ADHD Research Shifts to Long-Neglected Girls
> 7/12/2006 10:46:42 AM

As many asseven million American children and adolescents suffer from varyingdegrees of attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder. Beyond theobvious behavioral problems and trademark annoyances caused by thiscondition, children with ADHD often have more trouble than most indealing with issues of responsibility, organizational tasks, andpressured social situations. Research on the condition has longcentered on males, who most often display its disruptive systems, butnew information may help to dispel the commonly accepted images of ADHDpatients as young boys who are unable to sit still and focus forextended periods, running on seemingly inexhaustible (and oftenunbearable) stores of misplaced energy.

Though four of five children diagnosed with ADHD are boys, a newly published study from the University of California at Berkeleyfocuses on girls with the condition, showing many of the sameunfortunate results. Visible symptoms of hyperactivity and restlessnesslargely recede during adolescence, but the girls surveyed werepredisposed to poor academic performance, emotional difficulties, andsubstance abuse in young adulthood. Some of the gender disparity inprevious studies is due to differing symptoms among girls, many of whomdo not display the uncontrollable hyperactivity which characterizes thedisorder in the public eye. Among girls, the condition often manifestsitself as boredom, disinterest, and impulsiveness, which can be wronglydismissed 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:

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

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

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

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