ADD/ADHD in Girls: 10 Symptoms to Consider


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In their bestselling book Raising a Daughter: Parents and the Awakening of a Healthy Woman (Celestial Arts, 2003 rev.), authors Jeanne and Don Elium argue that "the study, diagnosis, and treatment of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) derives largely from the symptoms seen in boys." This is problematic, they argue, because the symptoms in girls can be quite different from those seen in boys.

For example, the authors assert, "Most girls do not have the hyperactive component of ADD ... ADD without hyperactivity is the most common form in girls." They add that young females with ADD are often misdiagnosed with depression.

I've been reading this book and others on the subject because my wife and I are currently having our daughter tested for ADD. I realize that it's a complex issue, so I'm doing what I can to learn more about it should my child test positive -- and she will, I have little doubt.

In Raising a Daughter, the authors list a handful of symptoms that can indicate ADD in girls, some obvious, some not so obvious. They are:

  1. Disorganization: A girl with ADD, the authors say, is often "surrounded by messes -- her room, her closets, her desk, her locker, her car, her purse, her backpack, her appearance, even her handwriting."
  2. Distractibility: She's "a constant stream of new ideas ... good at starting projects but rarely finishes." She's "unable to filter out background noises and activities ... and often feels out of control, overwhelmed, bombarded."
  3. Emotional: "A girl with ADD is constantly anxious and worried about something" and "suffers low self-esteem, is deeply embarrassed by the disarray she creates, and considers herself to be stupid and incapable."
  4. Difficulty with schoolwork: A female with ADD "is not hyperactive, in fact, she is often underactive," say the authors. "She moves slowly, works slowly, and appears to think slowly." Most telling: "Her teachers and others may label her as average or low intelligence, because being bright is equated with speed of thought ..."
  5. Impulsivity: She "acts first and thinks later. She may resort to lying ... to shift responsibility from herself to others. Thus she avoids feeling shame about her uncontrollable actions."
  6. Body awareness: A girl with ADD is frequently "clumsy, non-athletic, and ... uncomfortable in her body."
  7. Depression: "ADD can lead to depression in a girl, because she constantly falls short of meeting the expectations of others."
  8. Learning disabilities: Not every girl with ADD has learning disabilities, claim the authors, "but if she does, her difficulties in school are compounded."
  9. Stereotype: An ADD girl "often fits the 'nice little girl' stereotype ... a pleaser and conformer."
  10. Hyperactivity: "A girl with the hyperactive component of ADD or ADHD has the above symptoms, plus the stereotypes of being a tomboy, boy-crazy, unladylike, hyper-social, hyper-talkative, hyper-emotionally reactive."

-- from Raising a Daughter by Jeanne and Ron Elium

behavior, books & media, elementary school, girls, health, special needs


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rreav... rreaves13

thats pretty much my 8 yr old daughter

cbiltz cbiltz

It is a complex issue.  I'm sorry to hear your daughter may suffer from it.    If she does test positive for it, though, there are ways of treating it and helping her.  You and your wife will need to work closely with your daughter's doctor as well as with school officials including her teachers and the school psychologist if it is affecting her learning and school work.  Symptoms, as you mentioned, are varied and the severity can fall within a very wide range as well.  Each child affected by ADD is an individual case and should be treated as such.  Medication can help many.  Counseling and specialized tutoring and other help through the schools is called for in some cases but not for all.  I hope you are able to find the help for your daughter that she needs.  Good luck to you.

29again 29again

WOW, my dd17 has a lot of those symptoms, and I would never have thought to get her tested for ADD!  I will have to read this book, most definitely!  Good luck with your dd, OP.

nonmember avatar Heather

Awesome. That just described every little girl on the planet.


Should we start giving every child Ritalin at birth, then?

CaryM... CaryMcNeal

Actually, Heather, no, it doesn't describe every little girl at all. Some girls might have two or three of these, sure, but, like all diagnoses, you look for a majority of symptoms, not just one or two.

And who said anything about Ritalin?

nonmember avatar Amy KUras

I think the authors are spot on. Back when I was in elementary school, in the 1970s, ADD as a new diagnosis, believed to be marked by hyperactivity, and believed to mostly affect boys. I was doing very poorly in school relative to my intelligence, so my parents had me meet with the school psychologist and everything to try to figure out what was going on. Still, no diagnosis. As an adult, I realized I was, and am, SO utterly ADD. My dad got a master;s in education a few years ago and took a class on special needs, and even he said he realizes now that I had ADD. I've developed ways to cope (for me, it always has been so much worse if I'm not getting enough rest, for example, and I write everything down), but the sooner you can get help for her, the better. Good for you for getting her some help.

Carey... Carey2006

Ya know....when I was lil they  classified me as borderline ADD/ADHD.....but when I talk with my old teachers and family members I always say to them...if I was a BOY would you have felt the same way???? And most of the time their answer was no....

asil asil

i think i have ADD... ha!

clean... cleanaturalady

I didn't know there was a difference between girls and boys when it came to ADD.

Pnukey Pnukey

oh, bother.

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