Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common conditions diagnosed in children. It’s a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes various hyperactive and disruptive behaviours.
Symptoms of ADHD often include difficulty focusing, sitting still, and staying organized. Many children show signs of this disorder before age 7, but some remain undiagnosed until adulthood. There are significant differences in how the condition manifests in boys and girls. This can affect how ADHD is recognized and diagnosed.
As a parent, it’s important to watch for all signs of ADHD and to not base treatment decisions on gender alone. Never assume that the symptoms of ADHD will be the same for each child. Two siblings can have ADHD yet display different symptoms and respond better to different treatments.
ADHD and Gender
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, boys are three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls. This disparity isn’t necessarily because girls are less susceptible to the disorder. Rather, it’s likely because ADHD symptoms present differently in girls. The symptoms are often more subtle and, as a result, harder to identify.
Research has shown that boys with ADHD usually show externalized symptoms, such as running and impulsivity. Girls with ADHD, on the other hand, typically show internalized symptoms. These symptoms include inattentiveness and low self-esteem. Boys also tend to be more physically aggressive, while girls tend to be more verbally aggressive.
Since girls with ADHD often display fewer behavioural problems and less noticeable symptoms, their difficulties are often overlooked. As a result, they often aren’t referred for evaluation or treatment. This can lead to additional problems in the future.
Research also suggests that undiagnosed ADHD can have a negative impact on girls’ self-esteem. It can even affect their mental health. Boys with ADHD typically externalize their frustrations. But girls with ADHD usually turn their pain and anger inward.
This puts girls at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Girls with undiagnosed ADHD are also more likely to have problems in school, social settings, and personal relationships than other girls.
Recognizing ADHD in Girls
Girls with ADHD often display the inattentive aspects of the disorder, whereas boys usually show the hyperactive characteristics. The hyperactive behaviours are easy to identify at home and in the classroom because the child can’t sit still and behaves in an impulsive or dangerous manner. The inattentive behaviours are often more subtle. The child is unlikely to be disruptive in class, but will miss assignments, be forgetful, or just seem “spacey.” This can be mistaken for laziness or a learning disability.
Since girls with ADHD usually don’t display “typical” ADHD behaviour, the symptoms may not be as obvious as they are in boys. The symptoms include:
- being withdrawn
- low self-esteem
- difficulty with academic achievement
- inattentiveness or a tendency to “daydream”
- trouble focusing
- appearing not to listen
- verbal aggression, such as teasing, taunting, or name-calling
Recognizing ADHD in Boys
Though ADHD is often under-diagnosed in girls, it can be missed in boys as well. Traditionally, boys are seen as energetic. So, if they run around and act out, it may be dismissed as simply “boys being boys.” Studies show that boys with ADHD report more hyperactivity and impulsivity than girls. But it’s a mistake to assume that all boys with ADHD are hyperactive or impulsive. Some boys display the inattentive aspects of the disorder. They may not be diagnosed because they aren’t physically disruptive.
Boys with ADHD tend to display the symptoms that most people think of when they imagine ADHD behaviour. They include:
- impulsivity or “acting out”
- hyperactivity, such as running and hitting
- lack of focus, including inattentiveness
- inability to sit still
- physical aggression
- talking excessively
- frequently interrupting other peoples’ conversations and activities
While the symptoms of ADHD may present differently in boys and girls, it’s critical for them to be treated. The symptoms of ADHD do tend to lessen with age, but they can still affect many areas of life. People with ADHD often struggle with school, work, and relationships. They’re also more likely to develop other conditions, including anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities. If you suspect your child has ADHD, take them to a doctor for evaluation as soon as possible. Getting a prompt diagnosis and treatment can improve symptoms. It can also help prevent other disorders from developing in the future.
For more information about helping your child with ADD, contact Anel Annandale at 083 711 5267 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anel Annandale is a prominent Educational Psychologist with a passion for early childhood development and a special interest in neuropsychology.
She is experienced in the field and has established herself as an expert, often appearing on television shows such as Exspresso. She is also available as a guest speaker at relevant events and functions.