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ADHD in Children Health Center

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How ADHD Is Different for Girls

Beyond Behavior and Attention continued...

“A girl without ADHD might not be able to play volleyball as well as other girls, but she doesn’t necessarily infer that there’s something wrong with her,” Manos says. “Girls with ADHD, on the other hand, tend to be more self-critical.”

As a result, Quinn says, self-injury, eating disorders, and even suicide attempts are more common among girls with ADHD than among girls without. “So getting a diagnosis is very important, even if your child is able to compensate,” she says.

Getting a Diagnosis

There’s no single test to diagnose ADHD, and symptoms can be hard to untangle from “normal” childhood behavior. If you think your daughter might have ADHD, it’s important to find a doctor or health care professional who has experience diagnosing it, especially in children. You can talk first to your child’s pediatrician, who may also refer you to a mental health specialist, like a child psychiatrist or psychologist.

The specialist will ask you about your daughter’s behavior and watch how she acts during different activities. He may also check with other adults who know your daughter well, like her teachers, tutors, or coaches.

It’s important to take a broad look at how the disorder might affect her.

“We need to ask about every type of symptom, not just the ones that we’re most likely to see, or the ones we expect to see,” says Dave Anderson, PhD, senior director of the ADHD and behavior disorder center at the Child Mind Institute. “Sometimes we don’t ask the right questions, just because we don’t think that young girls are as prone to those issues as they actually are.”

Also, keep in mind that there will be times when your child may seem perfectly attentive. “Parents often see their child is able to focus during certain activities, like playing video games or chatting with a friend, and assume they can’t have ADHD,” Anderson says. “We’re looking at a child’s ability to pay attention during tasks they find boring or that require a lot of effort, and then how that affects their day-to-day functioning.”

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Reviewed on April 28, 2015

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