By Marybeth Bock

When most people hear the letters “ADHD” they immediately picture hyper, little boys running wildly around a room, ignoring pleas from a parent or teacher who’s trying to get them to sit down and be quiet.  This image highlights two of the most common misconceptions about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: that it’s mainly boys who have it, and that hyperactivity is always visibly apparent.

But here’s the reality of ADHD – girls are simply less likely to be diagnosed, because the symptoms present differently in most females. It’s estimated that 50-75% of females who have ADHD go undiagnosed, and it’s easy to understand why when you break down the subtypes of the condition.

Boys are more apt to display symptoms of the Hyperactive/Impulsive subtype: difficulty sitting still, hyper-talkative and impatient.

Girls on the other hand, usually show more of the Inattentive subtype symptoms: daydreaming, forgetfulness, distractibility, and messy personal spaces – like rooms, desks and backpacks.

Because the symptoms in females are less disruptive in a classroom, many girls are diagnosed much later than boys. The moves from elementary to middle school, or from middle school to high school are often the times that challenges with the condition become more self-apparent, as there tends to be increasingly less guidance from teachers and parents.

Fitting in socially can be an added challenge for girls with undiagnosed ADHD, and the pressure to live up to the expectations of “perfect teen-girl” behavior and appearances can be overwhelming.

When a girl with ADHD goes undiagnosed, she is more likely to blame herself for the academic and social challenges she may face, and to have low self-esteem that can result in anxiety, depression and eating disorders.  Getting help is extremely important.

So, as a teen girl, what do you do if you suspect you might have undiagnosed ADHD?

Start first by talking to your parents or a counselor at your school. This will help you determine a plan of action. Simple evaluations by a doctor and/or a psychologist can provide you with a diagnosis and treatment options. Sometimes, simply learning new coping techniques and getting some coaching can be very effective in treating ADHD. Not everyone needs medication, but if your doctor thinks it could be beneficial, it’s worth discussing the possibility.

The most important thing to remember is that receiving a diagnosis of ADHD does not make you a flawed person. It simply means that your brain works a little differently than others. Labels like “deficit” and “disorder” are only limiting if you allow them to be.

If you do receive an official diagnosis, think of it as an opportunity to learn a whole lot more about your brain and yourself, and as a chance to grow and become more capable in multiple areas of your life.

*Here’s a link to ADDitude Magazine’s ADHD Self-Test for Girls. Completing this could give you a better idea of whether or not you should have a professional evaluation.