How to Recognize Signs of ADHD in Girls

Attention hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD , is a disorder for which untreated can have a number of lifelong consequences. Usually, when people think of ADHD, they think of a little boy who cannot sit still. However, the symptoms of ADHD in girls are often very different , which means that many will survive for years – if not a lifetime – without diagnosis or treatment.

“If you imagine ADHD as a hyperactive, restless boy, many girls will fly under your radar,” said Ari Takman , psychologist and author of Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD .

The tendency to ignore girls with ADHD is thought to be due to misconceptions about what symptoms might look like, as well as the social pressures that often lead girls to work very hard to fit.

“They don’t create problems, they don’t interfere with the class , so teachers don’t pay attention to her,” said Terry Matlen , a psychotherapist and author of Survival Tips for Women with ADHD . “Boys, on the other hand, and the teacher notices that.”

Missed diagnosis is also compounded by the fact that people with untreated ADHD often develop secondary problems such as anxiety and depression, as well as eating disorders and substance abuse. This often confuses doctors who are unaware that ADHD is the root cause.

“It can take a lot of grace on the part of the practitioner to sort this out,” Matlen said.

ADHD due to low dopamine levels

ADHD is thought to be due to low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, as well as norepinephrine and serotonin. Children with ADHD are constantly looking for stimulation to correct this deficiency.

“Kids with ADHD are looking for dopamine because their brains aren’t making what they need,” said Elaine Taylor-Klaus , CEO of ImpactParents.com and author of The Essential Guide to Parenting Difficult ADHD Children, Anxiety. and much more .

In turn, this leads to a wide range of problems, such as difficulty directing one’s attention, difficulty following instructions, interpersonal difficulties due to missing social cues, or engaging in risky or addictive behaviors.

It may look different. For example, ADHD may look like a little boy who is constantly on the move, always looking for something new. He may look like a little girl who cannot stop talking and always volunteers to help the teacher to avoid getting into trouble. Or it might be like a little girl staring out the window, lost in her own imaginary world and unable to pay attention to lessons.

Three subtypes of ADHD

There are three main types of ADHD: hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, and combined. For a child to be formally diagnosed, they must exhibit a certain number of symptoms — and they must be severe enough to cause impairment in a variety of settings.

The first type, ADHD-hyperactive-impulsive , is more stereotyped. Children with this type of ADHD have symptoms such as constant fidgeting, bending, running and climbing at inappropriate times, frequent standing up while sitting, trouble playing quietly, talking excessively, or talking out of turn. These are children who are always on the road.

“Hyperactive-impulsive girls tend to exhibit this behavior when they’re chatterboxes,” Matlaine said. “They may talk too much to the child next to them when they are supposed to be quiet, but it still lacks because most mental health professionals do not know that this could be a symptom of ADHD for a hyperactive girl.”

The second type, ADHD-Inattentiveness , looks very different on the outside, as the symptoms are related to inner anxiety rather than the physical anxiety seen in the hyperactive-impulsive type. Children with inattentive ADHD find it difficult to pay attention to details, they often make careless mistakes, have difficulty paying attention and focus on the task at hand, have difficulty listening and follow directions, and are distracted, forgetful, and disorganized.

“These girls have very rich inner lives,” Matlin said. “They can write poetry in their head, they can solve scientific problems, but they don’t listen to the teacher.”

The third type is combined ADHD and is the most commonly diagnosed type. Children with this type of ADHD show symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types.

Look for signs of strife and achievement gaps

The classic hallmark of ADHD is the gap between what a child achieves and what he is capable of, as well as struggles that do not quite reflect his ability. This has a lot to do with how much harder they have to work in order not to be distracted and focus on the task at hand.

“When you are asked to focus in class, it means you have to figure out what is important to pay attention to and what is not,” said Taylor-Klaus. “You have to discern what is important, then you have to pay attention to what is important, then you have to keep paying attention, you have to avoid distractions when they arise, and then you have to know when to stop paying attention and switch to yours. attention to something else. “

This is much more difficult for children with ADHD than for their peers. If a child spends all of his energy sitting when he has the urge to move, or pays attention instead of daydreaming, he has much less energy to do the rest.

They are also more likely to miss important details during the lesson, resulting in them falling behind despite their ability to understand and get the job done. This often manifests itself in the form of missed homework assignments, poor test scores, and poor reading retention due to inability to focus on the tasks at hand.

For girls, they are often more likely to put in extra work to try and fix it, which can lead teachers to think everything is okay without realizing what issues are happening behind the scenes.

“Teachers may not know, but Mom and Dad know because they see it melt or wear out slowly, ineffectively and painfully until it reaches the limit,” Tuckman said.

How girls internalize ADHD symptoms

When it comes to ADHD in girls, one of the biggest differences is that girls are more likely to internalize their difficulties. While a boy with ADHD can cope with acting out, girls tend to cope in quieter ways, which is self-destructive.

“When we miss girls, they end up taking it upon themselves,” said Taylor-Klaus. “They’ve learned it, that there’s something wrong with them.” Girls who are diagnosed late are more likely to have problems such as eating disorders, cuts, suicidal ideation, promiscuity, and drug addiction.

Compared to boys with ADHD, girls with ADHD are much more likely to exhibit behaviors such as self-harm , which includes cuts or burns; they are more prone to attempted suicide; and they have higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Diagnosis and treatment are critical

One of the misconceptions about ADHD is that it goes away when people come of age. It is not true. For many, ADHD is a lifelong condition requiring treatment, often a combination of drugs and therapy.

As a parent, it is very important to create a supportive environment for the child in which he receives the necessary treatment and learns to cope with difficulties.

“If you notice your child’s behavior that makes you angry, angry or frustrated, don’t get angry, don’t show curiosity,” said Taylor-Klaus. “If you start with the assumption that your child is lazy, rude, or disrespectful, you are probably overlooking the underlying problem he is struggling with. Children are usually not lazy, rude, or disrespectful; not on purpose. “

For parents who are hesitant to get tested for your child because of any potential stigma associated with this label, Taylor-Klaus strongly recommends reconsidering their decision.

“If they are not given a real diagnosis, they will receive a moral diagnosis from the school, themselves or other parents,“ bad ”or“ wrong, ”she said. “They are not bad or wrong. They are struggling and they need adults in their lives to help them. “

Therefore, just like adults, if you suspect your child has ADHD, it is very important to get them tested so they can get the help they need.

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