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By Rae Jacobson, MS

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.

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One of the most common myths about ADHD 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. (It’s the same with adults — women are just as likely to have ADHD as men are.)

Still, 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.)

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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, 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.

Dive deeper

Hyperactivity in girls

Girls with ADHD are less likely to be hyperactive than boys. But that doesn’t mean they never have that ADHD symptom. It just may look different.

For example, girls may be perceived as overly sensitive or emotional. They might interrupt conversations and be very talkative more often than boys with ADHD are.

Most of the time, hyperactivity lessens or goes away as kids with ADHD get older. That’s true of boys and girls. But trouble with attention and impulse control continues into adulthood.

Learn more about hyperactivity in kids and what hyperactivity looks like in teens .

Coping skills and perfectionism

Girls with ADHD often try to compensate for their symptoms by putting all of their energy into things they do well. (This isn’t as common in boys.) But their outward success in one area can make it harder to notice their struggles in other areas.

Here’s an example. A teenage girl with ADHD is known for being a strong writer, and it’s a source of pride for her. When she has a writing assignment, she gets hyperfocused and works overtime to get a high grade.

At the same time, she misplaces her take-home math test, forgets to walk the dog, and misses softball practice. Her grades are good, but her drive for success and her perfectionism create a lot of stress.

Learn more about ADHD and perfectionism . And read how one woman with ADHD struggled with perfectionism as a teen .

Social pressures and low self-esteem

Many kids with ADHD struggle with making and keeping friends. But it can be even trickier for girls. Their social world can be more complicated than that of boys. 

Girls might feel more pressure to pay close attention to their friends’ feelings. Or they might feel like they have to pick up on subtle social cues, which is hard for many kids with ADHD.

Girls with ADHD often struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of shame. They’re also more likely than boys to blame themselves for problems caused by ADHD. A boy who failed a test might blame the teacher for giving such a tough exam. A girl is more likely to see it as a sign that she’s “just too stupid.”

Hear from a young woman on how she finally let go of the shame she felt about ADHD .

Next steps

If you think that you or a girl you know may have ADHD, explore:

You may also want to learn about the connection between ADHD and anxiety .

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom