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Who Gets ADHD?

ADHD develops in childhood and can happen to anyone, but your genes play a strong role.  It's estimated that between 5% to 11% of children have ADHD. And many of them are girls. Some kids outgrow it, but more than three-quarters of people who had ADHD in childhood will continue to have it as adults.

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Stats Are Misleading

Boys are diagnosed with ADHD at least twice as often as girls are, but that doesn't necessarily mean that more boys have it. Some experts say girls don't get diagnosed as much because their symptoms can be harder to spot.

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Less to Go On

There isn't nearly as much research on ADHD in females as there is in males. As a result, less is known about how it affects them. ADHD always starts in childhood, but many females don't find out they have it until they're adults, if they find out at all.  

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ADHD Can Be Different in Females

There are three main kinds of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. The inattentive type is most common in girls. It doesn't always catch the attention of teachers and parents.

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How It Can Show Up

Common symptoms of inattentive ADHD include:

  • • Lack of focus and trouble listening and paying attention
  • • Being easily distracted, disorganized, and frequently forgetting and losing things
  • • Failing to follow through
  • • Making mistakes that seem careless

 

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The Impact of ADHD

As with boys, girls with ADHD often have trouble in school. But they're less likely to get in trouble for acting out.  Girls with ADHD tend to be seen as daydreamers. They may have a harder time socializing, too. It's also important to work with the doctor to make sure you aren't missing symptoms that might point to a learning disability such as dyslexia. Once they're identified, dyslexia and other disabilities can be successfully addressed.

For adult women, ADHD can make it hard to stay on top of a job and handle the stresses of day-to-day life. Women with ADHD might struggle to manage personal finances, complete household tasks, and care for children.

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An Emotional Toll

Girls with ADHD are more likely than boys with the disorder to blame themselves when they have problems getting things done. Having ADHD can also make it hard to read social cues, which can make some girls feel insecure. It can interfere with their ability to make friends. 

That can leave them prone to depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Girls with ADHD are more likely to develop anorexia or bulimia than girls without the condition.

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Don't Ignore It

A diagnosis is the first step to getting the right treatment. Medications and behavioral therapy can help you manage ADHD.

If you see signs of a problem, talk to a doctor. Teachers don't suggest ADHD evaluations for girls nearly as often as they do for boys. If a teacher refers your daughter, take it seriously. If your child has ADHD, it's not going to go away.

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Medication and Hormones

Symptoms can change over time. But hormones can make them change, too. You might find that hormonal changes -- during your menstrual cycle, while pregnant, and as you enter menopause -- impact how well medications work or how well you can manage your symptoms. If you notice a difference, talk to your doctor. She should be able to adjust your medication as needed.

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Living With ADHD

Having ADHD can be a challenge, but it's one that children and adults alike can learn to handle. Although there's no cure, people who get the right care can reach their potential and enjoy a happy, fulfilled life.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 03/06/2018 Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 06, 2018

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

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SOURCES:

CDC: "ADHD Through the Years," "Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): New Data: Medication and Behavior Treatment," "Key Findings: Trends in the Parent-Report of Health Care Provider-Diagnosis and Medication Treatment for ADHD: United States, 2003—2011," "My Child Has Been Diagnosed With ADHD: Now What?"

CHADD.org:  "About ADHD," "Coaching," "Diagnosing ADHD," "Diagnosis of ADHD in Adults," "Managing Medication," "Marriage and Partnerships," "Treatment of ADHD," "Women and Girls."

Child Mind Institute: "Behavioral Treatment for Kids with ADHD," "How Girls With ADHD Are Different." 

HealthyChildren.org (American Academy of Pediatrics): "Girls and ADHD."

KidsHealth.org: "What is ADHD?"

National Institute of Mental Health: "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder."

Biederman, J. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 2007.

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 06, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.