Sunday, February 24, 2013

Girls, Women and ADHD?

Girls, ADHD?  Huh?  I thought that was a boy thing?  This is the typical response given by most parents, educators and the population, in general, when posed with the concept of a female being diagnosed with ADHD.  The acronym is thrown around (abused, misused and arguably overused) in classrooms daily.  If you were a fly on the wall during such conversation I can almost assure it the label is being directed to a little boy running around the room.  However, current research paints a picture that awareness and accurate perception of this diagnosis has gone awry.

Take the following into account:

1.  Research has quite undoubtedly solidified the argument that ADHD is genetic.
2.  Diagnosed children are transitioning into adulthood.  
3.  More adults are being recognized.
4.  Boys are being diagnosed at a 4:1 ratio to girls.
4.  Adult data shows us that the split is 50/50 for gender.

Hmmm... let's think.  Now, if it is genetic I am thinking we are flitting over some girls in the classroom.  But, how?  It is obviously an invasive (and albeit, at times, annoying) disorder for adults to tolerate.  Why would they overlook the girls?  Current theories are postulating that girls may present more with Inattentive symptoms (daydreaming, forgetfulness, etc.).  This is not nearly as obnoxious for the adult as the hyperactive symptoms associated with boys.  As the old saying goes, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."  Unfortunately, these young girls are suffering.  They are children and this state of the being is their norm.  They begin to internalize their inability to keep up socially and, at times, academically.  Low self-esteem sets in and they are markedly more prone to anxiety and depression.  

Women, Girls and ADHD - Part I (children)

Picture acquired from:

As promised (although slightly delayed), I am going to share some basic literature review information regarding gender and ADHD.  In other words, I am trying to find a functional outlet for my addiction to reading journal articles ;)  A simple term search for 'girls and ADHD' into Ebsco Host yields a multitude of articles.  Mental health researchers are continually looking to define and further understand the manifestations of ADHD - how exciting?!?!?

Some interesting tidbits:

1.  ADHD can present differently in girls than in boys (Adams, 2007).

2.  Some studies have estimated 50-75% of girls just don't get diagnosed - we overlook    
     them (Adams, 2007).

3.  Research is beginning to tease out the gender differences of ADHD in regards to  
     symptoms, course over lifespan and neuropathology (Nussbaum, 2012).

4.  There just isn't enough active/published research regarding if treatments should differ  
     between boys and girls (Nussbaum, 2012).

What should we look for in girls?  According to Adams (2007), there are 6 signs that may alert a teacher, parent or caregiver to the presence of ADHD in girls.  They are as follows:

1.  Nonstop Talking
2.  Difficulty Initiating and Maintaining Frienships
3.  Difficulty Maintaining Attention 
4.  Exceptional Messiness
5.  Unfinished Work
6.  Emotionality

Why should we care?

Well, the research lays out many reasons.  Among these are factors for the child's lifespan which include:

Increased family burden
Negative discipline
Detrimental impacts on the relationship between the parent-child

All of these factors can easily translate into increased healthcare costs as well as diminished quality of life for those affected.

A little more detail...

A wonderful study published by the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2007 yielded a descriptive analysis regarding differences between genders.  Interestingly, their information poses the idea that the sub-type of ADHD is where we find the greatest gender differences.  Their information translates into two valuable pieces of information for clinicians (Bauermeister, Shrout, Chavez, Rubio-Stipec, Ramirez, Padilla and Canine, 2007).  These are:

1.  Girls with the Inattentive Type of ADHD are more likely to be diagnosed with Anxiety     

2.  Boys, in general, are more likely to be diagnosed with mood disorders, specifically    
     Major Depressive Disorder.  

It is EXTREMELY important for diagnosing clinicians to have an active awareness of these findings.  This turns into a chicken and egg problem - one must not overlook the ADHD because of  the more frequently diagnosed Mood or Anxiety Disorder to present (Bauermeister et al., 2007).  

Further questions...

Boys, in general, are more likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder.  Correlation based information was found to suggest the likelihood that failing a grade and/or being suspended/expelled increased the likelihood of a depression diagnosis in boys.  However, girls were much less likely to be expelled or fail a grade - this leads me to be curious about the possible mood effects found for children failing academic grades and/or being penalized with suspension/expulsion from their school community.  


Adams, C. (2007). Girls and ADHD: Are You Missing the Signs?. Instructor116(6), 31-35.

Bauermeister, J. J., Shrout, P. E., Chavez, L., Rubio-Stipec, M., Ramirez, R., Padilla, L., & ... Canino, G. (2007). ADHD and Gender: Are Risks and Sequela of ADHD the Same for Boys and Girls?. Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry48(8), 831-839.

Nussbaum, N. L. (2012). ADHD and Female Specific Concerns: A Review of the Literature and Clinical Implications. Journal Of Attention Disorders16(2), 87-100.

Soffer, S. L., Mautone, J. A., & Power, T. J. (2008). Understanding Girls with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Applying Research to Clinical Practice. International Journal Of Behavioral Consultation & Therapy4(1), 14-29.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mental Health and Women's Issues

Hi friends!  I am very blessed to be a part of my current graduate program.  I have acquired a particular interest in helping others to understand mental health concerns in everyday language.  Lately, I have been doing a ton of research of mental health conditions and how they 'look' in women. I am going to attempt to share resources to help others understand more about women-centered mental health topics.  I feel it is important to push against the stigma our society immediately associates with these 'labels.'  

Topics discussed will be:

Women/girls and ADHD

Womengirls and Aspergers

Postpartum Depression



I am sure I will find more to drone on about eventually.  However, I feel these are three unique conditions which our society tends misunderstand.