When teenage girls have ADHD, it can more difficult to spot the signs than it is to notice symptoms in boys. While boys with ADHD tend to have a lot of noticeable behavior problems, girls with ADHD have trouble focusing and completing tasks. Since these symptoms are harder to detect than outward behavior problems, ADHD can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for the following reasons:
- Girls often fall into the harder to diagnose category of “primarily inattentive type”
- Girls work typically work harder to hide academic difficulties and conform to teacher expectations
- Girls are often misdiagnosed as anxious and/or depressed
- Girls who are especially intelligent can mask their ADHD for much longer
Challenges for Teenage Girls with ADHD
The following challenges can also happen for girls without ADHD, but these issues are more intense and more frequent among girls who experience an attention disorder.
Girls who have ADHD can experience social deficits as early as preschool, but the most difficult time typically happens during adolescence. During this stage of life, girls separate from family and their social life takes on greater meaning. Many women with ADHD recall feeling “different” from other girls as they grew up. Their need for peer acceptance during high school is intense and may lead to dangerous or self-destructive behavior in an effort to belong.
Family support and acceptance are important, but it can’t counteract the damage that is done when teenagers are rejected by their peer group. Girls with ADHD may develop low self-esteem in high school that will last into adult life.
Inability to meet social and academic expectations
Teenage years are naturally full of self-doubts, but the special challenges of ADHD can greatly intensify those feelings. Girls are stereotypically encouraged to be neat, feminine, passive, controlled, carefully groomed, sensitive to others’ feelings and compliant with adults. These expectations are often completely contradictory of the ADHD tendencies many girls have. A teenage girl with ADHD might respond anxiously and even obsessively to the expectation that she be well groomed and tidy, while also being unable to organize her room or her life to meet those expectations. High school is also the time of life where grades and academic performance starts to matter. As ADHD can make it extremely difficult to focus in school and perform sufficiently, your daughter might be overwhelmingly worried about never making it to college.
Since social pressure is so intense during adolescence, it can cause girls with ADHD to feel despair when they don’t fit in. Depression often begins during the high-stress teen years and can last into adulthood when untreated. However, depression is easier to recognize and many girls will be treated for depression before they are ever diagnosed with ADHD.
Teenage girls with ADHD may be at a greater risk for pregnancy than other girls. Girls who struggle with low self-esteem, including those with ADHD, often seek affirmation through the sexual attention of boys to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. Difficulties with impulse control, poor planning ability and inconsistency all make these girls prone to having unprotected sex and/or having multiple partners.
How Can You Help?
If you think your daughter has ADHD, find a doctor who is experienced in diagnosing it. Talk to your child’s pediatrician first if you need direction on where to go next. At the CERTS Group, we can help your daughter cope with the effects of ADHD, depression and anxiety through residential treatment programs. Our programs have a structure based upon Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) while combining traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies (equine assisted psychotherapy, art therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, etc.) to achieve a resilient, more influential change. Contact us to learn more.
We all know that teenagers are known for being moody, rebellious, egocentric and emotional. This is just normal adolescent behavior. However, major depression is a common mental disorder that affects an estimated 3 million American adolescents between ages 12 and 17. There are various reasons why a teenager will develop depression, these include:
Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of the brain and body. When these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and systems can change, leading to depression.
Teenagers experience rapid hormonal changes, which have been shown to cause or trigger depression.
Depression is more common in teenagers whose blood relatives also have the condition.
Early childhood trauma
Traumatic events during childhood, like physical or emotional abuse or the loss of a close family member may cause changes in the brain that make a teen more prone to depression.
Learned patterns of negative thinking
Teen depression can be linked to learning to feel helpless, rather than learning to feel capable of finding solutions to life’s challenges.
Know the symptoms
Moodiness isn’t the same as depression, so how do you tell the difference between normal teenage mood swings and depression? Pay attention to whether or not there’s been a real change in the functioning of your child’s behavior. Notice changes in appetite and sleep, poor school performance, an inability to concentrate, lack of interest and withdrawal from regular social activities. Also look for irritability and agitation in your teen. If the depression lasts longer than two or three weeks, you should really pay close attention.
Be aware of comorbidity
It’s rare for a teen to solely struggle with depression. These symptoms are always part of a bigger picture. Depression and anxiety often come hand-in-hand, and this combination can lead to coping mechanisms like self-harm, eating disorders and substance abuse.
Depression is treatable
Many think that depression and its coexisting problems are difficult to treat, but with the right kind of therapy, mild to moderate depression can handled. The CERTS Group’s residential treatment programs are specifically designed to treat depression and the self-destructive behaviors that result from it. These programs provide intimate therapy sessions and individually-tailored programs to treat your teenage daughter’s specific behaviors.
If you’re worried that your teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, you know how difficult it is to even cope with the idea, let alone receive confirmation. It can be challenging to notice signs and symptoms of substance abuse in your teen, as these signs are often similar to normal adolescent behavior or mental health issues.
If your child demonstrates several of the symptoms listed below, we strongly recommend that you contact us for a professional assessment. Getting an assessment will help to find out what is really going on as well as make sure your teen is going to be safe and healthy in the future. Your child’s well-being is the most important thing to you, and to us, so we believe it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
The symptoms below are typical signs of drug abuse in teenagers, taken from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ website:
- Messy, lack of caring about appearance
- Bad hygiene
- Red, flushed cheeks or face
- Track marks on arms or legs, or wearing long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks
- Burns or soot on fingers
- Clenching teeth
- Smell of smoke or other unusual smells on breath or clothes
- Chewing gum or mints often to cover smells
- Heavy use of over-the-counter drugs to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation or bad breath
- Breaking curfew often
- Cash flow problems
- Reckless driving
- Avoiding eye contact
- Locked doors
- Going out every night
- Secretive phone calls
- Sudden appetite or “munchies”
- Change in relationships with family members or friends
- Loss of inhibitions
- Mood changes or emotional instability
- Loud, annoying behavior
- Laughing at nothing
- Clumsy, stumbling, lack of coordination, poor balance
- Sullen, withdrawn, depressed
- Extremely tired
- Uncommunicative or silent
- Hostile, angry, uncooperative
- Secretive or deceitful
- Endless excuses
- Decreased motivation
- Lethargic movement
- Unable to speak, slurred or rapid speech
- Inability to focus
- Unusually elated
- Sleeplessness or high energy periods, followed by long periods of sleep
- Disappearing for long periods of time
Academic or Work-Related Issues
- Runny nose that isn’t caused by allergies or a cold
- Frequently sick
- Sores, spots around mouth
- Wetting lips or excessive thirst
- Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
- Skin abrasions/bruises
- Accidents or injuries
Home or Car-Related Problems
- Prescription drugs disappearing
- Missing alcohol or cigarettes
- Disappearance of money or valuables
- Smell in the car, or bottles, pipes or bongs on the floor or in glove box
- Appearance of unusual containers or wrappers, or seeds left on surfaces used to clean marijuana
- Appearance of unusual drug apparatuses, like pipes, rolling papers, small medicine bottles, eye drops, butane lighters or makeshift smoking devices, like bongs made from toilet paper rolls and aluminum foil
- Hidden alcohol stashes
How Can Residential Treatment Help My Teenage Daughter?
Residential treatment from the CERTS Group is an intensive level of care that combines 24/7 staffing, experiential therapies specific to overcoming addiction, individual therapy, group therapy and fully accredited education. This treatment is ideal for a young person engaging in dangerous, drug-related behavior, or someone who needs a high level of support for mental or behavioral issues. If you want a more detailed assessment of your child’s situation, call us now at 1-888-406-5968.