How Do You Know If You Have ADHD as a Girl?

Reviewed on 6/9/2021
ADHD in girls
ADHD symptoms in girls may be different than in boys and often go unrecognized

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder or ADHD is a developmental disorder that starts in childhood. Studies show that ADHD symptoms vary between children and adults, as well as between men and women.

What are ADHD symptoms in girls?

Girls with ADHD are typically extremely talkative, easily distracted, and hate sitting still. She may have difficulty sustaining her attention on a single task and will want to switch to another activity quickly. Other signs and symptoms in girls suffering from ADHD may include:

  • Shyness
  • Restlessness
  • Fidgetiness
  • Dreaminess
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impatience
  • Acting without thinking
  • Inability to take turns
  • Having no idea what the teacher is conveying to the class

Because girls with ADHD may be shy and their symptoms less obvious than boys with ADHD, they often suffer in silence. When undiagnosed, their symptoms can affect their mental health well into adulthood. As a girl matures, she may still continue to struggle with inattention and impulsivity as demands in high school increase. This can cause her to become overwhelmed or disheartened by poor performance in school.

What are ADHD symptoms in women?

ADHD in women is often undiagnosed in childhood and presents in adulthood. While symptoms vary from person to person, the most common symptoms include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed: Women with ADHD may often feel that they are barely coping and as if one more thing will push them over the edge.
  • Getting easily distracted: Often, those with ADHD find it difficult to focus on one task for any length of time. Environmental noises, their own thoughts, new tasks, and phone calls can result in a task being abandoned midway. 
  • Feeling like a fake: Many women develop successful coping mechanisms to deal with some of the challenges of ADHD, but this may mean they feel they are constantly putting on an act. Some feel like they can hold it together at work but that things fall apart at home.
  • Being forgetful: It’s common for those with inattentive ADHD to forget birthdays, appointments, or where their phone or keys are.
  • Depression and anxiety: Unfortunately, ADHD is often accompanied by comorbidity (other medical conditions or conditions as a result of ADHD). Feeling overwhelmed, socially isolated, and like a “fraud” can create feelings of low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.
  • Feeling socially isolated: It may be hard for women with ADHD to feel they have much in common with other people. They may think that they simply don’t fit in and isolate themselves as a result.
  • Feeling incompetent: Studies show that women with ADHD are much more likely to give up on challenging tasks because they feel the task is outside of their control to complete.
  • Impulsive behavior: While impulsive behavior may be less severe in those with hyperactive ADHD, it is common for those with ADHD to shop or eat impulsively.
  • Disorganized: Inability to keep on top of paperwork or spending lots of time trying to find the perfect organization system is a common symptom. Women with ADHD may also have cluttered desks or frequently run late for appointments.

QUESTION

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How can ADHD in girls be treated?

Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and making changes, if needed, along the way.

In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. For preschool children (ages 4-5) with ADHD, behavior therapy and training are recommended as the first line of treatment before medication.

Medications can help children manage their ADHD symptoms in their daily lives and help them control behaviors that cause difficulties with family, friends, and at school. Most medications that are started after age 5 could be continued into their adulthood. These medications are divided into two types:

  1. Stimulants are the most widely used ADHD medications. Between 70%-80% of children with ADHD have fewer symptoms when taking these fast-acting drugs. Stimulants contain various forms of methylphenidate and amphetamine and can have a calming effect on hyperactive children with ADHD. They are believed to increase levels of dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, attention, and movement.
  2. Nonstimulants were approved for the treatment of ADHD in 2003. They do not work as quickly as stimulants, but their effect can last up to 24 hours. Examples include Strattera (atomoxetine), Intuniv (guanfacine), and Kapvay (clonidine). They are a useful alternative for children who do not tolerate stimulants well.

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References
WebMD. Symptoms of ADHD in Girls. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/adhd-symptoms-girls/

WebMD. Women and ADHD. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/features/adhd-in-women

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