In this world full of competition, girls with ADHD can face challenges while finding their place as competitive and normal functioning individuals in society.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is prevalent in the United States with approximately 6.1 million cases in children, having a major portion of girls.
There are several ways for the identification and hence the diagnosis of ADHD in girls, e.g. with peer-reviewed studies and check medical history and diagnosis with clinical evaluation, where mental health professionals can also prescribe medication and other treatment options.
This article discusses important concerns related to ADHD diagnosis and prevalence in girls for educational purposes.
Why do girls with ADHD go undiagnosed?
As ADHD signs are hard to spot in girls, the ADHD diagnosis becomes difficult in girls. The mental health issues like this may go unnoticed in girls. Rather than its diagnosis, girls with ADHD often have to face criticism for their behavior from their school, parents, and peers. These undiagnosed ADHD symptoms can affect girls in many ways and it may also become the cause of low self-esteem in girls.
Is ADHD a mental health issue?
Although Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is most often categorized as a mental disorder by American Psychiatric Association, it can also fall in the category of mental health issues. These terms of disorder and illness can be used interchangeably for clinical evaluation, ADHD tend to be used as both disorder and illness.
How can you tell if a girl has ADHD?
As ADHD symptoms show attention deficit hyperactive disorder, it shows the symptoms of attention issues (e.g. trouble focusing), hyperactive behavior, and impulsive behavior of the patient.
A study showed that there are more chances of boys getting a diagnosis of ADHD, which is more than twice the chances of diagnosing ADHD in girls. A previous study showed that this gap between males and females narrows down when it comes to the diagnosis of ADHD in adults.
But, having higher chances of ADHD diagnosis in males does not make the females less susceptible to ADHD. And it does not make ADHD a boys’ disorder.
Reasons behind less ADHD diagnosis in girls:
According to experienced professional studies, girls with ADHD get the lesser diagnoses because of the following reasons:
Girls are more likely to use their coping strategies to hide ADHD symptoms than boys
Girls internalize the obvious signs and have less noticeable symptoms
Parents hesitate to take their girls with ADHD for clinical evaluation
Some common signs of ADHD in girls include being too talkative, dreamy in their thoughts, sitting quietly in the classroom, trouble making friends, poor attention, or higher risk-taking.
But, parents and peers often neglect the common symptoms of ADHD in girls like inattentive ADHD, being dreamy, or being too talkative because of the gender stereotypes of considering these girls as just ‘being girls’.
Out of the three common types of attention deficit hyperactive disorder, the type most common in girls is inattentive ADHD where they can get easily distracted.
What do parents need to know about ADHD in girls?
Nevertheless, the following symptoms can help the caregivers in the diagnosis of ADHD in girls:
Frequent and excessive talking even when parents and teachers ask to stop
Extremity in emotional sensitivity and reactivity, where girls become upset and cry so easily
Trouble in paying attention and getting easily distracted from the directions given at school and home
Seeming lost in their own world and dreamy in their own thoughts
Distracted and slow movements
Difficulty in making and maintaining friendships
Difficulty in schoolwork completion on time
Trouble to focus on their work with a limited attention span
Habitual abandonment of plans and goals halfway
Poor time management and poor self-esteem
Preference for outdoor activities and sports that require a lot of effort and energy
A troubled sleeping pattern having difficulty in going to sleep or rising too early
Being verbally impulsive, showing habitual expression of thoughts with no impulse control and without thinking of the consequences
These symptoms change and become more severe during and just before the periods.
Studies suggest that the hyperactivity and impulsive symptoms are less severe in girls with ADHD and they mostly have inattentive ADHD, but for other girls, if these signs appear, they are considered as a sign of immaturity and personality differences in girls and get less support as a daughter in their life.
How do you tell if you have ADHD as a girl?
Patricia Quinn, MD, says “Girls with ADHD tend to cluster in the inattentive subtype”.
Given that, young girls can get help in the better understanding of symptoms of ADHD and can move to the treatment options. Caregivers can take their child to the child psychologist who can provide medical advice for some care.
Actions to take as an ADHD girl:
But, as a girl, to indicate a possibility of ADHD in you, you can do your individual studies of several academic research institutions and reach out to credible sources on the internet to indicate the symptoms in you regarding the diagnosis of ADHD.
Take help from the symptoms described above that are prevalent in girls having ADHD. Note that the most common type of ADHD in girls is inattentive. Other types can also exist in girls, but this type of inattention is more common.
How does ADHD affect a girl?
Out of three major categories of ADHD in girls, inattentive only is the most common occurrence. The ADHD patient with inattentive type has difficulty in focusing but does not intend to be disruptive in their behavior.
The ADHD conditions affect girls in the following ways:
Inattentive: Girls with ADHD find it difficult to concentrate on tasks at home or at school. They find it difficult to complete a task that is not interesting to them. Whereas, they get completely absorbed in the tasks that they find interesting to do.
Distractions: ADHD in girls makes them more prone to get distracted by what is happening outside and what is happening inside their minds.
Hyperactivity: Few girls having ADHD lean towards fidgeting and moving around like boys, whereas others just stay at one place and utilize their hyperactivity by moving around while sitting on their chairs and doodling.
Poor organizational skills: ADHD can cause poor organizational skills and executive malfunctions in girls. They might find it hard to do time management and follow multi-step directions and complete the tasks. They might lose important things, like personal items and papers.
Impulsivity: This symptom can cause girls to face strong emotions, making it difficult for them to slow down and focus on something. They find it difficult to keep up with the social norms, resulting in difficulty in keeping friends.
Repercussions of lack of diagnosis:
Lack of early diagnosis and treatment of girls having ADHD can cause problems for many girls when they reach adulthood.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Littman says in a study that the lack of early diagnosis and treatment causes a “range of adjustment problems” in girls when they reach adolescence.
Upon lack of diagnosis and early treatment, these girls can face a range of problems which include:
Development of anxiety disorders and depression and possible suicide attempts
Experiencing high levels of depression
Attribution of success and failures to the external factors of chance and luck, rather than the result of their own actions in young adults
Developing low self-esteem, chances of self-harm, and even causing girls to attempt suicide
Chronic stress and stress-related diseases and disorders
A sense of underachievement
What are the signs of girls with ADHD?
There are several symptoms that can help in the diagnosis of ADHD in girls which are described above. The most common symptoms relate to the inattentive category and less to the hyperactive or impulsive type.
These girls have a range of symptoms that can easily be spotted and if proper care is given, they can be controlled and treated for better alignment of their lives to control ADHD and have support in the life of your or your daughter for better health.
What type of ADHD is most common in girls?
Out of three types of inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined, inattentive is the most common type of ADHD prevailing in girls. Children have less prevalence of the other two types, but for some cases, these can appear when they reach adulthood.
In the case of the other two categories, these signs can be ignored by teachers and caregivers, and the subjects are considered ‘being girls’ under gender bias. Regardless, these types are more common in boys, a girl can face these types too and must be properly addressed for better health.
How is ADHD different in females?
There are some obvious gender differences when it comes to the signs of ADHD in boys vs a girl. As boys show hyperactive characteristics more, which exhibit difficulty in sitting still in class and showing disruptive behavior that is easier to identify in school or at home in boys.
Whereas, contrary to boys, a girl in school may be socially withdrawn, forgetful, while missing assignments. They can be low in self-esteem, have difficulty in focusing, have intellectual impairment, and show verbal aggression.
This results in less diagnosis of girls having ADHD and the inattention is considered a girlish trait. As a result, they are ignored in the diagnosis of this disorder.
In short, getting easily distracted, being hyper-talkative, being socially withdrawn, showing exaggerated emotional responses, and being forgetful are typical differences in boys and girls having ADHD.
Concluding the discussion, the teachers and caregivers must give proper attention to the girls for any signs of ADHD, regardless of their gender. This way we can ensure proper and early diagnosis and treatment, which can lead to better life and health of girls with ADHD.