A combo of factors including screening criteria, presentation of ADHD symptoms, and underdiagnosis in women are what make ADHD in men appear unique.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is more commonly diagnosed in men and boys than in women and girls, but this difference doesn’t stem from any sex-based risk factors. Rather, the difference appears to arise from a combination of factors surrounding:

  • diagnostic standards
  • personal expression of ADHD symptoms
  • underdiagnosis in women

Folks with ADHD will experience individual symptoms and exhibit different ADHD-related behaviors.

Increasingly, researchers are coming to understand ADHD through its internal workings: How it affects folks’ thought processes and cognition. These internal symptoms, though experienced between sexes, will often result in gendered differences in external behaviors.

Language matters

Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. We use the terms “women” and “men” throughout this article to reflect the terms assigned at birth. But your gender identity may not align with the categories and associated risk factors listed below.

A doctor or therapist may be able to help you better understand what ADHD will look like for you.

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Gender differences in ADHDWomenMen
Usually exhibit hyperactive or combination type ADHD
Usually exhibit inattentive type ADHD
Diagnosed at higher rates
More difficulty sustaining attention
More tendency to fidget
Frequently loses things
Interrupts others more during conversation
Loses focus more during conversation
More impulsive and high-consequence behaviors

ADHD affects around 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults, though some studies suggest that both adult-onset ADHD and persistent ADHD are more common than previously thought.

The 2019 study referenced above finds that at least 29% of folks experience persistent ADHD (childhood ADHD symptoms as kids), and at least some of those have continued into their adult lives.

ADHD is typically classified as a behavior disorder, though some argue it should be thought of as a cognitive disorder. It’s characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, but there’s growing research on ADHD in adults.

There are three types of ADHD:

  1. Impulsive/hyperactive. This is the least common type of ADHD. It’s characterized by impulsive behaviors and hyperactivity.
  2. Inattentive/distractible. This type of ADHD is characterized by inattention, including being easily distracted.
  3. Combined. This is the most common type of ADHD. Like the name implies, it’s characterized by a combination of behaviors common to both impulsive/hyperactive and inattentive/distractible behaviors

ADHD symptoms vary depending on a number of factors, like someone’s sex, age, and coping strategies. Symptoms generally fall into three main categories:

  • inattention
    • short attention span
    • easily distracted
    • difficulty listening
    • forgetfulness
    • poor organizational skills
  • impulsivity
  • hyperactivity
    • trouble sitting still, moving for the sake of movement
    • fidgeting with sounds, hands, hair, clothes, or other objects
    • talking excessively, frequently going off on tangents
    • frequently losing or misplacing things or losing track of time
    • unable to stay on task, difficulty finishing a task before moving to another

Though there are gender disparities in diagnoses of ADHD, the three types of ADHD occur in equal numbers in men and women.

What may be different are the outward signs of ADHD in men and women. Men are more likely to show noticeable behaviors and symptoms, such as:

  • fidgeting, in seemingly constant motion
  • disruptive behavior
  • seemingly absent-minded behavior
  • speaking out of turn
  • high-consequence behaviors

The cause of ADHD isn’t well understood, but it continues to be an area of heavy research. While experts don’t yet know the exact source of ADHD, most current evidence suggests that it’s genetic in nature.

People with ADHD tend to have low dopamine levels, suggesting that at least some symptoms are caused by changes in brain function, according to an older 2009 study.

PET scans (a type of brain imaging technology) of kids with ADHD have shown decreased activity in the areas of the brain controlling attention, movement, and assessing social settings.

Special considerations for men

People with ADHD sometimes experience symptoms of rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD). RSD refers to extreme sensitivity to rejection that some folks with ADHD experience after frequent negative feedback due to their behaviors.

Some symptoms of RSD are more likely to present differently in men, such as:

  • anger
  • apathy
  • self-centeredness
  • seeming insensitive to other people’s emotions
  • teasing others or being sarcastic
  • needing to be right or proving others wrong
  • defensiveness

There’s not a specific test, like bloodwork or a brain scan, to diagnose ADHD. But healthcare professionals may use assessments or questionnaires. It may take several meetings with a healthcare professional to determine your diagnosis.

If you recognize ADHD symptoms in yourself, or in your child, reaching out to a doctor or mental health professional can be a good place to start. If you’re not sure if your behaviors or symptoms might be related to ADHD, you can also take our ADHD quiz.

Medications, therapy, and self-care strategies are some of the ways you can treat and manage your ADHD. Individualized treatment for ADHD is usually most effective. You can work with a healthcare team to develop your personal treatment plan.


Talk therapy can help you better understand and manage your ADHD symptoms. Therapy can also help if you experience depression or negative thoughts and feelings about your ADHD.

A 2019 study shows that people with ADHD are more likely to be diagnosed with other overlapping mental health disorders as well. Therapy can also be effective in treating any co-occurring disorders.

Therapies for ADHD tend to be:

  • goal-oriented
  • skills-based
  • collaborative
  • structured
  • brain stimulating


Common types of medication for ADHD include:

  • stimulants
  • antidepressants
  • non-stimulants

Finding the medication that works best for you can take time. It can be a process of trial and error, and it’s important to reach out to your healthcare team if you experience disruptive side effects.

Importance of routine to manage ADHD

Even small lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your ability to manage your ADHD symptoms. You might consider developing a daily routine, but you don’t have to suddenly change everything you do.

You can make crafting a new daily routine an incremental process. You could start by adding one or two things, for example:

Once you feel comfortable in your new routine, you can add a few more things.

If you’re working on a routine, try to keep a few things in mind:

  • exercise can boost your mood, improve focus, and reduce stress
  • try to make sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep
  • try to make healthy food choices when you can, as some foods can worsen ADHD symptoms

Importance of support to manage ADHD

Many people with ADHD get help and support from family, friends, co-workers, or acquaintances. Some folks with ADHD have tried body doubling, a productivity partner strategy, to help keep them on task.

Support for someone with ADHD can also look like:

  • simple assistance
  • words of affirmation
  • allyship
  • understanding

In addition to dealing with symptoms, living with ADHD can also be emotionally difficult. Love and support are sometimes just what you need.

ADHD is a behavior and cognition disorder most commonly diagnosed in childhood. ADHD is typically characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, or both. It’s more commonly diagnosed in men than in women.

There are three main types of ADHD, inattentive, hyperactive, and combination. Each type is as common in men as in women. What typically differs by gender is the outward expression of ADHD.

Treatment for ADHD is usually effective. Treatment often includes medications, therapy, and various coping strategies. If you suspect you may have ADHD, you can reach out to a doctor or healthcare professional.