Women less likely to receive ADHD diagnosis and long waiting lists in Merseyside

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is under-diagnosed in girls, leading to difficulty in adult life, according to campaigners.

October is ADHD Awareness Month, dedicated to shedding a light on the condition that comes in three types: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive or combined.

Though ADHD is thought of as a common condition, mostly seen in children, there are an increasing number of adults struggling due to a delayed diagnosis.

According to ADHD Action, 3% of children and 5% of adults in the UK have ADHD, however, only a small fraction of these adults have received a formal diagnosis.

Most people diagnosed with ADHD are aged 6–12 years old, with the majority being boys.

ADHD presents differently in women and girls, and many struggle to get a diagnosis or support.

Rather than being disruptive or fighting, young girls are often quieter or exhibit hyperactivity by being chatty or interrupting.

The ADHD Centre notes that ‘society can be less forgiving’ of women who struggle with day to day tasks.

According to the private clinic, ADHD in women is more likely to be left undiagnosed, adding that they have added pressure to cope when compared to men.

Sandy’s story

Sandy Costall, a local university lecturer, was diagnosed with Severe Combined-Type ADHD a week before her 50th birthday.

She told LiverpoolWorld: “ADHD is often missed in girls and women because we are quite excellent at ‘masking’ its symptoms and the behaviours.

“But suppressing aspects of our behaviour takes a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing.”

Sandy also described feeling misunderstood by male doctors.

“In my 30s I tried to explain to a male GP how I was feeling and he told me I was neurotic and it must be hormones. I felt like an utter failure but now research indicates that ADHD symptoms are associated with neuroticism when not treated properly.

“Girls present differently to boys and looking back at old reports from school I saw the patterns in my behaviour. I was daydreaming too much, chatty in class, blurting out answers and submitting work late – symptoms are much subtler in girls.”

“As an adult you know your own brain and body and you should keep investigating, even if that means seeing a private doctor.

“Getting my diagnosis [and taking medication] has been such a positive in my life, don’t suffer in silence.”

NHS waiting lists

Prior to covid-19, Merseyside NHS services were already struggling to meet the demand for adult ADHD services, according to the CQC in 2019.

As a result of a backlog caused by covid-19 restrictions to services, the waiting list for initial NHS assessments is now up to two years, with a Wirral GP practice telling a patient to travel to Cornwall for an assessment.

The average waiting time for Mersey Care NHS Trust is currently 15 months

GPs are able to provide a private referral for an ADHD assessment.

Iconic umbrellas

The ADHD Foundation Neurodiversity Charity is based in Liverpool City Centre and offers support for conditions such as ADHD and ADD.

Umbrella Project. Image: ADHD Foundation

The charity is responsible for the iconic umbrellas above Church Alley, part of the Umbrella Project, designed to raise awareness of the conditions that under the ‘umbrella’ term of neurodiversity – ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyslexia and dyscalculia.