ADHD in Teenage Girls: Signs & Symptoms

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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts essential cognitive functioning like focus and motivation.

It is most often diagnosed during childhood. Symptoms of ADHD include a consistent pattern of inattention and hyperactivity. In addition, boys are diagnosed with ADHD at a higher rate than girls.

This article will provide insight into what ADHD is, how to spot ADHD amongst teenage girls, and why ADHD in girls can go undiagnosed

What Is ADHD? 

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that can impact daily responsibilities, like school, work, and interpersonal relationships.

While this disorder is most commonly diagnosed amongst children and adolescents, it is also possible for adults to receive this diagnosis. It is a disorder that can impact folks throughout their lifespan, but finding the proper treatment and support can significantly decrease the intensity of this condition.

According to the CDC, boys make up 12.9% of all children diagnosed with ADHD. Just 5.6% of girls are diagnosed with ADHD, meaning boys are diagnosed with this condition at double the rate of girls

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • A short attention span
  • Missing minor details
  • Inability to complete tasks
  • Struggles with meeting deadlines
  • Excessive issues with timeliness
  • A distracting level of restlessness or jitteriness
  • Difficulty waiting for turns, interrupts conversations, impulsively blurts out answers

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Teenage Girls 

While the symptoms of ADHD don’t necessarily change between boys and girls, how the symptoms present can be quite different. A recent study states that girls more commonly tend to have ADHD with an inattentive presentation. More boys are diagnosed with the hyperactive-impulsive presentation than girls. 

When looking out for signs of ADHD in the classroom, teachers are much more likely to notice a child who is acting out, can’t sit still, and is consistently speaking out of turn. These signs of ADHD align with the hyperactive-impulsive presentation of ADHD that boys tend to present with. This means that more boys are evaluated and eventually diagnosed with ADHD. 

Inattentive presentation, which girls commonly present with, can be easily missed since it isn’t as disruptive as the hyperactive-impulsive presentation. The inattentive presentation can be misinterpreted as a gendered personality trait—for example, assuming a girl is moody or socially awkward.

Symptoms of inattention among girls include:

  • Daydreaming
  • Shyness
  • Anxiety/sadness
  • Perfectionism

Girls can internalize symptoms of inattentive ADHD. Hyperactive impulsivity tends to be quite external and visible to others. On the other hand, some can overlook inattention as a mere personality trait that is internal and unique to the individual rather than part of a challenging neurodevelopmental condition.

How Does ADHD Affect Teenage Girls? 

ADHD, especially when untreated, can significantly impact teenage girls. For example, they can be written off as being simply overly emotional or even hormonal rather than experiencing symptoms of ADHD.

In turn, this can cause girls to become anxious, withdrawn, and internalize these symptoms. Undiagnosed ADHD can lead to significant emotional and behavioral issues and challenges in school.

Why Can ADHD in Girls Often Go Undiagnosed? 

Girls tend to develop coping strategies that help them mask their ADHD symptoms. For example, if they struggle with focusing, they may instead direct their energy towards a subject or hobby where they excel instead. This can lead teachers, parents, and professionals to overlook attentional challenges in other realms..

Of note, in one study, adult women reported more severe symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity than men, suggesting that childhood symptoms of ADHD may have gone unnoticed in girls.

How You Can Support Your Child 

It is important to learn about ADHD and how it might present in girls. You can support your child by becoming attuned to how they present at home, with friends, and at school.

Checking in with your child’s teachers, extracurricular leaders, and other parents who spend time with your child are great places to start when gathering more information about whether attentional challenges are present.

Even if you believe your child might just be a quiet daydreamer who is shy or an active tomboy who loves to play rough, it is worth chatting with a professional to ensure you aren’t overlooking any symptoms of ADHD

Maintaining a non-judgmental and open line of communication with your child is also very important. This can encourage your child to be honest with you and regard your relationship as one place they don’t have to mask their symptoms.

Finally, seeking support for yourself is also vital. Finding your own therapist can ensure that you’re tending to your emotional needs so you can be as present as possible for your child.

A Word From Verywell

Being a parent is one of the greatest gifts and most challenging roles. While it can be scary to consider if your child is suffering, it can be life-changing for your child to receive unconditional support during a tough time. That being said, it is equally important you provide yourself with the same level of support. You're not alone and you deserve the care you give to others.

7 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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data and statistics about ADHD.

  2. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

  3. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

  4. 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(1):298. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-298

  5. ADDitude. ADHD in Girls: The symptoms that are ignored in females.

  6. Quinn PO, Madhoo M. A review of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in women and girls: uncovering this hidden diagnosis. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. doi: 10.4088/pcc.13r01596

  7. Vildalen VU, Brevik EJ, Haavik J, Lundervold AJ. Females with adhd report more severe symptoms than males on the adult adhd self-report scale. J Atten Disord. 2019;23(9):959-967. doi: 10.1177/1087054716659362

By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.