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By GreatSchools Staff
At least one research study found the brains of boys with AD/HD showed significant shape and volume differences compared to boys without AD/HD. The size and shape variations suggest that AD/HD in boys affects brain circuits that control basic motor responses, such as "hitting the brakes" or supressing impulsive actions. These variations were not evident in the brains of girls with AD/HD, which may account for the way AD/HD plays out in boys versus girls. Also, a study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that girls with AD/HD have greater control over their physical movements than do boys of the same age with AD/HD, possibly because girls' brains mature earlier.
AD/HD is often hard to detect in girls until they reach puberty and hormone changes can cause dramatic mood swings and disruptive behavior. A girl who has kept her AD/HD hidden until puberty may appear to "erupt" suddenly when female hormones flood her body. Because the current criteria for AD/HD state symptoms must be present before age 7, many doctors dismiss the possibility of AD/HD in girls whose symptoms don't appear until puberty. (By contrast, hyperactive/impulsive boys who've been treated for AD/HD since their early years often calm down when they reach puberty. For them, hyperactivity mellows into restlessness.)
Teenage girls with AD/HD appear to be at greater risk for eating disorders than their non-affected peers. Girls with the combined type of AD/HD (both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity) seem more likely to develop bulimia than girls who have the inattentive type of AD/HD. But, studies show, both groups of girls are likely to be overweight and to suffer from rejection and low self-esteem. There is also a concern that girls taking stimulant medication for AD/HD might abuse the drugs to suppress their appetite and lose weight.
Girls whose AD/HD isn't diagnosed and treated by the time they reach puberty are at risk for developing other psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression. This is understandable, since many girls have spent their lives suffering, struggling, and blaming themselves for poor academic performance and peer rejection. As girls mature, they tend to internalize their feelings, making their struggle less noticeable to adults who might help them. Adolescent girls who don't receive help for AD/HD and co-existing psychological problems are at high risk for addictive behaviors, such as over-eating, smoking, alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity.
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