As a girl, I was bright, enthusiastic, and deeply empathetic. As I grew, I daydreamed and was unorganized, but my grades were good. I even took advanced classes in high school. With friends, I could be silly, excited, perhaps moody, and chatty. But, because I was not hyper and disruptive, no one had much problem with me. I was an undiagnosed girl with ADD.
This is the story of many girls.
ADHD boys more often present as hyper and disruptive and get professional attention because the adults in their lives are desperate for help. Skills training can be available for the parents and child which offer studying, behavior, and organization. Meditation or yoga and diet changes might be employed. Perhaps medication can be made available to help their focus and increase grades.
ADD medicine engages the prefrontal cortex for performing executive functions, i.e., a lot of what these children are unable to access with organization and discipline without meds. Brain scans have even shown the difference of this region of the brain in ADD children with and without medication. Without medicine, this regions under performs next to neuro-typical brains. And, on medication, the brain is more engaged! In addition, studies are beginning to reveal that some intervention like meditation, yoga, or medication can keep many boys from self-medicating, which often turns into addictions later in high school and college.
But, what happens to the girls? Girls are passed over and judged for not performing up to their potential. They are also susceptible to addictions. Until they find illegal drugs, caffeine artificially helps focus and the executive functioning skills needed to do dishes, taxes, organize a room, or do homework. I personally drank TAB to push my brain to engage.
As girls age, school organization becomes more unmanageable, grades slip, and they begin to believe they are stupid. Depression, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy build within the disorder of their lives.
These girls are often being overlooked, and slip through the cracks of society. Why? Because we are most often smart, well behaved, and cause no real problems to anyone.
ADD girls generally get good grades. It’s messy, we don’t follow directions precisely, and we take twice as long on our homework as others. We are told that if we tried harder, we would do better. Then, we are judged for being overwhelmed and missing the mark on societal demands for the feminine, and we begin to feel increasingly like outsiders.
In hindsight, I would be angry had my parents been able to give me professional help with homework and medication (I’m not promoting, but this is my story) but refused. Since no one knew what ADD was, and medicine was unavailable, I remained undiagnosed until well into adulthood.