Girls with ADHD often have the primarily inattentive type of this condition, which may make them appear quiet and dreamy, and can sometimes go unnoticed. Even parents who have had a lot of experience with managing the condition in their sons can miss the subtle symptoms that indicate their daughter is likely to have ADHD also. Since ADHD symptoms do not become noticeable as early in girls as they do in boys, this adds to the misunderstandings and misdiagnoses in girls. As a result, it is thought that ADHD is under-diagnosed in girls today and much more common than previously thought. There are some warning signs to look out for, however, which – if acted upon – could make life easier for girls in this situation., but first, a word of caution.
If ADHD exists in your family, especially if a male child has already been diagnosed, parents should be aware that it will present in girls in a much more subtle way and begin to cause problems later than it did in the male child already diagnosed. Do not be deceived into thinking that its effects will be much less harmful for girls as they progress into adulthood because of these characteristics. Inattentive type ADHD is thought to be more debilitating, especially if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Indicators of AD/HD in Girls:
- tend to be dreamy, even anxious
- may doodle a lot in class when teacher is talking, etc.
- are unable to pay attention fully to what is being said (school, home, friends)
- usually lack self-confidence/self-belief
- tend to be perfectionists
- may need a lot more time to finish homework because of this
- tend to have dramatic/intense relationships
- are liable to be overly emotional and prone to tantrums, especially at home
- tend to become moody and irritable during the teen years
- struggle with relationships (friends, groups, teachers, etc.)
These girls may be very orderly in the way they record their homework assignments and organize their class files. This can be deceptive to parents who have experienced the disorganized schoolbags and files of their ADHD sons, which constantly needed to be monitored to make sure that things did not get lost, etc. Let this not fool you! Girls are generally much better at being tidy and organized at this stage in their lives, but this is not evidence that they do not have AD/HD. The ADHD symptoms in girls are of a different nature than those of boys, but nonetheless just as debilitating in the long run.
If girls have an accompanying learning disability, such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, these conditions will generally be identified and appropriate accommodations given. Some girls with untreated ADHD suffer also from anxiety and/or depression as adolescents, which is easier to detect and to treat. However, if the underlying ADHD is not recognized and treated, the other treatment for the co-existing conditions is unlikely to relieve the symptoms and the girl continues to suffer because of the untreated ADHD symptoms, which get more severe with the onset of puberty. These girls are in real danger of turning their backs on school as soon as this is allowed, even those who are highly intelligent and creative. This is the reason that we see many intelligent women go back to study later in life when they have learned to deal with stress and the hormone imbalances of their teens years have settled down.
It is, however, very important to have the ADHD treated as early as possible so that girls understand the condition and make life and career choices that complement their talents and dispositions. Those girls who are hyperactive and/or impulsive are usually identified and treated as the symptoms of this form of ADHD are similar to those experienced by boys – and thus more likely to be detected.
If a girl with ADHD is left undiagnosed or untreated as she enters adolescence and young adulthood, she will almost inevitably encounter a range of adjustment problems that can lead to additional disorders, such as an eating disorder (bulimia, anorexia), and/or fibromyalgia. They are also at risk of developing chronic low self-esteem, underachievement, teen pregnancy, and an early smoking habit during their school years. In adulthood, they are more likely than their peers to face divorce, financial crises, single-parenting a child with ADHD, never completing university, underemployment, substance/alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and constant stress due to difficulty in managing the demands of daily life expected of them from society.