Girls and ADHD: Why the Disorder Looks so Different in Girls and Boys

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is often associated with behavioral problems such as acting impulsively or disruptively. It is also diagnosed in boys three times more frequently than in girls. While the disorder does affect girls, symptoms may be harder to identify.

According to experts, the symptoms of ADHD are actually identical for boys and girls, but they often manifest differently. The symptoms include issues with concentration, attention and focus. The difference is that girls are more likely to attempt to hide their difficulties. While a boy with ADHD may be hyperactive, a girl with ADHD may be withdrawn. Girls with ADHD may try to avoid letting anyone know that they are distracted or not paying attention. Such behavior is often interpreted simply as shyness and is not readily associated with ADHD.

For girls, ADHD is also often connected to self-esteem issues. A girl who has trouble paying attention in school may say she is not as smart as the other children or that she does not like going to school. While her difficulties with concentration may be reflected in her school performance, ADHD is often not suspected simply because the girl is not disruptive but is instead withdrawn.

Another type of behavior that may be connected to ADHD is perfectionism. Girls with attention issues may try to hide their symptoms and control their world by engaging in the type of over-organization behavior more commonly associated with obsessive compulsive disorder.

If a parent suspects a daughter may have ADHD, a good first step is to talk to her teachers about how she compares to other girls her age. Further insight can be gained by talking with a school psychologist, school nurse, or pediatrician.

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