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Psychiatry Res. 1994 Jul;53(1):13-29.

Gender differences in a sample of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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  • 1Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


Although originally conceptualized as a childhood disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also be an adult disorder. However, despite increasing media attention to adult ADHD, its validity has only recently been studied in a systematic fashion. The overrepresentation of females in adult samples in comparison to pediatric samples of ADHD raises additional questions about the validity of this disorder in adults. The goal of this article is to explore whether ADHD is a valid clinical entity in female subjects and whether it is expressed differently in male and female adults. To this end, we examined the clinical, cognitive, and functional characteristics of 128 referred adult ADHD cases of both sexes. Each subject had a clinical diagnosis of childhood-onset ADHD confirmed by structured interview. The male and female ADHD adults were similar to one another but more disturbed and impaired than non-ADHD adult control subjects. Compared with normal control females, ADHD women had higher rates of major depression, anxiety disorders, and conduct disorder; and more evidence of school failure and cognitive impairment. The consistency of these findings in both genders further supports the validity of the diagnosis of ADHD in adults. Our results stress the viability and importance of identification of female subjects with ADHD. The underidentification and undertreatment of females with ADHD may have substantial mental health and educational implications, suggesting that research is needed to develop a better understanding of clinical indicators of ADHD in females.

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