Bouncy little girl jumps excitedly on the couch

Why ADHD is Different for Girls and What Parents Can Do

For many years, people have thought of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a condition that primarily affects boys. However, recent research shows that ADHD affects children of all genders in roughly equal amounts. However, up to 75 percent of all girls with ADHD never get diagnosed or adequately treated.

This difference in diagnosis rates is likely because the ADHD symptoms that girls are most likely to have are unlike the stereotypical idea of a child with ADHD. It’s important for parents to know how ADHD looks in girls and what to do if they notice the signs of the condition. Because when people live with untreated ADHD, it can take a dangerous toll on their mental health.

Understanding the Types of ADHD

The first step in understanding how ADHD is different for girls is knowing the three types of ADHD. While each person with the disorder is unique, the types of symptoms allow professionals to categorize ADHD into three distinct types:

  1. Impulsive and Hyperactive – patients have excess energy and little impulse control
  2. Inattentive – patients are easily distracted and forgetful
  3. Combination – patients experience any combination of symptoms of the other types of ADHD

The stereotypical child with ADHD is a boy who is bouncing off the walls. Such a child would have the first type of ADHD in this list, which is most common for boys. However, girls are more likely to have inattentive ADHD or combination ADHD without hyperactivity.

Signs of ADHD in Girls

Because girls with ADHD are more likely to have inattentive symptoms and less likely to have hyperactivity, it can be harder for adults to detect ADHD in girls. After all, hyperactivity is often disruptive in school, which prompts teachers and parents to get the child tested for ADHD. However, when a girl lives with untreated ADHD, she may:

  • Cry more often than her peers
  • Seem irritable
  • Blurt out or interrupt others
  • Get distracted often
  • Be forgetful
  • “Space out” or daydream often
  • Make mistakes that seem careless
  • Struggle to complete tasks
  • Appear to not listen when adults give directions
  • Be excessively chatty
  • Have sensory sensitivities
  • Seem disorganized or messy

If your child has many of these issues, you should consider the idea that she may struggle with ADHD.

Untreated ADHD Can Be Dangerous

When girls with ADHD go without a diagnosis or treatment, they struggle to reach their goals. Many girls internalize what they see as failures and believe they will never be “enough.” As they struggle to keep up with their peers, they blame themselves for any shortcomings. This negative self-talk can leave these girls at an increased risk for developing:

  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Low self-esteem

Even in adulthood, these problems can persist. While ADHD symptoms can subside in adulthood, the negative self-talk may remain. This puts these women at an increased risk of harming themselves or attempting suicide. It’s vital for parents to look for symptoms of ADHD and act quickly if they notice them.

What Parents Should Do If They Notice Signs of ADHD

First and foremost, do not blame yourself if you notice signs of ADHD in your child. You did not cause these issues, but you can solve them. Consider taking your child to a qualified behavioral health care professional as soon as possible. They can determine whether your child has ADHD and what treatment options are available.

If you believe your child may have ADHD, please contact LifeStance Health Associates soon. Our compassionate and expert providers accept insurance and are here to help. You may also consider sharing this article so that other parents can know what to look for.