07 Sep Gender Disparity in ADHD Diagnosis: Why Are Young Boys Diagnosed More Often Than Girls?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects nearly 5% of American adults. While this condition affects people throughout their entire lives, the symptoms begin in early childhood. However, studies have shown that while ADHD is believed to affect boys and girls equally, boys are diagnosed more often.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Boys (13%) are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls (6%).”
If ADHD affects boys and girls at the same rate, why are girls not being diagnosed until adulthood? Oftentimes, the symptoms of ADHD display differently among girls than they do among boys. This can cause young girls to suffer in silence without the treatment they desperately need.
What is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins affecting individuals in early childhood and can continue to persist throughout adulthood. This condition often causes people to have a hard time paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviors. While children often have high energy and do not focus as easily as adults, ADHD causes these symptoms to increase substantially.
According to the CDC, a child with ADHD might:
- Frequently daydream
- Forget or lose things a lot
- Squirm or fidget
- Talk too much
- Make careless mistakes or take frequent risks
- Have extreme difficulty resisting temptations
- Have a hard time taking turns or sharing
- Experience difficulty getting along with others
The development of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is thought to rely heavily on genetics. If you or someone in your family has ADHD, your child is more likely to have the condition as well. However, other factors may play a role in the development of this condition too.
Other risk factors for ADHD include:
- Brain injury
- Exposure to environmental risks like lead during pregnancy
- Alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight
ADHD requires professional treatment that often involves behavioral therapy and medications. Typically, ADHD is treated using stimulant medication that can balance certain chemicals in the brain responsible for focus, attention, and impulse control.
Is There a Gender Gap in ADHD Diagnosis?
Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. While this might make someone think the condition is more common among males, this is not the case. In fact, girls and boys are equally as likely to have ADHD.
According to research, boys received more prescriptions to treat their ADHD than girls. However, this gap goes away once women reach adulthood. In other words, women are not diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood, making it appear like boys experience the condition more often when this is not the case.
While boys are often diagnosed in childhood, ADHD is more commonly diagnosed among women during their adulthood because the symptoms of ADHD often display differently between girls and boys. The difference in symptoms often causes ADHD to be overlooked among girls.
How are the Symptoms of ADHD Different in Boys and Girls?
The main cause of the gender disparity in ADHD diagnosis is the differences in symptoms displayed among boys and girls. Girls often show different symptoms than boys that are often overlooked or misjudged as “laziness.”
Boys, on the other hand, often display ADHD symptoms of impulsiveness like acting out or talking too much in school during their childhood. Because these symptoms can be disruptive, teachers and parents pay more attention, leading them to seek a diagnosis. Unfortunately, since girls’ symptoms do not appear in the same manner as boys’, girls tend to suffer in silence with their ADHD, not receiving treatment until their condition worsens in adulthood.
However, according to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), “Girls frequently display inattentive symptoms, including forgetfulness, trouble paying attention, and problems with organization.”
Because these symptoms only affect the girl herself, they are often overlooked, so parents do not seek professional treatment, leading to the gender gap in ADHD diagnosis.
Even further, many children who have ADHD also struggle with other mental health or neurodevelopmental conditions. According to the CDC, 6 in 10 children with ADHD had another co-occurring condition which can complicate the symptoms of ADHD, making them difficult to diagnose.
The Importance of Early Intervention in ADHD
You might be thinking that even though girls go undiagnosed during their childhood, at least they receive treatment in adulthood. While treating ADHD in adulthood can be successful, not receiving early intervention can leave women with worsened symptoms over time.
Oftentimes, girls who are experiencing undiagnosed ADHD experience unfair judgment, being labeled as “lazy” or “unfocused.” In reality, they are struggling with untreated symptoms of ADHD that require professional intervention. As time goes on, these symptoms can become worsened with the adoption of new responsibilities, making coping with daily life difficult for women as they grow up.
Parents, teachers, and medical professionals must educate themselves on the differences in symptoms among boys and girls with ADHD. Doing so will help women receive early intervention for their condition, allowing them to flourish in their daily lives, school, social interactions, and careers.
Find Help for ADHD
If you or a loved one struggles with the symptoms of ADHD, professional treatment can help. With a combination of behavioral therapy, learned coping mechanisms, and medications, you can manage your ADHD effectively.
To learn more about how to find treatment for ADHD, contact Florida Recovery Group today.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Data and Statistics About ADHD, Retrieved September 2023 From https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): What is ADHD, Retrieved September 2023 From https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
- PLOS ONE: The female side of pharmacotherapy for ADHD—A systematic literature review, Retrieved September 2023 From https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0239257
- Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): How the Gender Gap Leaves Girls and Women Undertreated for ADHD, Retrieved September 2023 From https://chadd.org/adhd-news/adhd-news-adults/how-the-gender-gap-leaves-girls-and-women-undertreated-for-adhd/