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Why ADHD in Girls Often Goes Undiagnosed

May 01, 2023
 Why ADHD in Girls Often Goes Undiagnosed
There’s so much that makes boys and girls unique. However, despite what the statistics say, ADHD impacts both genders equally. Here, we explore the disparity in ADHD diagnoses between boys and girls and show you we take a different approach.

According to the CDC, over six million children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Boys far outpace girls, being more than twice as likely to be diagnosed. 

Boys don’t have any predisposition that makes them more prone to ADHD, so why the disparity in diagnoses, and why is ADHD so often missed in girls?

At Advanced Pediatrics in Vienna, Virginia, our team of experts understands how complex diagnosing ADHD can be, and we appreciate the difference in the disorder between boys and girls. 

Here, we take a closer look at these differences to help you and your family better understand how to identify ADHD and get help for your children.

Girls don’t act out

ADHD is an incredibly complex disorder with several components. Because of this, the condition once known simply as attention-deficit disorder (ADD) now includes the hyperactivity aspect.

ADHD also manifests itself in a few different ways. Chief among them are disruptive behavior disorders, which include conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. These signs of ADHD are more often displayed by boys than girls. 

One of the reasons for this is that girls tend to develop social and emotional skills earlier than boys, which allows them to practice better self-control, even if they have ADHD. Unfortunately, this type of internalization can also lead to higher incidences of co-occurring substance use disorders, as well as mood and anxiety disorders.

Because the behaviors that fall under hyperactivity are far more noticeable, and boys display them more often than girls, medical professionals tend to diagnose boys more often than girls.

Girls tune out

Another reason why ADHD is commonly missed in girls is that the attention deficit component of ADHD is typically attributed to just “tuning out.” 

Many children are easily distracted and prone to daydreaming in the classroom or at home. As a result, ADHD in girls is often chalked up to just “being in another world,” especially if they’re not displaying any of the other, more noticeable symptoms.

There may be some cultural biases at play, too. Girls are too often referred to as “ditzy” or “airheads.” These types of monikers are dangerous because they risk precluding a more clinical reason for their lack of focus.

There is little research

Since boys are more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, the majority of the research surrounding this condition has been focused on boys. This means that when parents and medical professionals alike try to better understand ADHD, the information is slanted toward boys.

How we identify ADHD in girls

At our practice, we’ve made great strides in better identifying ADHD in girls, which often presents as an inattentive type of ADHD. Some other signs we look for include:

  • Excessive talking
  • Low self-esteem
  • Taking risks
  • Perfectionism
  • Excessive worry

If we determine that your child has ADHD, we create a customized treatment plan to fit their needs, providing the necessary medications and therapies to help them manage their symptoms.

If you’d like more information, or if you suspect your daughter may be struggling with ADHD, don’t hesitate to request an appointment online or over the phone today.