by Lily Grace
raditionally thought of as something more related to boys, most people don’t consider that girls can have just as much difficulty with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In fact, ADHD is often referred to as a “hidden disorder” in girls, and with good reason. Most girls with ADHD have the inattentive type, which means that they have problems focusing but are not hyperactive and impulsive, according to childmind.org.
But even those who are hyperactive and impulsive present less obvious symptoms than boys, so it often goes unnoticed or unacknowledged. Instead of a diagnosis, girls with ADHD may receive criticism from parents, teachers and peers, and the fallout takes a serious toll on self-esteem.
Girls with ADHD sometimes struggle to make and maintain friendships, and the relentless complexities of the social world can be overwhelming. Dr. Patricia Quinn, co-founder and director of the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD, recommends helping girls with ADHD find social outlets that make them feel comfortable and play to their strengths. “If your daughter is socially awkward, find environments that are socially accepting–places that are more supervised and focused on kindness and treating people well and self-acceptance,” she explains.
Encourage your daughter to get involved with after school activities. Clubs that focus on her interests or group activities that allow for individual space, like art classes or book groups, can help her learn to feel safe, comfortable and confident in a social setting. Likewise, if your daughter is impulsive or hyper, social situations where she can release some energy, like theater or sports, can make things go more smoothly.
Because boys are more likely to be diagnosed, even though many girls have ADHD, it’s easy for girls to sometimes feel alienated. Help your daughter normalize and legitimize her experiences by connecting her with other girls her age who have ADHD. Check out books about girls with ADHD and try reading and talking about them together. It also might help to find an older girl with ADHD to mentor your daughter through school or a program. Meeting other ladies with ADHD-especially those who are open about their disorder, can make girls feel less alone and more hopeful.
Why ADHD in Girls May Be Overlooked
ADHD symptoms in girls may be more subtle, which can lead to a diagnosis later in life. Here are some points to consider, courtesy of childmind.org.
Most girls have only the inattentive symptoms of ADHD and are written off as dreamy or ditzy. If they have hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, they are more likely to be seen as pushy, hyper-talkative or overly emotional. Impulsive girls may have trouble being socially appropriate and struggle to make and keep friends. They often work so hard to compensate for their weaknesses that they are able to hide their challenges.
The growing awareness, as they get older, that they have to work much harder than their peers without ADHD is very damaging to their self-esteem.
Girls who are chronically hard on themselves about their mistakes may be struggling with thoughts that they’re stupid or broken.