Tough Stuff

Yes, girls can have ADHD, too

This essay reflects the thoughts and opinions of the author.

I never suspected that I had ADHD. I've always been a good student. I've never been disruptive or loud in school. There were other students in my classes that I knew had ADHD, but they were the boys who ran around and could never focus. I wasn't like that, so of course *I* couldn't be neurodivergent. 

From kindergarten to twelfth grade, my days were always very structured. At 7:20, the school bell rang. At 8:30, I went to my next class. At 10:50, I got lunch. My every move was determined by a schedule made by someone else—my parents, my teachers, my school counselors. But when I went to college, I suddenly had to plan my own time-table. I had to decide when to wake up, when to get lunch and when to do my homework. It turned out that without my invisible schedule pulling me along, I fell apart.

I would start cleaning my dorm, then I would begin drafting an essay, then I would remember to text my mom, then I would plan my outfit for the next day...but I wasn't able to actually finish what I'd start. I could never motivate myself to do work until the very last second, and I couldn't take a break from an assignment because I knew I would never go back to it. Essays had to be written in one sitting, and books had to be read in one night. It was exhausting, but it was the only way my brain let me get things done.

Spring quarter of my freshman year, I finally visited my school's counseling center. I told my counselor everything I was dealing with, and she suggested that maybe I had ADHD. Me? I couldn't understand it, but when I researched more, it started to make sense.

What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a mental disorder. The symptoms typically associated with ADHD are hyperactivity (always moving and never running out of energy), inattentiveness (trouble focusing) and impulsivity (acting without thinking).

How is ADHD different for girls?
Boys with ADHD sometimes have trouble sitting still and can be louder than their female counterparts. ADHD in girls usually manifests differently. Girls with this disorder often lose focus easily and can get lost in daydreams. Impulsivity is also common, as well as being easily distracted. Girls are less often disruptive, however, and their symptoms tend to be harder to spot than those in boys. Of course, there are some symptoms that both boys and girls may have, and it's important to note that *everyone* had a unique combination of symptoms.

Unfortunately, ADHD is often seen as a "boys' disease," so parents may not be looking for symptoms in their daughters. In fact, a boy is three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than a girl. Most research surrounding ADHD focuses on young boys and disregards girls almost entirely. And because young girls are taught at an early age to be quiet and respectful, they may be suppressing their symptoms without even realizing it.

How does an ADHD diagnosis help?
Now that I know my ADHD diagnosis, I am able to take medication that helps me focus throughout the day. Of course, medication may not be the answer for everyone who has this disorder, and there are many other ways to manage ADHD, like mindfulness and counseling. 

I have also learned to structure my days and my life around my ADHD, and on days when I don't take my prescription, it helps a lot. Rather than fighting my disorder, I work with it.

The most important thing I've learned from my ADHD is self-love. Sometimes my brain doesn't let me do what I need it to, but I have to remember it's not my fault. Knowing why I am this way has allowed me to be patient with myself.

Do you have ADHD?
If any of the symptoms I've talked about sound like you, it might be worth a visit to your primary care provider to ask for an ADHD screening. Not all doctors can provide you with a diagnosis, so they may refer you to a psychologist or a neuropsychology assessment center. If you're interested in medication, make sure to talk to your parents and provider about what will be best for you.

ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. It just means you experience the world a little differently than other people—and that isn't a bad thing. In fact, I think it's beautiful.

GIFs via Giphy


by Aubrey Rhoadarmer | 9/28/2022