Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has long been thought to be more common among boys than among girls. However, in recent years, the symptoms of ADHD in women have become more widely recognized, and it is becoming evident that although the behaviors and challenges of women with ADHD may differ in some ways from those of men with ADHD, the symptoms can still be significant. People with ADHD often face challenges in traditional academic environments and are unable to stay on task or focus on schoolwork for continuous periods of time. They may face obstacles socially as well, related to their symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity. Overall, young girls diagnosed with ADHD can be just as affected by their symptoms as young boys.
But less is known about what happens with these symptoms as girls mature into women. To explore this avenue further, Stephen P. Hinshaw of the Department of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley recently led a study that acted as a follow-up to a previous examination of young girls with ADHD. Hinshaw looked at several hundred young adult women between the ages of 17 and 24 years old to determine how ADHD symptoms measured 10 years prior affected the women at their present age.
Hinshaw found that the girls with ADHD symptoms in childhood had higher rates of self-injurious behaviors and suicide attempts than those without. He also noted that girls with ADHD symptoms were more likely to experience comorbid mental health issues 10 years later than those without ADHD symptoms. Some of the problems that they encountered included substance misuse, risky behavior, eating and food problems, low self-esteem, and negative self-perceptions. While there are limitations to this study, including the possibility that ADHD symptoms overlap with symptoms of other mental health conditions or life circumstances, according to Hinshaw, “The overarching conclusion is that ADHD in girls portends continuing problems, through early adulthood, that are of substantial magnitude across multiple domains of symptomatology and functional impairment.”
Hinshaw, S. P., Owens, E. B., Zalecki, C., Huggins, S. P., Montenegro-Nevado, A. J., Schrodek, E., et al. (2012). Prospective follow-up of girls with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder into early adulthood: Continuing impairment includes elevated risk for suicide attempts and self-injury. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029451
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