The signs of ADHD in girls can look very different to that of boys, so it is important to know what to look for.
It’s a common myth that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that only affects boys. In reality, boys are three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean girls don’t have it. Girls are often better at hiding the symptoms of ADHD but more are being diagnosed as we better understand how they are affected.
ADHD can impact a girl’s social life, educational outcomes, self-esteem and physical health, which is why it is important to pick up on the signs when they present themselves.
While the following behaviours can be a sign of ADHD in girls, it is important to note that exhibiting these symptoms might not necessarily mean ADHD. It is best to consult a psychologist for an assessment to confirm a diagnosis.
One of the reasons why girls are often overlooked for ADHD is because one of the symptoms is poor concentration or the tendency to daydream.
Inactivity, the opposite of hyperactivity, is a sign of ADHD in girls and it can manifest as difficulty paying attention or staying focused.
Daydreaming, not listening or losing focus are all passive activities, so when a girl shows these symptoms of ADHD they can be often overlooked or misunderstood.
A lack of impulse control can be a sign of ADHD in girls as well as boys.
Impulse control is a social skill that allows us to stop, listen and think before acting. Someone with ADHD might not be able to do this.
Lack of impulse control can mean that a girl might interrupt people in conversations, snatch and grab things without warning or act inappropriately before thinking. It can also mean that as a girl goes into high school and into her teenage –years, she might become involved in high risk behaviours.
These kinds of behaviours can stop a girl from building relationships with others which could then impact confidence and self-esteem.
Some girls will create masking mechanisms that will hide or compensate for an underlying ADHD diagnosis. Perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive behaviours are two examples of masking mechanisms.
A girl might check her backpack numerous times a day to make sure she’s not forgetting anything or she might obsessively take down notes on everything in class because she is worried she might miss out on something important.
Perfectionism might also mean that while becoming hyper–focused on one thing, a whole lot of other things fall to the side.
These behaviours can make a girl stressed and anxious about school and her grades and can impact mental health.
This is the typical symptom of ADHD, but for a girl, hyperactivity can look quite different to a boy.
A shorter attention spans can lead to fidgeting in a seat, writing or drawing more than usual or a lack of concentration. Due to some masking mechanisms, a girl with ADHD might want to always answer questions in class or be described as ‘talkative’.
While being active in a classroom can be a sign of a studious student, it can have also have social impacts, and when the student is wrong, it can also mean they may not listen to corrections by a teacher.
While many children with ADHD can struggle to make and keep friends, it can be even harder for girls given the nature of their friendships – particularly in teenage years. They can feel increased pressure to pay close attention to and understand their friends’ feelings. Or they may struggle to pick up on different social cues. This can start to impact self-esteem and their willingness to socialise.
All girls with ADHD are different, and while they each face their own individual struggles, there are a number of simple ways that they can be supported at home or at school.
In our free monthly eNewsletter you’ll receive interesting articles on education and learning, tips for supporting children, our latest service offerings and programs, news, events and volunteer opportunities.