Is ADHD Different For Boys and Girls?

ADHD is a condition that has often been associated with young boys. What many people do not know is that ADHD is equally as common in girls as it is in boys. Boys are diagnosed with ADHD at an almost 3-1 rate, and yet all studies confirm that girls are just as likely as boys to struggle with the condition.

So why is this number so different?

One of the reasons is that ADHD can sometimes present itself differently in girls vs boys. Although they are the same condition, boys and girls sometimes show the symptoms of ADHD in different ways. For example:

  • Behaviors – Boys with ADHD tend to be more visually and behaviorally hyperactive, sometimes in ways that can be disruptive. Girls tend to be fidgeters, which can go unnoticed or be seen as a symptom of anxiety, rather than ADHD.
  • Cognitive – When boys with ADHD struggle with attention, it can be more visual. You may see a young man with ADHD looking in different directions or altering their focus with their play or activities. With girls and young women, inattention tends to be more cerebral. They may bounce from different thoughts, but it goes on in their minds.
  • Emotional – Emotional experiences can vary considerably between boys and girls. Girls with ADHD may experience more intense emotional ranges, with mood swings, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Boys experience the same symptoms, but may not display it to the same degree.
  • Social – Both boys and girls may struggle socially. But if their social habits and their feelings about being ostracized may manifest differently, due to the social dynamics of different groups.

It should be noted, however, that while some of these are sex-specific, some of them are societal. Social differences in ADHD may not be due to any specific difference between boys and girls, but rather how boys and girls traditionally interact. As a result, the individual signs and symptoms of any child – boy or girl – may differ considerably from the above examples.

This list above is not meant to imply that there is a right or wrong way for any child to experience ADHD, or that a girl and a boy will necessarily experience it differently because of their biology/genetics. Rather, it is important for parents and practitioners to understand that, in order to recognize, diagnose, and treat ADHD, we have to be more aware of the different ways that it can manifest – especially between genders, where there can sometimes be noticeable differences.

As ADHD Coaches, we have worked directly with children and young adults struggling with ADHD. We can help you better understand your child, and help your child better understand their own experiences. Learn more by reviewing our site or click on our class list to view our current schedule.

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