A common misconception among parents is that ADHD predominantly affects overactive boys. This has led to a rash of undiagnosed cases of girls afflicted with the disorder. Many women don’t present symptoms of ADHD until later on in life. Often times, these symptoms appear differently than in males. Why does this occur? What is The Hidden Reason ADHD Often Goes Undiagnosed in Girls?
What ADHD Looks Like in Girls
The symptoms of ADHD in boys can be disruptive. In the classroom, at home, running errands–ADHD can rear its ugly head. With girls, the symptoms are much different. Girls with ADHD will appear distracted and detached from their surroundings. This leads to major anxiety issues developing for girls at younger ages. In addition, girls will show a lack of organization skills (executive functioning) that affect their grades, friendships, and relationships with parents. This lack of control in their minds tends to drive them towards other issues in their lives including eating disorders. This is a much different view of ADHD than in boys. Girls aren’t jumping off the walls and running around like crazy.
Misdiagnosing ADHD in Girls
Studies on ADHD focus mainly on the behaviors demonstrated in boys. The hyperactive, young male who is fidgeting and constantly moving. When a girl begins to show their own symptoms of the disorder, it’s immediately thought of as a different issue than ADHD. Parents and some teachers may say that it can’t possibly be ADHD because that mainly affects boys. These girls aren’t performing to their maximum potential and ability. They are placed in remedial classes at school, even though they may be way above that level. Girls also may avoid social groups and spend their time alone or withdrawn.
Depression is a symptom of the ADHD in girls at young ages. They may be described as spaced out or constantly daydreaming. The disorder, for girls, seems to manifest in at the mind rather than in outward physical expression. Children don’t always understand what’s going on in their own brains at this time and girls with ADHD may internalize these issues. Why are the other children different? Why am I different? Why can’t I focus? What is wrong with me?
Parents will take their children to see specialists assuming the issue is psychological. Luckily, these specialists are getting better at understanding the complexities of the disorder. Many, however, aren’t lucky enough to get to the point where they actually get to see a specialist to aid them. They suffer in silence while everyone around them tries to figure out what’s wrong with them.
ADHD tends to run in families, leading to potential confusion of the disorder. If either or both of the parents of a child have undiagnosed ADHD themselves, it’s easy to say that the child is just acting like they did when they’re younger. They’re fine now as adults, so the child will be too. They say that the child just needs to grow out of whatever phase they’re going through at the moment. This is, unfortunately, all too common of a sentiment among parents of girls with ADHD. Not admitting to a problem or saying it’s just a passing phase can do long term damage to a child. This confusion only plays tricks with the ADHD mind. The symptoms of the disorder occur but the child has no way to understand what’s happening and no support system to assist them in getting through the problems.
Times Are Changing
ADHD is everywhere at the moment. It’s a hot topic–anyone with a child who is running around and/or loud is automatically assumed to have ADHD. If only it were that easy, then we could solve many of the problems for these children. ADHD is a spectrum–what affects some, may not affect others.
The sooner we understand these differences both medically and culturally, the quicker we can help these children. Parents need to learn, understand, and aid when symptoms of ADHD present themselves in their girls. It can often be different for them than it can be for boys. Assisting with them now will lead to a decrease in future long term issues that these children face when they grow older.