Resources for Parents

Resources for Parents

How ADHD Differs in Girls

How ADHD Differs in Girls

Takeaways for busy parents:

  • While many think of ADHD as a boys' disorder, girls are equally likely to have the diagnosis.
  • Girls with ADHD remain underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and often diagnosed at much later ages compared to boys.
  • Teachers are less likely to notice girls with inattentive symptoms in the classroom.
  • ADHD symptoms in girls may manifest uniquely, including internalizing their symptoms that may lead to anxiety and self-esteem issues.
  • Parents should seek a mental health professional that can assess their daughter for ADHD with consideration to diagnostic gender bias.

It is important to note that this article references boys and girls regarding societal gender norms. This is reflective of data collection through clinical research and the findings that we currently have. We believe that gender is a spectrum, and this should be a consideration in how an individual's ADHD symptoms present and manifest in their environment.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health disorder affecting children and adults. ADHD is characterized by difficulty paying attention, distractibility, and hyperactivity. It also affects executive functioning, making it difficult for children to stay focused and organized and regulate their emotional responses and impulses.

It is important to remember that the condition is equally present in boys and girls. While boys are more likely to get diagnosed with ADHD, gender bias while diagnosing can make it unlikely for girls with ADHD to receive a proper diagnosis. Since ADHD in girls often presents differently than in boys, the condition may go unrecognized, creating additional difficulties for girls in the future. For example, you can misinterpret your daughter or a female student in your class with ADHD for being rude and bossy, lazy, daydreaming, or disruptive to peers. Recognizing how ADHD symptoms present in girls allows adults to seek evaluation and guidance to learn how best to support their child.

Symptoms of ADHD in Girls

The symptoms of ADHD in girls are often different from those seen in boys. Both boys and girls can meet the criteria for the three types of ADHD, yet inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive behaviors may present differently. Girls with ADHD are often overlooked and underdiagnosed because their symptoms may not be as obvious as those seen in boys. Girls with Inattentive ADHD may be more likely to daydream, be easily distracted, and have difficulty finishing tasks, which can be mistaken for laziness or lack of interest. Adults will often notice girls' inattentive symptoms before their hyperactive or impulsive symptoms, as those are often more subtle. Girls with ADHD can be seen as spacey or daydreamers. Teachers may notice they look out the window in class or doodle on their work.  

Girls with ADHD may be seen as less active overall, yet they still display symptoms of Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD. Hyperactive girls with ADHD are often called bossy or display signs of hypertalkativity, such as jumping into conversations or speaking without thinking. They may display subtle signs of fidgeting, such as bouncing up and down in their seat, fidgeting with a pencil, twirling their hair, picking at their cuticles, chewing on nonedible items, or doodling on their work. Girls with ADHD may experience difficulty in completing tasks, such as schoolwork or chores. They may also need help with organization and planning.

Girls with ADHD may also have difficulty with self-esteem. They may struggle to accept compliments and may be more likely to engage in self-criticism. They may need support with self-awareness and may be more likely unaware of their emotions. Girls may have more internalizing symptoms like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. They may also be more likely to have co-existing conditions such as learning disabilities and mood disorders. Girls with ADHD also risk misdiagnosis for mood disorders, as they are often described as overly emotional or hypersensitive. It is worth noting that because girls are typically diagnosed later in life, they are at a higher risk of developing secondary mood and anxiety disorders, possibly due to being unaware of their symptoms being an actual diagnosis.

Girls may be more likely to be bullied or teased because of their difficulties with focus and impulsivity. They may also struggle more with time management, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Girls may have trouble with social interactions, such as making friends and maintaining relationships.

It is common for all children with ADHD to struggle with sleep. Girls may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. They may also experience nightmares or night terrors.

Diagnosing Girls with ADHD

When considering an ADHD diagnosis for your daughter, it is imperative to seek a consultation with a mental health provider experienced in assessing the unique ways ADHD presents in girls.

ADHD symptoms in girls are often easy to miss, making it possible that parents and teachers overlook them. Girls may be less likely to show disruptive behaviors, which can be a red flag for ADHD in boys. A well-intentioned teacher may notice a hyperactive and impulsive boy with ADHD sooner than they would see a quiet yet inattentive ADHD girl. Teachers are often the first adults to raise alarm bells to encourage parents to seek an evaluation. When teachers are not well-versed in how girls can present with ADHD symptoms, there can be a lag in diagnosis and intervention. Consequently, girls are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD later in life (often in adulthood).

A thorough evaluation should consider ADHD while assessing all other behavioral and mental health disorders to determine any comorbid diagnoses. Developmental history and a pattern of symptoms are essential when diagnosing girls with ADHD. The mental health provider should consider family history when making an ADHD diagnosis.

It is important to note that ADHD is a spectrum disorder, and everyone is different. While girls with ADHD may experience some of these symptoms, others may not. It is essential to consult a mental health professional if you or your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms. Mental health professionals, including social workers, psychologists, and neuropsychologists, can help diagnose and treat ADHD.

Girls with ADHD may experience unique symptoms, such as difficulty with organization and planning, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem. It is essential to consult a mental health professional if your child exhibits any of these symptoms. With the proper diagnosis and mental health support, girls with ADHD will lead happy and successful lives.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not meant nor intended to be health care advice or treatment. Should you need assistance with any mental health or psychological issue, including any parenting issues, you should contact a mental health professional.