Attention deficit/hyperactivity, or ADHD, is often diagnosed when children show symptoms of hyperactive and impulsive behavior, along with lack of attentiveness to individual tasks. Without the hyperactivity, a child may be diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder, or ADD. Statistics peg the current prevalence of ADHD at about five percent of the population of the United States, with boys at least four times more likely to have it than girls. Recent studies, however, have shown that attention deficit disorder in a girl may actually be more common, and is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
To understand why it can be difficult to recognize attention deficit disorder in a girl, it is important to look at the symptoms of ADD and ADHD in general. People with ADD suffer from inattention. That is, they have a hard time starting up a task, but if they do, they have a hard time finishing it. If they do continue the task, they may miss or misinterpret certain instructions, leading them to make often careless mistakes in what they do, whether they are working on homework or a financial report. If they must take on duties, they will often choose those that require the least mental effort.
Those with ADD will also lose important items, or will forget where he or she placed them. Those with ADD will also seem dazed, or not listening when they are spoken with. When they do start a conversation, they can speak excessively, but are also easily distracted. People with ADD can also be troubled with a variety of thoughts, so that they find it hard to fall asleep. They are also prone to emotional outbursts and frustration.
Boys with ADHD may be disruptive at home, or in class, and may exhibit symptoms inconsistent with male-related behavior. Boys with ADD, on the other hand, will show less hyperactivity, but will still be easily distracted and can be difficult to speak with. These manifestations often prompt parents every early on to refer their sons for treatment. Girls, however, will show no hyperactivity or blatant distraction. They can daydream – a trait much associated with teenage girls – and they can often be disorganized – a trait that has been considered common.
It is for these reasons that it can be difficult to recognize attention deficit disorder in a girl. Recent research has shown that girls have been largely undiagnosed, and behavior once thought typical of them may actually be signs of ADD. Such behavior may include boyishness, since girls with ADD are prone to using their hyperactive tendencies to engage in physical activities. Another group of girls with ADD may manifest the disorder by talking and socializing excessively. In some cases, attention deficit disorder in a girl may be manifested when a girl engages in risky behavior.
Statistics show that ADD and ADHD girls can show sexual behavior early, and may be prone to early, unplanned pregnancy. Other risky behavior may involve the use of drugs or alcohol. ADD and ADHD may even engage in shoplifting, or may have eating disorders.
Attention deficit disorder in a girl is manifested most commonly by a third group, which consists of shy, inattentive daydreamers who seem to blend into the background. Such girls will often be depressed, and will shy away from society. In contrast to the two other groups, such girls tend to focus excessively on their work as though to compensate for lack of attention to other areas. Such girls tend to be self-critical and anxious of their performance – they also escape diagnosis, until they reach adulthood.
Despite the difficulty of recognizing attention deficit disorder in a girl, the disorder is not incurable. There are medications available to counter ADD, which should be used along with the proper therapy. Psychotherapy can allow older girls and women to talk about their lives and what issues they have to deal with. Psychotherapy can also help them recognize how their behavior is negative or disruptive. It can also give them pointers on how they can deal with ADD symptoms while still realizing their full potential.
Other therapy techniques target parents and siblings of the girl with attention deficit disorder. Family therapy, in particular, gives the family support in dealing with the stress associated with a girl who has ADD. Support groups are also important, especially to young girls who are easily impressionable, and give much weight to self image.
Although it can be difficult to diagnose attention deficit disorder in a girl, the rewards for doing so can be great. A girl can better understand her behavior, and have hope in herself and belief in her potential because she knows that she can be treated. Such a girl can therefore lead a normal life.