Girls, Women and Attention Deficit Disorder

Girls and Women are Under

Diagnosed

The DSM-IV estimates that the

ratio of boys with ADHD to girls was 4:1. For those in actual treatment in

clinics, the ratio was 9:1. Clinicians who treat a girls with ADHD feel

that many girls have been overlooked. Why is this?

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

Boys with ADHD are more likely to

be disruptive in class and at home. Parents and teachers notice this and

refer them for treatment. Girls with ADHD can be physically hyperactive,

but are more likely to be quietly inattentive and disorganized. Adults are

more likely than children to refer themselves for treatment.

Women Are Often Diagnosed in

Adulthood

Sometimes we see a woman who

brings her son in for treatment. While evaluating the child we take a

thorough family history. As the mother tells her own story, she realizes

that some of her difficulties are similar to her son’s. Whether she was

hyperactive or just inattentive, the diagnosis was missed.

Signs of ADHD in Girls

Girls can manifest their ADHD in

vastly different ways. In Understanding Girls with AD/HD, Nadeau,

Littman and Quinn identify types of ADHD girls. Active girls may act like

tomboys. They may socialize with boys. They are active, and may engage in

impulsive escapades. Another group of girls shows their ADHD by

talkativeness and excessive socializing. They too may become involved in

risky behavior. Some girls with ADHD seem to fade into the background.

They are shy and inattentive. They may have few friends and are more

likely to be depressed. The last group is often escapes diagnosis until

adolescence or adulthood. These are the very smart girls who have the

ability to put in an extraordinary effort to hyperfocus. Adults see them

as achievers but are often unaware of the anxiety and extreme effort the

such girls use in order to compensate for their inattentiveness. Such

girls are often anxious and self-critical.

The Consequences

Girls and women with ADHD

(particularly if undiagnosed) are at higher risk for anxiety, depression,

drug abuse and unplanned pregnancy. This makes treatment more complicated.

Early Diagnosis Is Important

The unique concerns of ADHD girls

and women often respond well to treatment. Understanding one’s own ADHD

is therapeutic in itself. Effective treatments include medication,

psychotherapy, support groups and coaching. 


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Northern

County Psychiatric Associates

Offices in Monkton and Lutherville, Maryland     

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