What is ADHD |
It’s only in recent years that ADHD is becoming better understood in girls and women. But we still have a long way to go, according to Terry Matlen, ACSW, a psychotherapist and coach who specializes in ADHD. She noted that we need to improve how we identify girls with ADHD, evaluate them and administer treatment.
In fact, the biggest myth about ADHD and girls is that girls don’t have the disorder in the first place. However, ADHD affects both girls and boys at roughly the same rate, said Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D, a psychotherapist and author of several books on ADHD, including Making the Grade with ADHD and Adult ADD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.
Boys with ADHD tend to have a more obvious and classic presentation. They typically exhibit hyperactivity and impulsivity. In short, they stand out more.
Girls, however, are harder to spot because they internalize their symptoms and usually don’t exhibit behavioral problems at school, said Matlen, also author of Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD.
Girls “are more likely to be daydreaming, staring out the window, twisting their hair,” Matlen said. They might even be seen as airheads, she said. They might be labeled as lazy or a poor student who doesn’t try hard enough, she said.
“Parents hear, ‘If she’d only try harder. She has the ability [but] she just chooses not to use it,” Matlen said. But ADHD has nothing to do with laziness or lack of effort.
Quite the opposite, “these girls are bright students who are simply very distracted by their rich, inner lives,” she said.
“Girls with ADHD are generally not diagnosed until much later if they are smart, if they have structure and support from family [and] if they are inattentive,” according to Sari Solden, LMFT, a psychotherapist and author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder and Journeys Through ADDulthood.
In fact, they might not be diagnosed until college or when they start working or have a family, she said. That’s because these girls try to overcompensate by overworking, she said.What is ADHD
“At some point they hit a wall and are unable to meet the increased demands on their attention or executive functioning, [and] their compensations break down.” Still, even then, their ADHD may remain undiagnosed.
Solden noted that because these girls’ symptoms may not fit the typical ADHD profile, they might instead be diagnosed with “the resulting depression and anxiety.”
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