Girls with ADHD. Depression is Treated Before ADHD is treated

Girls with ADHD are much more likely to be diagnosed and treated for depression than they are to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD. Recent evidence confirms that girls with ADHD are 5.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with major depression and three times more likely to be treated for depression before their ADHD symptoms are addressed or treated. Girls with ADHD also have a higher risk of substance abuse disorders and eating disorders than boys with ADHD.  According to a huge study done by the National Institutes of Health, "Boys had 2.1 times greater prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder than girls, girls had twofold higher rates of mood disorders than boys." There is an upside and a downside to these statistics.  I will give you the bad news first.

Girls with ADHD who are improperly diagnosed and treated will often be denied the classroom and lifestyle interventions that will immediately help them control their ADHD symptoms.  They will not be placed on appropriate medication and will often miss out on the appropriate medical interventions that would have controlled their ADHD symptoms.  This lack of medical care may only worsen their symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other co-morbidities.

The good news is that girls diagnosed and treated for depression will often see a reduction in their ADHD symptoms.  Studies indicate that when girls and women are treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, girls without conduct problems benefit at a greater rate than boys, whereas boys with conduct problems will benefit from stimulants with behavioral therapy.  Girls often see great reductions in symptoms of ADHD with behavioral therapy alone.  This is terrific news.  

Currently, mood disorders in adolescents and children are often treated with behavioral therapy first and medication only as a second option.  This is, for all practical purposes, the opposite pattern that the treatment for ADHD follows.  

Girls with ADHD are more likely to be Predominantly Inattentive and more likely to have coexisting depression or anxiety.  They are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD-PI and more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression.  They will be referred for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy because of a diagnosis of depression or anxiety but this treatment will help their symptoms of ADHD-PI or for that matter any other ADHD symptoms that they may have.  

It would be better for these girls if their diagnosis reflected a full view of their ADHD problem.  This does not seem to be in our foreseeable future so we must take what we can get.  If a girl with ADHD manages to receive treatment and defies the beliefs by some parents and teachers that girls simply do not benefit from any treatment for their mood and attention problems, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a good first step.  It would be better if these girls arrived at their Cognitive Behavioral Therapy appointments with an accurate diagnosis but unfortunately, beggars can't be choosers.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the new post!

    From what I know girls are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD-PI than boys (as in most ADHD boys are PH or C), but I think that the problems you've mentioned are common for all ADHD-PI and not only for girls.
    What is the difference between PI girls and PI boys?


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