20 Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Girls

How the condition tends to present in females may surprise you

Verywell / Cindy Chung 

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has long been thought of as a condition affecting males. But, more girls are being diagnosed as the understanding of the condition deepens.

Girls are more likely to have inattentive ADHD, in which daydreaming and shyness are common, whereas it is more typical for boys to have hyperactive-impulsive ADHD or combined presentation.

Living with undiagnosed ADHD can result in disadvantages, such as a lack of accommodations in the classroom, low self-esteem, and self-blame. Gone undiagnosed, ADHD can even affect mental health well into adolescence and adulthood. Being aware of the different ways ADHD can present in your daughter can help you know when it might be time to see a doctor for an evaluation.

Diagnosing ADHD in Girls

ADHD symptoms can manifest very differently in each child. You may have a boy who has been diagnosed with ADHD, but never considered that your daughter who is having trouble in school might also have it too because her issues seem so different from his.

ADHD symptoms in girls are often thought of as characters of a girl’s personality rather than ADHD, which is why they are often overlooked or explained away.

It is much easier to identify a child who is physically active and defiant as someone that would benefit from an ADHD evaluation than someone who seems distant or distracted. In girls, ADHD signs and symptoms tend to have these underlying commonalities:

Compensates for Inattention

For many girls with ADHD, paying attention to the task at hand is their biggest challenge. They can get distracted by external events or drift off into a world of their own. For example, a bird outside a classroom window may take attention away from something more important in their environment, like a teacher announcing the date of an upcoming exam.

To compensate, a girl with ADHD may hyperfocus on something she likes or is good at. She will put forth so much effort and concentration that parents or teachers may dismiss the possibility of ADHD. Sometimes this hyperfocus is a coping strategy to keep herself entertained when something is boring. Other times, she may not feel she has any control over it.

Always in Motion

If a girl is hyperactive, she might be described as a "tomboy" because she likes physical activity and doesn’t seem to enjoy the "typical things" a girl her age does. She might also be in motion in less obvious ways, perhaps doodling constantly or moving around in her chair.

Lack of Impulse Control

A girl with impulsivity can be hyper-talkative and verbally impulsive, interrupting others, talking excessively, or changing topics again and again during conversations. She might blurt out words without thinking about their impact on others.

But this girl may also be overly sensitive. Some girls are described as overemotional and easily excitable.

Signs and Symptoms

Not all girls with ADHD will exhibit all of the following signs and symptoms. Conversely, having one or two of these does not equal an ADHD diagnosis in and of itself. However, if your daughter seems to exhibit a few of these symptoms on a continual basis, a discussion with an experienced professional may be beneficial.

  • Appears withdrawn
  • Cries easily 
  • Daydreaming and in a world of her own 
  • Difficulty maintaining focus; easily distracted 
  • Disorganized and messy (in her appearance and physical space)
  • Doesn’t appear to be trying 
  • Doesn’t seem motivated
  • Forgetful 
  • Highly sensitive to noise, fabrics, and emotions
  • Hyper-talkative (always has lots to say, but is not good at listening)
  • Hyperreactivity (exaggerated emotional responses)
  • Looks to be making "careless" mistakes
  • Might often slam her doors shut 
  • Often late (poor time management) 
  • Problems completing tasks 
  • Seems shy
  • Seems to get easily upset 
  • Shifting focus from one activity to another
  • Takes time to process information and directions; seems like she doesn't hear you
  • Verbally impulsive; blurts out and interrupts others

Seeking Help

If ADHD is diagnosed, it can be treated and managed. Interventions can be put in place, including behavior management techniques, organizational strategies, medication, counseling, and support.

Simply knowing she has ADHD can relieve a girl of a huge burden of guilt and shame. It can also free her from the damaging labels of being “spacey,” “unmotivated,” “stupid,” or “lazy.” She is none of those things; she simply has ADHD. Strategies can be put in place to make life a little easier and her future much brighter.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Skogli EW, Teicher MH, Andersen PN, Hovik KT, Øie M. ADHD in girls and boys--gender differences in co-existing symptoms and executive function measures. BMC Psychiatry. 2013;13:298. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-298

  3. Ghanizadeh A. Psychometric analysis of the new ADHD DSM-V derived symptoms. BMC Psychiatry. 2012;12:21. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-21

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