Even though I come from a family of ADHDers, parenting girls with ADHD is still not easy. Almost all of my siblings have come to realize that we have some level of ADHD. However, since most of us were homeschooled from the beginning, our hidden ADHD behavior was never formally identified.
My eldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 9. My middle daughter (age 7) is currently being evaluated for ADHD.
We’ve had to spend a lot of time and expense our daughters diagnosed because “girls can’t have ADHD.”
Wow, is that so wrong.
It turns out, ADHD is often undetected in girls.
Previously, I wrote a list of signs of ADHD in girls, but today, I wanted to share some hidden ADHD behavior you might be missing in your daughters.
This information comes from personal observations I’ve made watching my own family, so it might not be true for everyone. If you suspect any of your girls might have ADHD, talk about it with a qualified mental healthcare professional.
9 Symptoms of Hidden ADHD Behavior in Girls
If your daughter shows the following symptoms, they just might be exhibiting classic ADHD behavior without you realizing it.
Your Daughter Always Gets Caught
You know these girls. These girls have what seems like the worst luck.
Your daughter might just be doing what all the other kids are doing, but the adult in charge always catches them, or the thing always breaks when they use it, or something always goes wrong.
I’m not sure why this typically happens to girls with ADHD, but it almost always seems to.
Growing up, I was getting into trouble for doing exactly what all the other kids did. My daughters are the same way. They can be doing nothing different from other kids in a group, and yet, they are always called out for being the troublemaker.
Conversations with Your Daughter are All Over the Place
People with ADHD are the worst at telling a story.
We often forget what we are trying to say mid-sentence, or think of something relevant that we forgot to say earlier, or completely lose track of an entire conversation string.
One of my favorite aspects of ADHD behavior in conversation is how we’ll suddenly remember what we meant to say in an earlier conversation, but interrupt the current conversation to say it.
The conversation might go like this:
First topic was worst weather encounters. The ADHD person starts telling her story, but probably can’t remember the details. The listener usually gives up listening (people can be rude).
The conversation moves on to sports.
Half-way through a sentence, the ADHD person will butt into the conversation saying, “It was really cold that Thursday!”
The other people in the conversation are thinking,
“What on earth does this have to do with sports?”
But, the ADHD person is filling in details she forgot from the previous conversation.
The funniest thing about this style of conversation is that in our family, it was totally normal.
I come from a family with nine members. Probably seven of us (if not all nine) have ADHD.
Our conversations growing up were chaotic, to say the least. We would usually have about five or six conversations going at a time, cutting in and out randomly between topics the entire time.
Friends who would visit us would say they felt exhausted after visiting our house and trying to talk to us.
Your Daughter Might Do One Thing for Hours
One of the hidden signs of ADHD is hyperfocus.
There have been several theories about how this can be a symptom of an attention disorder, but the theory that makes sense to me is that once you find something that does hold your attention, you just want to keep doing it.
Feeling distracted all the time doesn’t really feel good for the girl with ADHD either, so we like being able to focus “normally” on something, even though in the end, it’s not normal.
I didn’t really think I had ADHD when I was a kid because I was able to sit and read books for several hours at a time.
But in school, I was the most fidgety, doodle-writing, whispering, and anxious child.
My girls both have things that they will focus on for hours without looking up or getting up (even for eating or using the bathroom). They both love video games and will often play them for hours without even blinking (at least that’s what it looks like).
Your Daughter Has a Fidgety Habit
I come from a long line of fingernail biters. I constantly pick at my fingers and lips. One of my brothers always jiggled his legs constantly. My eldest daughter used to stand on her head all the time. Now, as a teen, she dances. Constantly.
My middle daughter is always chewing on things. Fingers, pencils, toys, jewelry, you name it. She also spins in circles and will flip upside down.
Even if your child doesn’t run all over the place, these small fidgety habits can be a sign of ADHD behavior.
Your Daughter Always Interrupts
A hallmark of ADHD behavior is the inability to wait (for the impulsive type. There are three official types).
I think the reason we tend to interrupt is because once we get a thought, we have a hard time holding on to it. So, we blurt it out as soon as we think of it.
If your daughter is a chronic interrupters (past the preschool years, especially), it just might be a hidden sign of ADHD.
Your Daughter’s Room is a Disaster
A classic sign of ADHD behavior is a chronically messy room.
This isn’t the kind of “organized chaos” that many kids claim to have where they “know” where everything is. This is true disorder.
Your daughter can’t remember where anything is and usually spends a large portion of time searching for things in her messy room.
The ADHD girl will not remember to put her shoes away and will lay something down and never remember where she put it. Even after cleaning, she won’t remember where she stored something.
Your Daughter Might be Uncommonly Emotional
Children with ADHD, both girls and boys alike, are more sensitive.
My girls take this to such an extreme that I have to compliment both of them with the same compliments, or else they take it as an insult.
Telling one daughter, “You put a lot of effort into that!” is read by another as, “You didn’t put any effort into that.”
Little things can be the end of the world, but exciting things can also be the end of the world and cause headaches, stomachaches, and panic attacks. Anxiety and ADHD in girls also go hand-in-hand, although it’s not always listed as a “common” ADHD symptom.
Your Daughter Might Have Trouble with Friendships
I call this the “instant best friend” syndrome. Girls with ADHD typically try to race through the stages of friendship getting to “best friends” status as quickly as possible.
This often makes other kids uncomfortable, so the ADHD girl is labeled “weird,” which makes it harder to make friends.
Because of this, some older girls with ADHD might take things to the other extreme and never make an effort to make new friends so they won’t be hurt by unrequited friendship.
You might hear your daughter talk about the dozens of best friends that she has, or that she has no friends at all.
My ADHD teen daughter is currently in a “I don’t need friends” stage. She faces a lot of light bullying at school (mean teasing and name-calling) and her response has been to give up on trying to make new friends. She clings to the few friends she has, but is extremely wary of new people.
My 7 year-old loves “collecting” friends. Anyone she meets is a best friend, and she will excitedly tell you how many friends she has (the current number is 12). But, she is often ignored by most of the students in the class, and she struggles to make friends with the girls in her class.
Your Daughter is a Perfectionist
Perfectionism can arrive in several forms and is a classic sign of ADHD behavior.
The form I’ve seen the most in my ADHD girls is, “I need to be able to do this perfectly the very first time I try.”
If the girl with ADHD can’t do it right the first time (as is usually the case), she will get frustrated, upset, and usually not try again.
This is why my kids often struggle with new concepts in school. They want to get it perfect the first time and decide that they are “stupid” if they can’t.
Unreasonable self-expectations are a hallmark sign of ADHD in girls, and can lead to a huge variety of problems with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and reckless behavior.
Your Daughter Might be Unusually Defiant
Some girls with ADHD also struggle with mood disorders like DMDD or ODD. Basically, this means that a girl responds unusually strongly to figures of authority. She may be rude, refuse to do as she’s told, or over-react to sort of correction.
This alone isn’t a symptom of ADHD, but when combined with the other unusual symptoms of ADHD in girls from this list, it’s worth a talk to a professional.
What to Do If You Notice these Hidden ADHD Behaviors in Girls
If your daughter is exhibiting any of these hidden ADHD behaviors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she has ADHD. Most healthcare professionals state that a girl must be exhibiting these symptoms for at least 6 months to a year before she can start the diagnosis process.
Because many of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD are based on boys, it can be a struggle to diagnose a girl with ADHD. But if you do suspect that your daughter might be struggling with ADHD, don’t wait to get help.
The side effects of undiagnosed ADHD in girls are extreme and dangerous. The sooner a girl gets help, the better off she will be.