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ADHD Symptoms in Women, Signs, Types & Effective Treatment

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Adult ADHD symptoms in women often don’t improve without treatment, and undiagnosed ADHD can worsen over time. Continue to read more about ADHD symptoms in women and why getting help is crucial.

By We Level Up FL Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: February 7, 2023

ADHD Symptoms in Women Adults

Common signs and symptoms of ADHD in adult women include difficulty focusing, paying attention, getting organized, completing tasks, being forgetful, talking impulsively, being overactive, and having difficulty controlling their emotions. They may also feel overwhelmed and anxious easily, be easily distracted, and feel overwhelmed when trying to complete tasks.

Common Symptoms of ADHD in Women

The symptoms of ADHD in women and girls can include difficulty concentrating, inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Other less common symptoms may include difficulty organizing and completing tasks, difficulty following directions and managing time, difficulty managing emotions and moods, restlessness, and impulsive talking.

Women with ADHD may present symptoms that are unique to their gender, and it is crucial to seek the help of a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis.

ADHD Symptoms in Women Adults vs Men

About 5% of adults in the United States have ADHD, but only a few studies explore the specific effects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on adult women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12.9% of men and boys live with ADHD compared to 5.6% of women and girls. However, women and girls may be affected more than these statistics suggest. Gender bias and overlooked ADHD symptoms may have something to do with these differences.

Girls tend to show less “hyperactive” behavior than boys do. Most studies focus a lot on those hyperactive ADHD patterns that are more common in males. Unfortunately, when young girls’ ADHD symptoms go undiagnosed, the problems may continue into adulthood. Without treatment, ADHD can affect your overall quality of life.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It often appears in childhood but can last into adulthood. Sometimes, people with ADHD do not receive a diagnosis until they are adults. Doctors usually diagnose ADHD during childhood. Women with ADHD are more prone to eating disorders, obesity, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.  [1] ADHD symptoms in women sometimes get overlooked until college, when they lack self-regulation and self-management.

ADHD Diagnosis in Women

Leading psychologists are warning that gender bias is leaving many women with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder undiagnosed. A late diagnosis can negatively impact relationships and careers and increase the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Women often receive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses later in life than men. This is because the symptoms can present differently in women and because research into the condition in women is lacking.

The underlying mechanisms of ADHD are the same in males and females. Both have difficulties with planning, organization, recalling details, and paying attention.

But how ADHD plays out in symptoms is where the gender differences often lie. And the reason for that is likely social.

Because inattention is much more subtle than hyperactivity, this may be why boys are almost three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. However, by reaching adulthood, that gap shrinks to two to one. This is likely because girls are often diagnosed later in life than boys.

Family and work responsibilities can make it challenging for women to cover up or manage ADHD. But there are some things women can do to cope with life’s demands.

Symptoms of ADHD in females might be closer to being distracted, dreamy, or forgetful instead of outwardly disruptive. As a result, caregivers often don’t make the connection, especially in the absence of hyperactive or disruptive behavior.

ADHD in women symptoms can manifest as being overwhelmed and exhausted as men with ADHD commonly feel. Psychological distress, inadequacy, low self-esteem, and chronic stress are common.
ADHD in women symptoms can manifest as being overwhelmed and exhausted as men with ADHD commonly feel. Psychological distress, inadequacy, low self-esteem, and chronic stress are common.

Symptoms of ADHD in Women

Symptoms of ADHD in women and girls can be found in common challenges like difficult relationships with peers or coworkers, problems at work or school due to behaviors associated with ADHD, feeling overwhelmed, or having a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem. Women and girls with ADHD may also experience difficulty when it comes to decision-making or problem-solving. Additionally, they may find it difficult to start, complete, or stay on task, and they may experience changes in sleeping patterns.

Symptoms of ADHD in women and girls can also be seen with episodes of impulsivity or difficulty controlling emotions. They may have difficulty regulating their behavior in social situations, or they may even become hyper-aroused in certain activities or settings. This can make it difficult to have productive relationships with peers or loved ones. Additionally, women and girls with ADHD may have difficulties with time management when it comes to completing tasks or meeting deadlines, or they may have difficulty shifting attention to different tasks.

Common Signs of ADHD in Women

Common signs of ADHD in adult women include difficulty focusing, paying attention, getting organized, completing tasks, being forgetful, talking impulsively, being overactive, and having difficulty controlling their emotions. They may also feel overwhelmed and anxious easily, be easily distracted, and feel overwhelmed when trying to complete tasks.

Additional signs of ADHD in women include difficulty regulating emotions and experiencing emotional outbursts or being easily overwhelmed by their environment. Women with ADHD may experience self-doubt, have difficulty setting and reaching goals, struggle to stay motivated, have difficulty controlling their impulses to be impulsive, and have difficulty staying on task.

  1. How do ADHD symptoms in women present?

    Women with ADHD face the same feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted as men with ADHD commonly feel.

  2. Why are ADHD symptoms in women often misdiagnosed?

    Research shows that women are highly motivated to hide their ADHD symptoms and compensate for them. The observable symptoms are often anxiety or mood-related, which can lead to misdiagnosis.

  3. Can ADHD symptoms in women be different in population?

    ADHD does not look the same in boys and girls. Women with the disorder tend to be less hyperactive and impulsive, more disorganized, scattered, forgetful, and introverted. They’ve alternately been anxious or depressed for years.

  4. How do you know if you have ADHD symptoms in women?

    Do you often shut down in the middle of the day, feeling assaulted? Do requests for “one more thing” emotionally put you over the top? Are you spending most of your time coping, looking for things, catching up, or covering up? Do you avoid people because of this? If YES, you are most likely to have ADHD symptoms. But, as ADHD cases are often misdiagnosed, it’s best to speak with a mental health professional about your unique situation.

  5. How are ADHD symptoms in women treated?

    Standard treatments for ADHD in adults typically involve medication, education, skills training, and psychological counseling. A combination of these is often the most effective treatment.


Signs of ADHD in Women

Signs of ADHD in women may include difficulty focusing, difficulty sustaining attention, difficulty managing time, impulsivity, disorganization, restlessness, and difficulty following through on tasks. Women with ADHD may also experience hyperfocus, social difficulties, forgetfulness, mood swings, difficulty learning new things, and difficulty completing tasks that require sustained attention. Additionally, women with ADHD may struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

The symptoms of ADHD in women can differ, but some of the most typically reported include difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, impulsivity, forgetting tasks, difficulty organizing, disorganization, procrastination, mood swings, restlessness, and trouble completing tasks.

Signs of ADHD in women include the prevalence of other mental health disorders. Though not often listed as signs, other symptoms of ADHD in women include co-occurring depression and anxiety, complicated relationships that can lead to intimate partner violence, trouble maintaining friendships, and at least one space in her life in disarray, such as a messy house or bedroom.
Signs of ADHD in women include the prevalence of other mental health disorders. Though not often listed as signs, other symptoms of ADHD in women include co-occurring depression and anxiety, complicated relationships that can lead to intimate partner violence, trouble maintaining friendships, and at least one space in her life in disarray, such as a messy house or bedroom.

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Top 5 Symptoms of ADHD in women

Symptoms of ADHD in women can vary but the top Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms in women can include:

  1. Inattention: Difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, disorganization, losing things frequently.
  2. Hyperactivity: Fidgeting, feeling restless, excessively talking, interrupting others.
  3. Impulsivity: Making hasty decisions, acting without thinking, interrupting others, and having trouble waiting their turn.
  4. Emotional dysregulation: Irritability, mood swings, frustration, low self-esteem.
  5. Time management difficulties: Procrastination, difficulty prioritizing, lateness.

Women with ADHD may present with symptoms that are different from those commonly seen in men, and may also experience symptoms differently. It is important to consult a mental health professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Treatment for Symptoms of ADHD in Women

Treatment for symptoms of ADHD in women typically involves a combination of medication and therapy, as both have been shown to be effective in managing symptoms. Medications, such as stimulants, can help to reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, while therapy can help women learn coping strategies to manage their symptoms and cultivate better strategies for managing their time and attention. Additionally, lifestyle changes, such as stress management and properly scheduling tasks, can also help manage symptoms of ADHD in women.

Symptoms in Adult Women ADHD Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 8.4 million women in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, representing about 3.4 percent of all women. Additionally, 6.6 percent of all US women have received an ADHD diagnosis at some point in their lifetime.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), girls with ADHD remain an enigma–often overlooked, misunderstood, and hotly debated. Moreover, girls with ADHD aren’t identified and helped earlier in their lives because male ADHD patterns have been over-represented in the literature. 

Adult women with ADHD may also experience depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. They may struggle to keep up with day-to-day tasks, or feel overwhelmed by them. Women may also have problems with low self-esteem, relationship problems, or career setbacks. Additionally, they may have difficulty sleeping or may have difficulty regulating their emotions.


13%

Boys (13%) are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls (6%).

Source: CDC

40s

Many women are in their late 30s or early 40s before they are diagnosed with ADHD.

Source: APA

4.4%

The overall prevalence of current adult ADHD is 4.4%. 

Source: CDC


ADHD in Women: Symptoms & Facts Sheet

Women with ADHD typically present with tremendous time management challenges, chronic disorganization, longstanding feelings of stress and being overwhelmed, difficulties with money management, children or siblings with ADHD, and a history of anxiety and depression.


There is evidence to suggest that the broad discrepancy in the ratio of males to females with diagnosed ADHD is due, at least in part, to a lack of recognition and referral bias in females. Studies suggest that females with ADHD have differences in their profile of symptoms, comorbidity, and associated functioning compared with males.

There is increasing recognition that females with ADHD show a somewhat modified set of behaviors, symptoms, and comorbidities when compared with males with ADHD; they are less likely to be identified and referred for assessment, and thus their needs are less likely to be met. 

Research in population-based samples indicates that the hyperactive-impulsive type predominates in pre-schoolers for both sexes. In contrast, the inattentive type is the most common presentation from mid-to-late childhood to adulthood. By contrast, clinical studies typically report a greater prevalence of combined-type ADHD. Early meta-analyses of gender effects have found lower severity of hyperactivity-impulsivity or all ADHD symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity) in girls than boys. However, individual studies show more mixed results.

Inconsistent findings may reflect that clinic referral and diagnosis tend to favor combined subtypes equally across genders. At the same time, community sampling points to the greater prevalence of inattentive type ADHD in girls than in boys.

Inattentive ADHD Symptoms in Women

Inattentive ADHD in women symptoms can look like this:

  • Daydreaming quietly in class or at work
  • Feeling anxious or sad
  • Exhibiting silliness or apparent ditziness
  • Acting shy or inattentive
  • Trouble maintaining friendships
  • Picking at cuticles or skin
  • Being a perfectionist

Another reason ADHD is often missed in girls is that they’re more likely than boys to suffer from inattentive ADHD. The symptoms of this sub-type (which include poor attention to detail, limited attention span, forgetfulness, distractibility, and failure to finish assigned activities) are less disruptive and evident than those of hyperactive ADHD. For instance, a (hyperactive) boy who repeatedly bangs on his desk will be noticed before the (inattentive) girl who twirls her hair while staring out the window.

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Common Symptoms of ADHD in Adults Women

Women’s ADHD symptoms have three main presentations.

  • Hyperactive-impulsive type
  • Inattentive type
  • Combination type, which involves combined symptoms of the other two types

While women can have any of the three types, females who get an ADHD diagnosis more commonly have the inattentive type. ADHD in women symptoms of this type includes trouble with concentration, organization, and learning and processing new information.

To put it another way, not everyone with ADHD will seem hyperactive, fidgety, impatient, or impulsive. When kids don’t act out or disrupt others, it may take more time for parents and teachers to notice the symptoms they do have.

Some key ADHD symptoms in women and common ADHD symptoms in females (ADHD women symptoms) include the following:

  • Talking frequently or excessively, even when parents or teachers ask them to stop
  • Extreme emotional sensitivity and reactivity, such as crying or becoming upset, efficiently.
  • Extreme focus on things that interest them
  • Trouble paying attention to directions at home or school
  • A tendency to daydream or seem lost in their world
  • Slow or distracting movements
  • A habit of blurting out thoughts or acting on impulses without thinking things through
  • Frequent forgetfulness
  • A habit of abandoning goals or plans halfway
  • Disorganization, which might show up as a messy bedroom, desk, or backpack
  • Constantly interrupting peers during conversations and activities
  • Trouble forming and maintaining friendships
  • Difficulty completing schoolwork on time
  • Trouble sleeping, including difficulty falling asleep or waking up too early
  • Relational aggression toward peers, including gossip, bullying, intimidation, and other controlling behaviors
  • A preference for strenuous outdoor activities and sports that require a lot of energy

Some women with ADHD may notice more severe symptoms before and during their period. Evidence suggests that girls often have less severe symptoms, especially hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. When parents and teachers notice these signs, they might link them to personality differences or immaturity.

The ADHD symptoms in women listed above aren’t the only signs. They are just examples of how the condition often shows up in girls.

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Common Symptoms of ADHD in Adults Female

You may notice signs of ADHD in many different areas of your life. Some of these symptoms may be worse or more noticeable in specific contexts, such as at work or school. You may find that you spend a lot of time and effort to appear “normal.” These are some of the ADHD symptoms in females.

Relationships

Women ADHD symptoms in relationships can be destructive. You may wish you could be a better friend, partner, or mom and that you could do the things that other people do. For example, you may want to remember birthdays, bake cookies, and arrive on time for a date. But because you’re unable to do what society expects women to do, people may think you don’t care.

ADHD in adults is very real. And symptoms.of ADHD in women too. But Girls are often able to develop coping strategies that mask their ADHD symptoms.
ADHD in adults is very real. And symptoms.of ADHD in women too. But Girls are often able to develop coping strategies that mask their ADHD symptoms.

Social Life

Growing up, you may have been described as a tomboy because you had so much energy and liked to be busy. Friendships can be challenging to navigate as an adult because social rules seem complicated. People may say that you talk more than anyone else they know. 

While you may be talkative, you may dislike attending parties and other social gatherings because they make you feel overwhelmed and shy. Your mind drifts during conversations unless you’re talking or it’s a topic you find very interesting.

Work

Being at the office feels difficult. The noise and people make it hard to get work done. You may choose to stay late or come in early because the only time you can work effectively is when everyone else has left, and it’s quiet. Your desk at work is piled high with papers. Even when you effortlessly tidy it, it only stays clear for a day or two.

School

In school, ADHD symptoms in women may get overlooked because women are more likely to have inattentive ADHD, which doesn’t have the visible behavior problems that hyperactive/impulsive ADHD usually does. Girls with ADHD may also hyperfocus on things that interest them, leading teachers and parents to overlook the possibility of ADHD.

As an adult, you may feel frustrated that people you went to school with are passing you by with their achievements, even though you know you’re just as bright as them.

Daily Life

With ADHD, it may feel like each day is spent responding to requests and limiting disasters rather than moving forward with your goals. You may feel crushing sadness and frustration that you haven’t met your potential. Other daily struggles may include the following:

  • Paper clutter: It often feels like you’re drowning in paper. At work, at home, in your car, and even in your purse. You feel uneasy about unpaid bills and forgotten projects hiding under all the paper. You don’t feel organized with money and are usually behind with accounts. 
  • Overspending: You often overspend to compensate for other problems. For example, when you don’t have a clean outfit for an office party, you buy a new one. Or when you forget someone’s birthday, you buy an expensive present to make up for it. Shopping trips make you feel better in the moment, but you think regretfully later when the credit card bill arrives.
  • Disorganization: You may spend a lot of time, money, and research on products to help you be more organized, but then you don’t use them. You may feel embarrassed to have guests visit your home because it’s cluttered and disorganized.
  • Indecision: Grocery stores overwhelm you, and you may find it hard to decide what to buy. You often forget a crucial ingredient for a meal even though you take longer in the store than most people do.

Relaxing is often difficult for people with ADHD. Little things can push you over the top, and you may become emotional.

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ADHD in Adult Women: Symptoms & Possible Complications

Adult ADHD symptoms in women often don’t improve without treatment, and undiagnosed ADHD can worsen over time. Even milder symptoms can cause plenty of distress and affect daily life at work or home, along with friendships and relationships.

Plus, girls who never get a diagnosis may end up blaming themselves for the difficulties they experience. Instead of accepting these symptoms as signs of a mental health condition that requires professional support, they might:

  • Feel frustrated with their lack of success
  • Believe they need to try harder
  • Frequently feel overwhelmed and exhausted by their efforts
  • Wonder why they “can’t do anything right.”
  • Have difficulty achieving goals and lose their motivation to keep trying

Over time, this internalization can affect self-esteem and self-worth. It can also lead to self-punishment and an overall sense of hopelessness. Other possible complications of ADHD symptoms in adult women [2] include:

  • Regular conflict in relationships with parents, teachers, and friends
  • Rejection or bullying from classmates and peers
  • Social isolation or few close friendships
  • Increased chance of eating disorders
  • Persistent sleep problems
  • Trouble succeeding at school or work
  • Increased chance of other mental health conditions, including substance use disorders and depression

It’s also worth keeping in mind that treatment for anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms might have less effect when ADHD symptoms in women go unaddressed.

Types & Symptoms of ADHD in Adult Women

ADHD is a mental health condition that affects the ability to do some or all of these tasks:

  • Paying attention, focusing, or concentrating for prolonged periods
  • Noticing some details
  • Breaking activities and goals into steps or stages
  • Staying organized
  • Managing schedules
  • Remembering things
  • Sitting still
  • Managing impulses

Types

People with ADHD typically have symptoms that fall into one of three categories.

Inattentive

The following are signs of inattentive ADHD:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Being easily distracted
  • Regularly making careless mistakes
  • Often losing necessary items

Hyperactive-Impulsive

Hyperactivity-impulsivity presents in the following ways:

  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty remaining seated
  • Excessive talking
  • Frequent interruptions during a conversation

Combined

A combination of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms characterize combined ADHD.

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ADHD in Adult Women Symptoms and Hormones

In both sexes, changes in hormone levels can influence ADHD symptoms. [3] Regardless of their sex assigned at birth, individuals may experience a shift in signs around puberty when sex hormones influence physical symptoms and behavior. Fluctuating hormones can affect symptoms in other ways:

  • Experts in a 2020 statement agreed that hormone levels in pregnancy and menopause could also increase symptoms.
  • A small 2017 study found that inattention can increase after the ovulation phase of your menstrual cycle.
  • Changes in estrogen levels across your cycle can increase ADHD symptoms, especially for women with ADHD, who may experience more impulsivity.
You'll find in "ADHD symptoms in women " discussions that many women grew up being called lazy, selfish, or spacey because their ADHD symptoms were ignored, misunderstood, and even wholly disregarded. Instead of getting professional help, they tend to blame themselves.
You’ll find in “ADHD symptoms in women ” discussions that many women grew up being called lazy, selfish, or spacey because their ADHD symptoms were ignored, misunderstood, and even wholly disregarded. Instead of getting professional help, they tend to blame themselves.

Psychological and Emotional Effects of Symptoms of Adult ADHD in Women

  • 2014 ADHD symptoms in women test and research showed that women’s self-esteem is often lower than boys with ADHD — even well into adulthood.
  • Research from 2016 comparing girls with ADHD with girls who do not have ADHD suggests that those with ADHD often have more conflict in their social relationships than those without ADHD.
  • A 2017 study of women and girls suggests that women diagnosed with ADHD have a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. A borderline personality disorder is more likely to be reported among women previously or concurrently diagnosed with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD.

ADHD Symptoms in Women vs Men

Men are more likely to receive a diagnosis than women. Nevertheless, this discrepancy doesn’t mean that Women are less vulnerable to ADHD than men. Instead, it happens because ADHD symptoms tend to manifest themselves differently in women. Women struggling with ADHD exhibit fewer, and less pronounced behavioral problems. In. return, their struggle with the condition usually gets overlooked. Consequently, most of them end up not getting referred to specialists for evaluation and treatment.

Are ADHD symptoms in men worse? No evidence suggests that men have more severe ADHD symptoms. However, because men tend toward the hyperactive subtype of ADHD, their ADHD may seem more overt and disruptive to their lives. Men with ADHD tend to externalize their frustrations and struggles with the condition. On their part, women turn their anger, pain, and struggles inward, which often affects their mental health in the long run.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Adult Women

Since women with ADHD usually don’t display “typical” ADHD behavior, the symptoms may not be as obvious as they are in men.

The symptoms may Include:

  • Being withdrawn
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Intellectual Impairment
  • Difficulty With Academic Achievement
  • Inattentiveness Or A Tendency To “Daydream”
  • Trouble Focusing
  • Appearing Not To Listen
  • Verbal Aggression, Such As Teasing, Taunting, Or Name-Calling

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Adult Men

Men with ADHD are more likely to show external behaviors like:

  • Hyperactivity (e.g., fidgeting)
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Interrupting others during conversations
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • High-risk behaviors (e.g., substance misuse, speeding, unhealthy sexual behaviors, excessive financial spending)

Co-Occurring Conditions

Other conditions can also be present, along with ADHD. When you have more than one condition, they are called comorbid or coexisting conditions. [4] Here are some conditions that women often have in addition to their ADHD:

  • Substance use disorders, such as addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • Anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Mood disorders, like depression or bipolar disorder

It’s good to be aware of these coexisting conditions because they can cause symptoms similar to ADHD. This, in turn, can make diagnosing ADHD more complex. However, an experienced clinician will be aware of this challenge. 

Adults with ADHD can experience depression or anxiety, problems with family, sexual behavior, work, and substance abuse. It is crucial to obtain an assessment to learn ADHD symptoms in women and treatment options to best support your loved one with ADHD. [5]

Behavioral therapy can help you develop coping strategies to manage your symptoms. It may help improve your focus and build your self-esteem. Talk therapy can also relieve symptoms of depression and other comorbidities common with ADHD and the stress of managing a chronic health condition. Leading a healthy lifestyle is also essential. For instance, try to get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, and exercise regularly.

We Level Up FL offers an ADHD treatment program at our mental health treatment center in Florida. Here, clients participate in clinical and experiential therapies as part of our comprehensive curriculum. If your loved one is struggling with their depression diagnosis or other comorbidities, we can help them understand their disorder and teach them the skills they need to reach their full potential. 

Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

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[1] We Level Up – Mental Health » ADHD Treatment

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[6] National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Common Mental Health Disorders: Identification and Pathways to Care. Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society (UK); 2011. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 123.) 2, COMMON MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92254/

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[10] What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? – https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/what-cognitive-behavioral-therapy National Institute of Justice (NIJ)