ADD/ADHD in Girls: 10 Symptoms to Consider

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Flickr photo by AndrewEick
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