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Symptoms of ADHD in Girls

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on July 02, 2020

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often thought of as a "boys' disorder" because it's nearly twice as common in boys as girls. But it's important to note that ADHD can look different in girls. That's because of the different ways girls' and boys' brains develop and where their focuses lie.

How ADHD Is Different in Girls

Hyperactivity and impulsivity are two of the most well-known symptoms of ADHD. But they aren’t as common with girls. Because girls with ADHD have less of these two things, they can be misdiagnosed.

There are ADHD symptoms that are common in girls. For example, they may:

  • Have a hard time focusing and listening to instructions
  • Daydream often
  • Try to avoid doing things that require a lot of attention
  • Seem forgetful
  • Lose things often
  • Have a messy book bag or room
  • Struggle to concentrate at school or make silly mistakes

They could also have the following symptoms more than boys:

Diagnosis

If you think your child might have ADHD, tell your doctor. Either they or a mental health expert will talk to your daughter to see if they might have ADHD.

Usually, kids find out they have ADHD between ages 6 and 12. For girls it may come later. It's common for girls to “make up for” their ADHD in any way they can. That’s one of the reasons parents might not recognize a problem. As a result, girls can be easily misdiagnosed. In some cases, they may not get a diagnosis at all. [Self-Test] ADHD Symptoms in Girls

There are three types of ADHD:

Hyperactive/impulsive: Here, you behave impulsively and with hyperactivity. But focus isn't a problem.

Inattentive: You're distracted easily, but you don't have hyperactivity.

Combination: You have impulsive and hyperactive behavior, and you have trouble keeping focus.

With girls, inattentive ADHD is the most common.

Treatment

Children with ADHD get similar treatment, no matter if it's a boy or girl. Their doctor will probably recommend medicine and behavior therapy. ADHD is a lifelong condition, so your child may need treatment into adulthood.

The specific treatment plan they'll get will depend on things like:

  • Your daughter’s age and medical history (including their tolerance for medicines)
  • Their symptoms
  • Your opinions about treatment

What You Can Do If Your Daughter Has ADHD

For any child with ADHD, the most important thing you can do is support them. There are many ways to do that, including:

Find a doctor with experience treating girls with ADHD. This can help a lot. Your daughter’s pediatrician can help you find a good expert. Once you get one, ask lots of questions. Make sure you follow their advice as best as you can.

Talk with your child's teachers. Among other things, they can decide if an individual education program (IEP) will help your child. An IEP is basically a written set of goals for your child as well as how your child's teacher will help them succeed.

Compliment their successes. Tell them often that you’re proud of something they did well.

Make sure they are eating healthy and getting enough exercise.Obesity and eating disorders both have connections to ADHD. Healthy eating and lifestyle choices can also help ease symptoms.

Have a routine. Structure and a clear daily schedule can make it easier to keep them on track. It might be helpful to leave notes around the house with reminders like “Don’t forget to study for math” or “Remember to pack a healthy snack before soccer practice.” It’ll also help them if the home and their room are clean and organized.

Make sure your child’s other caregivers are on the same page. When your daughter finds out that they have ADHD, you’ll want to make sure the other important people in their life -- like their parents, or other relatives who help out -- are keeping up with their goals and routine.

Try not to yell to get their attention. This usually does more harm than good. If you’re giving them directions, give them one at a time in a clear tone. Make lots of eye contact and be prepared to repeat yourself without getting frustrated.

Children with ADHD thrive with this kind of emotional support.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

BMC Psychiatry: “ADHD in girls and boys – gender differences in co-existing symptoms and executive function measures.”

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation: “How is ADHD diagnosed?”

CDC: “Data and Statistics About ADHD,” “What Is ADHD?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children.”

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: “Sex and age differences in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder symptoms and diagnoses: Implications for DSM-V and ICD-11.”

Medline Plus: “Hyperactivity.”

Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan: “ADHD: What Parents Need to Know.”

National Institutes of Health: "Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and disordered eating behaviors: links, risks, and challenges faced."

YouTube: “Girls & Women with ADHD: Presented by Meghan Miller, Ph.D.,” UC Davis MIND Institute.

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