9 ADHD Symptoms That Can Look Different in Girls

Updated: Mar. 17, 2022

People once thought of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder as a problem for little boys. Today, however, experts agree that girls are just as likely as boys to have ADHD, and that girls tend to display different ADHD symptoms that may be less noticeable to parents and teachers.

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Not as hyperactive

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that one of the classic symptoms of ADHD is trouble sitting still—check out these signs of ADHD in toddlers. But compared with boys, girls are less likely to have trouble with hyperactivity, according to Understood.org expert Mark Griffin, PhD. They’re not as likely to be fidgeting or moving their bodies all the time.

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Less impulsive

Girls are also less likely than boys to struggle with impulse control, says Griffin. Girls are less likely to get in trouble for doing impulsive things, like grabbing and taking things without asking.

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Less disruptive in school

Because girls with ADHD are less likely to be hyperactive and impulsive, they’re generally seen as less disruptive in school. “You could say that boys with ADHD frequently stand out more in the crowd than their female peers,” says Griffin. This may be one reason why ADHD in girls is often underdiagnosed.

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More distracted

An inability to focus is one of the key symptoms of ADHD. Boys and girls can both struggle to pay attention. But compared to boys, says Griffin, girls are more likely to seem like they’re daydreaming, withdrawn, or distracted when they’re in class.


More struggles with shame and self-esteem

Parents are all about building self-esteem in their children. Girls with ADHD often experience feelings of shame about their inability to focus or pay attention. They’re also more likely to blame themselves for their difficulties, which can severely impact their self-esteem.


Likely to feel isolated

Both boys and girls with ADHD often struggle with making friends. However, compared with boys, there can be more social pressures on girls to pay attention to their friends’ feelings and pick up on subtle social cues. When they fail to, it can cause social issues. Boys with ADHD also face social pressures, but often because of different expectations around being “tough.”

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Very emotional, hypersensitive

Most kids with ADHD struggle with emotional control. Strong emotions and ADHD often go together. However, girls may come across as more hypersensitive or overly emotional than boys.

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Nonstop talkers

Girls with ADHD are more likely to be chatty and miss the social cues that allow friends and family to interject, says Griffin. They may interrupt in conversations more, and they may have trouble knowing when talking is not appropriate.

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More likely to have depression and anxiety

Girls with ADHD are more likely than boys to struggle with depression and anxiety, especially when reaching puberty. Watch for these signs of childhood depression. Girls are also likely to strive for perfectionism by becoming hyperfocused. This often creates stress.