9 Things to Know About Girls With ADHD

Health Writer
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ADHD in Girls

Despite the immense amount of research on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), girls with ADHD are misunderstood and underdiagnosed. They often have inattentive type ADHD, which means they have trouble focusing and blocking out distractions but aren’t hyperactive or impulsive. In girls, ADHD is often referred to as a hidden disorder and is frequently overlooked and therefore untreated. Keep reading to learn nine things to know about girls with ADHD.

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Symptoms in girls and women

Some of the ways ADHD shows up in girls and women according to the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC) include: daydreaming, being unwilling to take risks, shyness, feeling easily overwhelmed, self-blaming,  depression, and anxiety — often specifically  about school or work performance.

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Trouble with details

Girls with ADHD seem like they should be doing fine. They are often bright but can’t ever seem to get it together. They have trouble with details, often lose items, are forgetful, and are often seen as spacey or underachievers.

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Relationships are overwhelming

Girls with ADHD can find the complexities of having a social life — friendships and romantic relationships — overwhelming. They may struggle to make and maintain relationships, according to ChildMind.org. Inattentive symptoms can make it difficult for them to keep up with the verbal give-and-take of their peers.

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Coexisting conditions are common

Women with ADHD often have coexisting conditions such as anxiety, depression, compulsive overeating, alcohol abuse, and chronic sleep deprivation. Compared to women without ADHD, they tend to have more depressive symptoms, feel more stressed, and have lower self-esteem, according to CHADD National Resource Center on ADHD.

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Mood disorders felt more deeply than in men with ADHD

Girls and women tend to experience mood and anxiety disorders at the same rate as men with ADHD, but they appear to experience more psychological distress than men according to CHADD. They may also have an increased risk for oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, according to the CADDAC.

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Hormonal fluctuations might increase symptoms

Medication for ADHD can be affected by hormonal fluctuations that women experience monthly and throughout their lifespan (puberty, perimenopause, menopause). ADHD symptoms may increase when estrogen levels fall, according to CHADD.

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The effect of menopause on ADHD

Many women with ADHD find that if they do take stimulant medications to treat ADHD, these medications are not as effective after perimenopause and menopause as estrogen decreases. Medication might need to be adjusted or estrogen replacement therapy might be needed according to ADDvance Magazine.

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Girls underdiagnosed during childhood

Three times as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD than girls during childhood but the diagnostic rates in adults are about equal, indicating that many girls with ADHD go undiagnosed when younger, according to a review completed in 2011. Some studies estimate that 50 to 75 percent of girls with ADHD go undiagnosed according to Scholastic.com.

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As demands of life increase, the rate of diagnosis increases

It isn’t fully understood why women with ADHD are frequently diagnosed later than males. It could be because they don’t have symptoms of hyperactivity, and are overlooked or because cognitive skills helped compensate during the early years. But when demands of high school, college and work became more difficult, they couldn’t keep up, according to a study completed in the United Kingdom.