The high-energy boy who doesn’t focus in class and can’t sit still has been the subject of research for decades. However, it wasn’t until recent years that researchers started to focus on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in girls.
In part, that’s because girls may manifest ADHD symptoms differently. For example, girls are more likely to be staring out the window during class than jumping out of their seats.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three times more males than females are diagnosed with ADHD. The CDC points out that this higher rate of diagnosis among boys may be because their symptoms are more overt than those of girls. Boys tend toward running, hitting, and other aggressive behaviors. Girls become withdrawn and may develop anxiety or low self-esteem.
Three types of behavior can identify a child with classic ADHD symptoms:
If your daughter exhibits the following behaviors, she could just be bored, or she may need further evaluation.
- She often doesn’t seem to be listening.
- She is easily distracted.
- She makes careless mistakes.
A teacher may suggest testing your daughter for ADHD if her concerning behavior seems more obvious at school than at home. To make a diagnosis, a doctor will perform a medical exam to rule out other possible causes for her symptoms. Then they’ll evaluate your daughter’s personal and family medical history because ADHD has a genetic component.
The doctor may ask the following people to complete questionnaires about your daughter’s behavior:
- family members
A pattern involving the following behaviors could indicate ADHD:
- getting organized
- avoiding tasks
- losing items
- becoming distracted
Girls with untreated ADHD may develop issues that include:
- low self-esteem
- teen pregnancy
Girls also may struggle with written language and poor decision making. They may begin to self-medicate with:
In severe cases, they may inflict injury on themselves.
Girls may benefit from a combination of:
- positive reinforcement
Well-known drugs for ADHD include stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall, and antidepressants such as Wellbutrin.
Monitor your daughter closely to make sure she takes the correct dosage of medication.
Both behavioral skills counseling and talk therapy are often helpful to children with ADHD. And a counselor can recommend ways of dealing with obstacles.
Many girls struggle with ADHD. You can help your daughter by focusing on her good qualities and praising behavior that you’d like to see more often. Be sure to phrase feedback in a positive manner. For example, ask your daughter to walk, rather than scold her for running.
A diagnosis of ADHD can bring your daughter relief when her symptoms are affecting daily life. In her book “Daredevils and Daydreamers,” Barbara Ingersoll, a clinical child psychologist, suggests that children with ADHD have traits that are similar to hunters, warriors, adventurers, and explorers of earlier days.
Your daughter may take solace in knowing that there's not necessarily something “wrong” with her. Her challenge is to find a way to use her skills in the modern world.