ADHD - Why is it often missed in girls?

Published on 9th December, 2022 by Dr. Sanveen Kang

ADHD - Why is it often missed in girls?

Overlooking ADHD in Girls

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurobehavioral disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. In the majority of cases, symptoms begin in childhood and continue to affect a person’s functioning well into adulthood. Gender differences have been reported in the prevalence rates of ADHD.

Research indicates that awareness about ADHD in girls and women is very low. Alarmingly, some studies estimate that as many as 50% to 75% of girls with the disorder are missed.

Multiple factors may contribute to the lack of ADHD diagnosis in girls during childhood:

  • Differences in predominant symptoms (internalizing rather than externalizing) and subtype (inattentive rather than hyperactive)
  • Presence of comorbid psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety, which are linked to internalizing ADHD symptoms
  • Presence of comorbid obsessive-compulsive disorder, often accompanied by perfectionistic behaviors, that might mitigate symptoms and delay diagnosis
  • Need for referral by others (parents and teachers) for treatment and the fact that referrals are made more often for boys than for girls
  • Tendency for relational (covert) aggression to be more prominent than overt aggression in girls and for physical aggression in girls with ADHD to be less prominent than in boys with ADHD

Are we neglecting our distracted daughters?

Research indicates that awareness about ADHD in girls and women is very low. Alarmingly, some studies estimate that as many as 50% to 75% of girls with the disorder are missed. Not only are ADHD symptoms missed in girls, they are too often called laziness or ditziness, and may lead to a lifetime of self-esteem problems and missed treatment opportunities.A diagnosis of ADHD could get missed until a girl is in her teen or adult years. By then, she may have struggled with ADHD under the radar for years.

Do you think your daughter might have ADHD?

If you feel that your daughter seems to fit several of the behaviors described in the list below, it might be advisable to seek an evaluation from a health care professional or clinical psychologist.

  • Even when I try to listen, my thoughts wander, I forget things like permission slips and papers
  • Projects and papers are hard for me to finish
  • I get upset easily
  • Sometimes it feels like I am not good at anything
  • I’m frequently late
  • It’s hard for me to concentrate when other things are going on around me
  • My parents and teachers tell me I don’t try hard enough I get teased about being spacey
  • I feel different from other girls
  • My room at home is a disaster

While children who do not have ADHD can occasionally demonstrate some of these behaviors, children with ADHD exhibit them chronically and across multiple settings, impairing the child’s ability to function academically or socially on a daily basis.

At Psych Connect, we provide assessments for ADHD across the lifespan. We are sensitive to gender biases for a range of psychological conditions, including ADHD. If you are worried about yourself, your daughter or a loved one, do not hesistate to come in for a chat.

Dr. Sanveen Kang

About the Author - Dr. Sanveen Kang

Dr. Kang is a Clinical Psychologist by training and has more than 14 years of experience in treating mental and physical health issues for clients in hospitals, private practice, educational and corporate settings.

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