This common condition is often overlooked in girls

This common condition is often overlooked in girls

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common conditions diagnosed in children and young adults and also one of the most overlooked – particularly in girls.

“ADHD is identified by two clusters of symptoms,” says Dr. Brent Sylvester, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill. “One cluster represents difficulty with attention, while the other pertains to hyperactive and impulsive behavior. When someone shows a significant number of symptoms from either group – most often from both – this may suggest the presence of ADHD.”

Although symptoms are similar in both boys and girls, boys are more likely to be diagnosed by a ratio of approximately 4:1, according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information.

“Girls and boys with ADHD both show a number of similar behaviors,” says Dr. Sylvester. “But where boys and girls with ADHD differ tends to be in the presentation of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. In general, boys are more likely to be boisterous in their play – to interrupt and blurt out answers or get aggressive when they don’t get their way. So boys with ADHD stick out like a sore thumb because they engage in such behaviors to an extreme. Girls, on the other hand, are reinforced more for compliance and cooperation. Thus, they are less likely to exhibit the severity of hyperactive-impulsive symptoms seen in boys.”

Far too often, girls experience symptoms that can be overlooked due to gender stereotypes. Dr. Sylvester shares examples of ADHD symptoms in girls:

  • A girl with ADHD may be somewhat fidgety, but it usually doesn’t seem that extreme unless you compare her with other girls. She may doodle excessively, for example. Because prosocial behaviors are often reinforced, girls with ADHD may work hard to avoid being loud and disruptive. Instead, they may appear “just” overly talkative and social, or considered a “daydreamer”.
  • ADHD-afflicted girls may be seen by peers as bossy, but because they don’t usually get verbally or physically aggressive, it’s often not seen as a problem.
  • Most are likely to have problems with keeping themselves organized, as well as always running late, misplacing items and forgetting to turn in work they have completed. Inattention, or not always listening, can be an issue, which many parents write off as “just her way”.
  • Girls with ADHD can become easily frustrated and quick to give up when a task becomes challenging.

If you think your child may have ADHD or is presenting symptoms of ADHD, it’s important to consult with a medical professional who can provide a plan of action and help your child manage and develop coping skills.

Related Posts



  1. Must we medicalize everything and everyone? Isn’t boisterousness a good thing? Why must kids, especially young kids, sit still and concentrate all the time? What’s wrong with daydreaming? Maybe pathological symptoms are a reaction to the pathological environment we force kids into. Go to your local play-based pre-school or kindergarten and I guarantee you will not find any cases of ADHD. You will find kids being kids.

    • Dienne is 100% correct. Stop drugging children, it could be the underlying issue to the horrors we see in America today.

    • Brent Sylvester May 26, 2018 at 3:46 pm · Reply

      I appreciate your concern. And you are right to have concerns about misdiagnosis and improper treatment. The book “The ADHD Explosion” (Hinshaw) outlines good evidence for this problem. But there is clear evidence that ADHD is a real disorder. Research on children with significant ADHD symptoms shows that there are differences in the ways their brains are organized and develop compared with children who do not have these problems. As for treatment, I agree that the decision as to whether medication should be considered or not is one that needs to be carefully weighed. Behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can do much to help alleviate the problems in day-to-day living that result from the core symptoms. At the same time, there are children for whom therapy is not sufficient and does not help them function. And there is not getting around the fact that children are expected to function in structured settings. So are adults, for that matter. I have worked with many who struggle to hold a job or succeed in college because of their symptoms and who find medication to be a lifesaver. The same is true for many children with marked impairment. The relief they experience from finally being able to perform up to their potential is palpable. As with most problems in life, there are no easy answers.

  2. Yes it is a real disorder except it is over diagnosed. Just because someone’s attention span is shorter or they can’t focus as much on studying should not be a marker for the disorder. Is it fair that college adhd students get double the time on exams? Not everyone learns the same and is capable of doing the same so does the safe space world need to make accomodations so that the students with the disorder end up doing better than the undiagnosed student. Not everyone is a fit for an advanced degree and people need to accept that! I also agree — let kids be kids in preschool and kindergarten 🙂

  3. ADHD is a real problem and is a real concern. It appears that some people that are commenting here don’t have children with ADHD. If you did you would see things a little differently. Watching them struggle in school and life can be gut-wrenching as a parent and stressful for both the kids and parents involved. It is not the kid’s fault that they have difficulty focusing, staying on task, and potentially learning at a different speed ( some have no issues with testing or homework when on their medication and others do). Their ADHD may not have anything to do with how they learn either. My sons both have ADHD and have different learning styles and needs. They don’t get preferential treatment in school. They are held to the same standards as the other students. ADHD kids have the same rights to an education as everyone else. If they want to go to college and be successful in life who are we to judge and/or take that away from them. Also, certain life skills can be challenging and they need the therapy or medication to function day to day. As some kids enter adulthood they can grow out of it or learn to adapt themselves to life without medication. Brent thank you for your help with ADHD children! It is much appreciated!!

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.