit talkative or disruptive students next to me because I was quiet and got good grades. Little did they know that my reserved nature was a coping strategy to mask constant feelings of inadequacy. Educators cannot step in and offer help to a student if they do not have the knowledge to recognize when they are in trouble.

A diagnosis and treatment allowed me to understand that my brain function is different, not defective. Finding an effective treatment plan took time and money that many people don’t have. Adequate access to mental health is a human right and should not be determined by proximity to wealth.

Gender socialization is also to blame. School-aged girls can develop compensatory techniques to hide their symptoms. Interrupting conversations or being chronically late does not meet the social norms of a well-behaved girl.

The pressure of being together all the time eventually takes a toll on a person, especially those with an unaddressed disability. In adulthood, compensatory techniques often fail and result in low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

The situation is much worse for non-binary people. Outdated gender stereotypes cause them to be completely overlooked in conversations about mental health. Despite the clear link between gender and the presentation of ADHD, there is no reliable published research on how ADHD affects non-binary people. This has led to a lack of resources for non-binary people with ADHD to turn to when learning about their treatment options.

Non-binary people face a variety of unique social pressures that impact their mental health. Conversations about mental health and gender identity have become more mainstream, but non-binary and other underrepresented gender groups deserve more than misinformed infographics on social media.

Improving resources and research is a necessary step that the American mental health field is already decades behind. Additionally, more robust documentation will allow parents and teachers to be informed about the variety of ways ADHD can present in people.

Adderall shortage will eventually improve. Until mental health research and the surrounding conversations broaden, the prospects for treating ADHD and other disorders will continue to be scant.

If you or someone you know needs help managing your mental health, lists resources available on campus, online, and around Denton.

Featured artwork by Erika Sevilla

About Antoine L. Cassell

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