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How Do Girls with ADHD Struggle Socially? And How Can They Be Helped?

written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 8/23/2010

Girls with ADHD have problems with paying attention, but can also have issues interacting with their peers. Learn about how girls with ADHD struggle socially and the different ways that they can be helped.

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    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that 5.9 percent of girls are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), compared to 9.5 percent of boys. Girls with ADHD tend to deal with different issues than boys with ADHD. For example, the notes that boys with ADHD have more visible behavioral problems, while girls with ADHD have attentional problems and daydream during class. As a result, girls can be overlooked when diagnosing for ADHD, which can result in a diagnosis later in life or no diagnosis at all. Nicole Crawford, author of the American Psychological Association's Monitor on Psychology article “ADHD: A Women's Issue,” explains that “girls with undiagnosed ADHD will most likely carry their problems into adulthood, and left untreated, their lives often fall apart.” One issue that girls with ADHD face is problems with social interactions.

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    How Do Girls with ADHD Struggle Socially?

    Fitting in and social interactions are difficult enough for girls, but even more so when they also have ADHD. But how do girls with ADHD struggle socially? In a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, and published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the researchers did a five year follow-up that included 140 girls with ADHD and 88 girls without ADHD between the ages of 6 and 12. The researchers found that girls with ADHD are more likely to be rejected by their peers, which persists into adolescences. They also found that when girls with ADHD reached adolescence, they started participating in risky behaviors.

    The issues with social interaction can start early in life. Besides being rejected by their peers, girls with ADHD can also be shy. The National Center for Gender Issues and AD/HD (NCGI) notes that girls with ADHD socialize very little and become hyper-focused on their academics. During high school, girls with ADHD usually do not date. The NCGI adds that the social isolation can continue in college, as they have problems balancing academics and social interactions.

    Another factor that influences the lack of social interactions is depression, a mood disorder. When depressed, girls can withdrawal socially. They can also lose pleasure in activities they used to enjoy. The NCGI explains that “girls with ADHD who are shy, timid, withdrawn and lacking in self-confidence as young girls may develop depression.”

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    How Can Girls with ADHD Be Helped?

    Crawford points out that ADHD treatment typically involves medication, such as stimulants, and psychotherapy, which focuses on ADHD-specific issues. But psychotherapy can also help with the social problems that girls with ADHD face. For example, a therapist can help patients cope with the depression or with low self-confidence. The notes that ADHD patients may benefit from social skills training, which teaches how to interact with other people, the nuances of social interaction and how to overcome insecurities with social interactions. Girls with ADHD may also benefit from support groups, where they can meet other ADHD patients going through the same issues and share how they cope with them.

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    CDC: ADHD, Data and Statistics


    NCGI: Understanding Girls with AD/HD – Part I


    University of California Newsroom: Struggles Persist for Adolescent Girls with ADHD


    Monitor on Psychology; “ADHD: A Women's Issue”; Nicole Crawford; February 2003

    ( Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Symptoms

    ( Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Treatments and Drugs