ADHD in Boys vs. Girls

Diagnosing ADHD in Girls vs. Boys

With diagnoses of ADHD increasing every year, understanding how to professionally and accurately diagnose and treat attention disorders is crucial. One issue that has attracted growing attention of researchers as well as parents in recent years is that of recognizing ADHD in girls vs. boys.

Growing research into the nature of attention disorders is showing that the initial assumption that ADHD is more prevalent in boys is mistaken – and yet still very common. This common misunderstanding has enormous implications for girls and women.

For example, in a study as recent as 2004, 82% of teachers in the US believed that ADHD was more prevalent among boys, while almost half of those surveyed admitted they had greater difficulty recognizing ADHD in girls. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as we are learning that attention disorders show up differently in girls compared to boys. Specifically, they manifest in ways that are quieter and less disruptive – possibly leading to under-diagnosis of ADHD in girls. What this does indicate is the need to learn more about how ADHD manifests in girls throughout their childhood.

ADHD Symptoms in Boys and Girls

Scientists and professionals today generally frame the difference between girls and boys in whether their symptoms are directed ‘outwards’, or ‘inwards. Or, in the language of the researchers – boys ADHD are considered to generally “externalize” their symptoms more, whereas girls have more “internalizing” symptoms. For example, where boys tend to exhibit hyperactivity, aggression, and other disruptive behaviors; girls tend to show more intellectual difficulties together with lower rates of hyperactivity and higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders. Whereas boys’ impulsivity and lack of self-control more often manifests in physical actions, girls will be more verbally aggressive or impulsive.

Recent evidence shows that girls with attention deficit disorder are over five times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than boys. And often, this diagnosis occurs before any diagnosis of ADHD.

Get the Diagnosis of ADHD (and Treatment) Right

This brings us back to one of the most important things that parents need to know about ADHD – and that is to first of all get a proper diagnosis in order to proceed from there to the right kind of treatment. Even after getting the right diagnosis, it’s important to understand your child and his or her unique needs.

Cognitive training is a treatment strategy that can help both boys and girls improve their ADHD symptoms: attention, concentration, organization, impulsivity and executive functions.
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