At a glance
Girls often experience ADHD in different ways than boys.
Girls are less likely to be hyperactive, so their symptoms might fly under the radar.
ADHD is equally common in girls and boys, but girls are diagnosed less often.
As common as ADHD is, there are still a lot of misconceptions about it. One of the most common is that it’s a childhood condition that mostly affects boys. The truth is that ADHD is a lifelong condition and girls are just as likely as boys to have it. But they’re more likely to be overlooked.
The experience of having ADHD can be different for girls than it is for boys. First, girls aren’t as likely to be hyperactive as boys are. They also tend to have less trouble with self-control. That often means that they’re less disruptive at home and in class.
But girls still have trouble with attention — a key ADHD symptom. They may seem distracted or off in their own world. Doctors might refer to this as “ADHD without hyperactivity.” (Some people may also call it ADD rather than ADHD.)
Kids with ADHD who aren’t hyperactive don’t stand out as much as kids who are constantly in motion. So it’s easier to overlook their challenges. While girls have ADHD as often as boys do, they’re diagnosed less frequently, at least in childhood.
That creates extra challenges. Girls with ADHD may be dismissed as just being “daydreamy.” People may mistake their struggles with focus for laziness. And girls who aren’t diagnosed may not get treatment or other types of support to help with their ADHD symptoms.
Hyperactivity in girls
Coping skills and perfectionism
Social pressures and low self-esteem
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About the author
About the author
Rae Jacobson, MS is a writer who focuses on ADHD and learning disabilities in women and girls.
Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.