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What does ADHD look like in a female?

Girl masking ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often thought of as a condition that primarily affects boys. This perception has led to a significant underdiagnosis of girls with ADHD, which in turn has left many girls struggling without the support they need. While boys are more frequently diagnosed with ADHD, this disparity doesn't mean that girls experience the condition any less. Instead, it highlights a critical gap in the recognition and diagnosis of ADHD in girls.

The Underdiagnosis of Girls

Historically, ADHD has been associated with hyperactive and loud behaviors—symptoms that are more commonly observed in boys. This "golden" standard of symptoms often misses the inattentive type of ADHD, which is more prevalent in girls. Girls with ADHD typically do not exhibit the hyperactive, energetic, or fidgety behaviors that are easily noticeable. Consequently, they are often overlooked and not included in diagnostic statistics. In fact, up to 75% of girls with ADHD remain undiagnosed, and on average, girls are diagnosed five years later than boys.

This delay in diagnosis means that girls often develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and strategies to manage their learning, self-management, and relationships. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for improving outcomes, but the unique presentation of ADHD in girls requires awareness and understanding.

Recognizing the Symptoms in Girls

The symptoms of ADHD in girls can be subtle and are often dismissed as personality traits or emotional issues. According to the DSM-5 criteria, girls with ADHD predominantly exhibit inattentive symptoms. Here are some key signs to look out for:

  • Inability to Retain Information: Struggling to remember instructions or details.

  • Trouble Reading Social Cues: Difficulty understanding and responding to social interactions, especially in girl groups.

  • Social Challenges: Problems relating to other girls and often gravitating towards boy groups for friendships.

  • Communication Style: Talking quickly, being blunt, and frequently interrupting others.

  • Self-Criticism: High levels of self-criticism and sensitivity.

  • Inconsistent Performance: Fluctuating performance at school and in other activities.

  • Low Frustration Tolerance: Becoming easily frustrated and having a low threshold for frustration.

  • Rocky Relationships: Experiencing unstable and challenging relationships.

Pediatricians, who are not specialists in ADHD, may miss these signs, further contributing to the underdiagnosis in girls. It's important for parents and educators to be vigilant and informed about these symptoms to ensure early intervention.

Early Diagnosis and Intervention

The earlier ADHD is diagnosed, the sooner interventions can be implemented, leading to significant improvements in a child's academic performance, social interactions, and overall well-being. For girls, this can mean the difference between struggling in silence and thriving with the right support and strategies.

If you recognize any of these symptoms in your student and have questions or concerns, we encourage you to reach out to our team at WeThrive Learning. We offer a free consultation to help you understand your child's needs and explore the best ways to support them. Don't let your student continue to struggle unnoticed. Early intervention can make all the difference in helping achieve full potential. Book your free consultation today and watch your student thrive!


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