Why Is ADHD So Often Missed in Girls?

We know that girls are diagnosed with ADHD with less frequency than boys, even though both boys and girls have ADHD at the same rates. Unfortunately, this is under-diagnosis of girls continues to be a problem.

I’m glad to see that The BBC is covering this issue as one of the keys to fixing this problem is publicizing that there is a problem to begin with! The article lays out clearly exactly what ADHD is and how it affects boys and girls similarly, supporting this important point with easy-to-understand statistics.

The author goes on to address the impact social conditioning has on how girls with ADHD often don’t appear as hyperactive as boys with ADHD:

“Girls are far less likely to bounce around the classroom, fighting with the teachers and their colleagues,” says Helen Read, a consultant psychiatrist and ADHD lead for a large London NHS Trust. “A girl who did that would be so criticised by peers and other people that it is just far harder for girls to behave in that way.”

While girls with ADHD are more likely to be expected to behave in school, the consequence is that they will fly under the radar and struggle with untreated ADHD for years, often with disastrous consequences. Emily Johnson-Ferguson, an adult woman with ADHD interviewed for the article, describes who her struggles with ADHD led her to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

Students with ADHD, regardless of their gender, need to learn about how ADHD impacts them in addition to strategies and supports designed to help them cope with the way their brain functions.

I think this would be a particularly good article to share with any parents or colleagues who are not aware of the prevalence of ADHD and girls. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager