Myth: Girls Don't Get ADD/ADHD
More boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD. Some studies place this as high as six times as many boys are diagnosed each year. However, ADHD is not a male disorder and according to Schwab Learning Center as many as one million girls in the United States have ADHD. Girls, however, are less likely to be diagnosed and treated as compared to boys, according to the Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health (2001).
Girls with ADD/ADHD have many of the same problems and symptoms, although there are some differences:
- Girls with ADD/ADHD had higher rates of anxiety and depression as compared to boys.
- Boys with ADD/ADHD had higher rates of conduct disorder as compared to girls.
- Boys are more likely to have combined ADHD with hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
- Girls are more likely to have inattentive type of ADHD.
- Boys are generally diagnosed at age 7 and girls at age 12.
No matter what the differences may be, girls struggle with ADD/ADHD just as much as boys. They may be painfully shy, withdrawn, have trouble making or keeping friends and can have social problems beginning in preschool. They may be daydreamers and have problems paying attention in school. According to Kathleen Nadeau, untreated ADD/ADHD in girls can lead to serious problems such as "chronic demoralization, anxiety, depression, underachievement, teen pregnancy, cigarette addition and substance abuse."
Parents can help girls with ADHD by seeking treatment if they suspect their daughter might have ADD/ADHD. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to deter problems later. In the teen years, parents should pay attention to their daughter's psychological health, including looking for signs of depression and anxiety.
Treatment for girls is the same as for boys; a combination of behavioral therapies and medication has been shown to be the most effective. Parents should work with the school to provide an environment that offers structure, teaches organization and offers opportunities to increase self-esteem.
Although girls are not diagnosed as often and most studies include mostly male subjects, ADD/ADHD can be devastating for girls and should be taken seriously by parents, schools and medical professionals.
Girls with ADHD: Overlooked, Underdiagnosed, and Underserved, NYU Child Study Center
ADHD Symptoms and Severity Similar in Boys and Girls, PlanetPsych.com