Late Diagnosis, Little Treament: Girls and ADHD


The Disadvantage of Girls with ADHD

~As discussed in this ADDitude magazine article~

Historically, boys have been thought to have ADHD at a much higher rate than girls. In recent years as more has been learned about ADHD, researchers and clinicians now know that ADHD can be found in boys and girls equally. Although it may affect boys and girls at similar prevalence rates, the impact that ADHD has can be very different for girls than boys.

Girls are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as their symptom presentation may be less obvious to outsiders, such as parents and teachers. According to a survey conducted by Dr. Patrician Quinn and Dr. Sharon Wigal, teachers overwhelmingly reported that they believe girls are more likely to go undiagnosed. Additionally 40% of teachers reported that they struggle to recognize ADHD symptoms in girls. One explanation may be that girls are socialized to be rule abiding and socially conscious; therefore their symptoms are often masked.

Beyond the difficulty with identifying ADHD symptoms, girls are often misunderstood due to the less obvious nature of their symptoms. Girls are more likely to be held back a grade than their male counterparts. Boys are often viewed as “hyperactive” and are more likely to be recommended for an evaluation for ADHD and LD. Girls are also three times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants prior to a diagnosis of ADHD (Quinn & Wigal, 2004). Girls with undiagnosed ADHD are often viewed as depressed. They also experience low self-esteem and anxiety related to their difficulties with attention.

While it can be difficult to recognize ADHD symptoms in girls, it is important for parents to be aware that symptoms may be more subtle and less obvious than in boys. Parents should look for signs of inattention, excessive talking, worrying, perfectionism, and low self-esteem. If parents are concerned about these symptoms they should discuss with a professional to decide if an evaluation for ADHD is appropriate. Parents should not solely rely on teachers to raise concerns about ADHD as they may not notice signs of inattention as easily as hyperactivity.