Suffering In Silence: How ADHD Affects Girls

When it comes to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, most of what you read in the news favors the idea that the diagnosis is being overused, and that kids are being over-medicated. But, what if we told you, that there was actually a huge population of individuals with ADHD that aren’t actually being diagnosed?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 have received an ADHD diagnosis at some point in their lives, up 16 percent since 2007. However, most of the research on this disease has centered around white, hyperactive boys, leaving an estimated 4 million girls undiagnosed and untreated. 

Part of the reason for this disparity, is that ADHD looks different in girls than it does in their male counterparts. Whereas the hyperactivity of boys is hard to miss, girls may react more subtly, leaving professionals to miss the cues. This difference has led to many late diagnoses in girls, sometimes only being discovered in late adolescence or even adulthood.

11Still, we need to do better at recognizing ADHD in girls, because without treatment, their disease could lead to low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, a drop in grades, and an overall inability to cope with life. Here’s a terrifying tidbit: According to the American Psychological Association, girls with ADHD are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide or injure themselves as young adults than girls who do not have ADHD.

So, how do we tell if a girl has this disorder? Some of the more telling signs of ADHD in girls, as reported by “Healthline” include:

  • talking all the time, even when parents or teachers ask them to stop
  • frequent crying, even from small disappointments
  • constantly interrupting conversations or activities that include their friends
  • trouble paying attention
  • frequent daydreaming
  • having a messy bedroom, desk, or backpack
  • difficulty finishing assigned work

In addition, Patricia Quinn, MD, co-author of “Understanding Girls with ADHD,” offers this insight, “With girls, it’s more about how their disorder affects themselves,” as opposed to with boys, who tend to act out.

In a sense, girls with ADHD tend to internalize the problem, whereas boys externalize their symptoms. What this means is that boys will throw things, (including temper-tantrums), while girls will become frustrated and angry with themselves for not being able to remember things. This difference could explain the higher suicide rates in girls, since they are constantly blaming themselves for not being good enough.

The good news is that once a girl is diagnosed, treatment is very effective. Whether through a combination of medication and therapy, or, only one of the two, ADHD responds very well to therapeutic care. Plus, just knowing that she isn’t lazy, stupid, or crazy can make all the difference in a girl’s life.

If you suspect that one or more of your children may have ADHD, contact us. We are here to help!