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What Parents Need to Know About ADHD in Girls

For many years, both some behavioral health care professionals and the public at large believed Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was a condition that mostly affected boys. However, new studies and a better understanding of the disorder have found that all kinds of children can develop ADHD. Still, some research indicates that up to 75 percent of girls who have ADHD never get diagnosed.

The likely explanation for the difference in diagnosis rates is that girls usually have different ADHD symptoms than boys. When children with ADHD do not get the diagnosis and help that they need, they can suffer mental health consequences well into adulthood. That’s why it’s essential for parents to know the signs of ADHD in girls and what to do if they notice them.

Three Types of ADHD

In order to understand how ADHD may affect girls and boys in different ways, it’s important to know about the three general types of ADHD:

  1. Impulsive and Hyperactive – symptoms include excess energy and little impulse control
  2. Inattentive – patients are easily distracted, poorly organized, or forgetful
  3. Combination – includes symptoms of both other types of ADHD

Many people think of ADHD as only the first type, which is more likely to affect boys. These boys often get diagnosed because hyperactivity is a distinguishing symptom. That leads people to believe ADHD is mostly a boys’ condition.

How ADHD Appears in Girls

Girls are more likely than their peers to develop inattentive ADHD. When girls develop combination ADHD, they usually do not have hyperactive symptoms. In order to notice ADHD in girls, adults cannot rely on looking for hyperactivity as a symptom. Instead, the adults in a girl’s life may notice that she:

  • Cries more easily than he peers
  • Gets irritated easily
  • Interrupts or blurts out often
  • Starts many tasks, but struggles to finish them
  • “Spaces out” or daydreams frequently
  • Makes “careless” errors
  • Appears to not listen or hear adults giving directions
  • Talks significantly more than other children her age
  • Seems disorganized or especially messy
  • Gets easily distracted
  • Is forgetful
  • Seems sensitive to certain sounds or feelings

If your child exhibits several of these symptoms, you should talk to a behavioral health care provider about the possibility of ADHD. While it’s possible for a child to have some of these signs of ADHD without meeting the criteria of a diagnosis, it’s better to be safe. Leaving ADHD untreated can have devastating consequences.

The Importance of ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment

Boys and girls with ADHD not only live with different symptoms, but they also cope with their struggles in different ways. Whether due to socialization or biology, boys tend to blame any shortcomings on something else. For example, if they fail a test, it’s the test or the teacher’s fault.

On the other hand, girls tend to internalize any mistakes they make. So a girl who struggles on the same test may believe it’s her fault because there’s something wrong with her. When girls have untreated ADHD, they have more of these kinds of struggles, and their internal dialogues become negative. As such, these girls are more likely to develop mental health issues such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • Eating disorders

Even if the symptoms of ADHD subside as the girl grows into a woman, these side effects could continue. They could struggle with a lack of social skills and low self-esteem for a lifetime. That could explain why people with untreated ADHD are more likely to harm themselves or attempt suicide.

What Parents Can Do If They See Signs of ADHD in Girls

If you believe that your child has ADHD, seek behavioral health care soon. This is important no matter your child’s gender. An experienced professional can help you determine if ADHD is the cause of the behaviors. If so, they can help you understand your family’s options.

If you think your family could need this type of care, please contact Child and Family Psychological Services today. Our behavioral health care providers accept insurance and are ready to help.


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