How ADD/ADHD is Different for Girls

ADD and ADHD manifest differently in girls and women, and often this means it takes much longer for girls to receive a diagnosis. 


The most cited symptoms of ADD and ADHD are hyperactivity, problems paying attention, and lack of focus. But these are not always the most prevalent symptoms in girls. Instead, they can have trouble keeping a schedule, knowing what homework should take priority, and understanding how to stay organized.


What compounds this is that, in our society, these tasks are seen to be “natural” for women and girls, and when they can’t perform like their peers, they feel something is wrong with them. This leads to shame and embarrassment.


As quoted in this Atlantic article, Sari Solden, author of Women and Attention Deficit Disorder, says, “For a long time these girls see their trouble prioritizing, organizing, coordinating, and paying attention as character flaws. No one told them it’s neurobiological.”


Many girls who go undiagnosed during their pre-teen and teen years develop anxiety and depression as a result and aren’t sure what is wrong.


Here’s Solden again, from the Atlantic article: “Because they’re not hyperactive or causing trouble for other people, they’re usually not diagnosed until they hit a wall, often at college, marriage, or pregnancy. A lot of things that are simple and routine to other people — like buying groceries, making dinner, keeping track of possessions, and responding to emails — do not become automatic to these women, which can be embarrassing and exhausting.”


Getting a diagnosis as early as possible can help girls avoid even more stressful situations when they reach college and adulthood, where the responsibilities and stressors mount.


And for those girls who were fortunate to be diagnosed at a younger age, teaching them how to manage their symptoms now is paramount. That way they will have a much better chance of being successful as adults and avoiding the shame that can come from believing the issue is a result of some deep character flaw, which we know is absolutely not true.