Updated: Nov 2
If you’ve landed on this blog, then you already have a strong understanding of what ADHD is and the challenges that surround it but are you aware of the high percentage of young primary girls who go through primary school undiagnosed?
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurological condition that affects both adults and children. While many people talk about this, there is often a silent struggle that clearly goes unnoticed in girls. Why is this? Because girls are brilliant maskers.
As an ADHD masker myself, I tried so hard to fit in with the system when I was at primary school. The more I tried to fit in, the more anxious I became. Growing up, I often felt like I was living in a world of constant motion. My parents knew I was a highly sensitive child, with a lot of anxiety and worries but never understood the root cause. I would often make careless errors, compare myself to others, struggle with big worries, misunderstanding verbal instructions, daydream, underperform in tests, people please, write extremely fast (illegibly) and only focus on the things I absolutely loved and was passionate about. But, like many girls with ADHD, my struggles were often brushed off as typical childhood behaviour.
How does ADHD affect girls?
Girls often show up with a different presentation of symptoms to boys. While boys might exhibit outward hyperactivity and impulsivity, girls tend to manifest their symptoms more subtly. For instance, they might be daydreamy, forgetful, anxious or experiencing internal hyperactivity of overthinking ,making their struggles less obvious. Take me for example, in school, I wasn’t the disruptive student who couldn’t stay in her seat. Instead, I was the shy, creative girl who constantly misunderstood tasks, zoning out and daydreaming during lessons where there were a lot of verbal instructions. From a societal perspective, girls are expected to be well behaved, neat and compliant. Giving all the more reason for girls to conform to these gender norms and inadvertently mask the presence of their ADHD. I always felt the pressure to be the ‘good girl’, I HATED getting in trouble and had a huge fear of being told off. I wanted to conceal my difficulties and restlessness as much as possible. Unfortunately, this came at the cost of my self esteem where I became quieter in class, feeling afraid to get the answers wrong or ask for help when I misunderstood an instruction.
There is also significant comorbidity with ADHD in girls. Often, this co-occurs with conditions like anxiety, depression or learning disorders including dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. Not only this but sensory processing challenges are linked to correlations with high functioning ASD. This complexity can lead to misdiagnosis or under-diagnosis, as focus may be on the associated conditions rather than the ADHD itself. For decades, I struggled with panic and anxiety disorders, and it wasn’t till adulthood, aged 30 that I realised it was all connected to my undiagnosed ADHD in childhood.
The reason I am pinpointing this topic today, is there is a general lack of awareness and understanding surrounding ADHD in girls, both among public and healthcare professionals. This lack of awareness can result in young girls not receiving the appropriate support and resources they need to thrive. When I finally sought help, I encountered scepticism from individuals who did not recognise the subtler signs of ADHD in women. It is important to note that ADHD in girls during primary years is a hidden struggle, often overshadowed by societal expectations and huge misconceptions. My personal journey with ADHD has been one of discovery, challenges and resilience. Together, I want to raise awareness about ADHD in girls, offering support and understanding to those individuals who are silently battling the struggles of ADHD. This is achieved through my transformative mindset coaching programmes, aimed at empowering ADHD individuals to thrive in all areas of life.
Recommended articles: https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-in-girls-women/ https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-in-girls-shame/ https://www.additudemag.com/the-truth-about-girls-adhd/ https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-in-women-girls-symptoms-diagnosis-recommendations/