I have 2, most likely 3, daughters with ADHD. I also have ADHD. One of my younger sisters has ADHD. In our family, ADHD symptoms hit pretty hard in the teen years. Keep reading to find out what ADHD in teenage girls looks like and what you can do if you suspect your daughter may have ADHD, or if you think you might be a teenage girl with ADHD.
Parenting girls with ADHD is something I’ve done for over 15 years, and although it isn’t easy, I found that by recognizing the symptoms of ADHD in teenage girls I was able to let go of a lot of the frustrations I was feeling as a parent and start to enjoy my kids for who they really are.
I hope my thoughts might help you build a stronger relationship with your teen daughter with ADHD, too!
What is ADHD in Teenage Girls?
ADHD in teenage girls looks a lot like ADHD in women. If you think you might be a teen girl with ADHD or that your teenage daughter has ADHD, speak with a medical professional for an evaluation. The information here is just my personal observations as a woman with ADHD and a parent of girls with ADHD.
Does My Teenage Daughter Have ADHD?
If you’ve spent any time on TikTok recently, you may have come across the neurodivergent side of the platform (we’re ADHDsupergirls over there, go follow us!). Thousands of teenage girls and adult women are reporting their struggles with ADHD, anxiety, autism, and other neurodivergencies that is really shedding a light on how inefficient and ineffective the current diagnostic criteria is for recognizing the symptoms of ADHD in girls.
That’s how many women over 30 just now getting diagnosed and realizing that their struggles aren’t because they couldn’t “handle life” or were “a mess” they just had untreated ADHD.
Even though clinicians and psychiatrists are catching up to the issue, it still hasn’t made its way fully into the classroom setting or some pediatricians’ offices.
My teenage daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD since the age of 9, but if she was evaluated now for the first time, she wouldn’t qualify for it based on the general symptoms tests at the pediatrician’s office because she doesn’t act like a hyper 6-year-old.
ADHD Symptoms in Teenage Girls
I am not a medical professional. I am just a mother to at least two daughters with ADHD (diagnosed by professionals- I have three daughters total, but the youngest is too young to diagnose).
I was recently diagnosed with ADHD as well. We are a neurodivergent family.
Anything that I say here is just what I’ve observed in my own family and learned through the process of getting a diagnosis for my daughters. If you suspect that your daughter or that you might have the signs of ADHD in girls, discuss with your family whether looking into speaking with a professional would make sense for you.
In some cases though, getting an official ADHD diagnosis as a teenage girl can be difficult.
Why is that?
By the time a girl is a teenager, they have already learned how to be socially acceptable. They are not going to present with the same symptoms as the third-grade boys who are bouncing off the walls and distracted by every noise in the classroom.
When my eldest was a young girl (she’s 15 now), she had some of the classic symptoms of ADHD in girls but she also had some of the symptoms of ADHD that boys often have (see ADHD symptoms in girls vs boys), which made it easier to recognize her ADHD.
She was hyperactive and impulsive, just like many boys with ADHD. But as she got older, her ADHD symptoms changed.
It’s important to think about your daughter’s entire life when you’re considering looking into an ADHD diagnosis so that you can have the correct information to present to the psychiatrist or doctor that you see.
Few teen girls look like they have ADHD, but you may still have it without any obvious signs.
So, what does ADHD look like in a teen girl with ADHD?
What Does ADHD Look Like in Teenage Girls?
Again, every person is different, and I am not a medical professional, but this is what ADHD looks like in my teen girls and what it looked like when I was a teenager:
- Trouble waking in the morning
- Struggles to stay motivated
- Usually has a messy room
- Anxiety about school and the future
- Feels immense pressure to perform
- Struggle staying on task
- Feels like a failure
- Easily convinced that they aren’t as smart as other kids
- Difficulties maintaining friendships
- Easily irritated
- Difficulty keeping up with assignments and deadlines
- Loses track of time
- Get called out for interrupting others
- Fidgets with hair, nails, teeth, jewelry, or other personal items
- Prone to daydreaming or struggles to pay attention to verbal instruction
- Get’s called “spacy” or other terms that mean distractible or hyper
- Has trouble settling down in a group setting
- Gets told they are lazy or “not trying hard enough”
- Gets told “you’re smart, you just need to focus/plan/follow through”
- Gets told she is “too much”
- Gets told she is “too emotional”
- Is often accused of overreacting
- Is easily frustrated
- May be ignored by peers
- May struggle to make friends
- May take longer to do assignments in school (but definitely not always)
- May not fit in with the “popular girls”
- Test anxiety or difficulty doing well on tests even when scoring high on day-to-day assignments
- Tends to procrastinate
- Forgets things often, even if it is something she must have every day
- Doodles or fidgets in class
- Says things without thinking them through
- May get in trouble for insulting others without meaning to
- Feels like she has to multitask all the time
- May zone in on one thing to the exclusion of everything else- meals/schedule/school/talking with other people/anything
- May place pressure on herself to be the best as she’s learned that’s one way to be accepted
Teenage Girl ADHD Symptoms
Have you ever read Anne of Green Gables?
Anne has the strongest case of ADHD in a teen girl that I’ve ever heard of.
- Anne is told she talks too much.
- Anne is distractible and forgets to do her chores properly
- Anne daydreams and is extremely imaginative.
- Anne is impulsive and gets into fights at school.
- Anne studies hard to excel in school, but also feels like she isn’t good enough.
- Anne struggles with anxiety and depression.
- Anne feels like she isn’t pretty enough.
- Anne is always getting into trouble with authority figures.
- Anne gets in trouble for acting impulsively.
- Anne tries really, really hard but still “fails” according to the people around her.
When I was a girl, I identified so hard with Anne, but getting a diagnosis wasn’t really a “thing” in my family, so I was never diagnosed.
But when my eldest daughter started to struggle, I knew we needed to do something different. So I researched symptoms and realized that she, and more than likely I, had ADHD.
How Do You Know if You Have ADHD as a Teenager?
No one can answer whether you might have ADHD except for a medical professional. But, if you feel like you try really hard, but are just “missing something” or “just don’t get it” and are feeling anxious and depressed because of it, and you have many of the symptoms listed in this article, it is a good idea to look into whether or not you might be a teenage girl with ADHD.
ADHD is a lifelong condition, and it doesn’t go away as we age.
Sometimes it can be really hard to get diagnosed with ADHD as a teen girl because you’ve learned how to hide your symptoms. They may only come out in times of extreme stress because you’ve had to learn how to control your symptoms so that they are less noticeable to others.
American society can be incredibly cruel to girls, and if you are neurodivergent in any way, the pressure becomes even more extreme because not only do you have to live up to the impossible expectations for being a “good girl” you also have to fight your natural neurodivergent symptoms so that you can appear normal and be accepted by society.
Without recognizing that you have ADHD as a female, you may go through life thinking that you are less capable or less able to handle life like other women can. This leads to the extremely high rates of anxiety and depression that go hand-in-hand with teenage girls with ADHD.
If you think you might be a teenage girl with ADHD, talk to the adults in your life and seek out professional diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.
But first, know that nothing about you is wrong.
How you are right now is acceptable and amazing.
You deserve love and acceptance and happiness regardless of whether you get an “official” diagnosis or not.