Do Girls Get ADHD

a badge that says six months


Common symptoms like Getting easily distracted or Forgetting their homework it could signal a problem if they last longer than 6 months

Mary, a 13-year-old who has always struggled in school.

She’s a normal girl.

  • shy
  • quiet
  • daydreams in class

Whether doing math homework or reading a novel, she needs double the time of her peers. But for many years, her teachers didn’t notice she was falling behind.

“They said, ‘Mary is smart, she’ll do fine.’ But she felt stupid,” says her mom, Shelley Adams. “She was 7 at the time.” At age 9, Adams got a private evaluation for Mary. After a 3-hour test, she was diagnosed with ADHD.

a sad little girl does her best not to scream or cry

Overlooked by Parents

"Mom said, 'I am smart, I'll be fine.' But I felt stupid"

Like Mary, many girls struggling with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) go unnoticed by parents, teachers, and other adults.

a stop sign with the word unfair instead of stop

Only half Treated

ADHD affects boys and girls equally, yet girls are treated less than half as much comparatively

A growing body of research suggests the number of girls with ADHD is much higher than anyone thought even 5 years ago. Experts say the disorder affects boys and girls nearly equally, but more than twice as many boys are diagnosed and treated than girls.

a girl smiles on a beautiful day in the middle of a field

Why Not Girls

Not because ADHD is less common for girls but a boys symptoms tent to be more obvious.

We tend to dismiss the less obvious signs of ADHD in girls because they’re typically not disruptive as boys.

--Naomi Steiner, MD, a pediatrician at Boston University.

a little girl sits outside with her stuff animals having a party

Identifying Even Harder

Daydream, have trouble following instructions, and make careless mistakes on homework and tests.

They may even hide their condition, or try to make up for their difficulties, because they’re too embarrassed to ask for help. And that makes identifying their ADHD harder.

a list of classes with a giant red F on it

Without Action

If they slip behind it can be hard to catch up in school, and life,

Without a diagnosis, girls with ADHD go longer without treatment, which means they lose ground fast in school. They might not be misbehaving but they’re performing below their capabilities, and that’s really discouraging

a little girl looks modestly down

Girls repeat Grades

More girls than boys need to repeat a grade in school. They’re also more likely to feel it’s hard to focus on schoolwork and get things done.

She was anxious, stressed, depressed, and she dreaded going to school. Mary is a classic example. “In third grade, Mary spent a minimum of 2 hours on homework each night,” her mom says. Then she’d cry from the frustration of not getting it right.

change ‘I’m stupid’ to ‘My brain works different,’

In spite of the difficulties There are specialists who are trained to spot ADHD in girls and boys alike. Your pediatrician can refer you to an expert who has experience diagnosing and treating children with the disorder. Early diagnosis is ideal, but getting one at any age can open the door to much-needed services and understanding.

It doesn’t give them a way out, but it makes them understand how their brains are different. Then they can change ‘I’m stupid’ to ‘My brain works different,’ a far more empowering message.”

Adams says she tries to remind her daughter than there are a lot of CEOs and other successful people who have ADHD. “They tend to be very out-of-the-box thinkers. That doesn’t conform to society or the school system, but it can lead to success in real life.”