ADHD Research Shifts to Long-Neglected Girls
> 7/12/2006 9:36:35 AM

As many as seven million American children and adolescents suffer from varying degrees of attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder. Beyond the obvious behavioral problems and trademark annoyances caused by this condition, children with ADHD often have more trouble than most in dealing with issues of responsibility, organizational tasks, and pressured social situations. Research on the condition has long centered on males, who most often display its disruptive systems, but new information may help to dispel the commonly accepted images of ADHD patients as young boys who are unable to sit still and focus for extended periods, running on seemingly inexhaustible (and often unbearable) stores of misplaced energy.

Though four of five children diagnosed with ADHD are boys, a newly published study from the University of California at Berkeley focuses on girls with the condition, showing many of the same unfortunate results. Visible symptoms of hyperactivity and restlessness largely recede during adolescence, but the girls surveyed were predisposed to poor academic performance, emotional difficulties, and substance abuse in young adulthood. Some of the gender disparity in previous studies is due to differing symptoms among girls, many of whom do not display the uncontrollable hyperactivity which characterizes the disorder in the public eye. Among girls, the condition often manifests itself as boredom, disinterest, and impulsiveness, which can be wrongly dismissed as characteristics of a typical child or adolescent. Dr. Martin Stein, a professor of behavioral pediatrics at UC San Diego, comments on this divide among ADHD treatments and diagnoses:

Boys have what people generally think of as ADHD. They're overactive. They're getting up all the time in class. They're fidgety. They're inattentive. Some of these behaviors, like touching and talking to other kids, create behavioral problems or disorder in the classroom. So, they're more likely to come to the attention of teachers and parents earlier on. When a child has the inattentive type of ADHD, however, they are easily distracted. They daydream. They're disorganized. They are unfocused and have trouble with concentration, particularly during learning situations.

This essential research often suffered from public opinion which saw it as unneccessary, leaving many girls to face a problem not adequately addressed by mental health professionals. In a recent Washington Post article on the study, its lead author summed up his conclusions:

"Girls have a different way of relating and deserve study in their own right," he said, and should receive treatments that are not mere imitations of those boys receive. "This is not a short-term disorder."

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