Does Puberty Affect ADHD in Girls?

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Question: Does Puberty Affect ADHD in Girls?

"My daughter has ADHD and I am wondering if puberty affects ADHD in girls in any way. She seems to be having a harder time now and is so much more dramatic and emotional about even the littlest of things. Does puberty affect ADHD in girls?" 


Yes, girls with ADHD may indeed experience increased challenges with the onset of puberty. Puberty is a time of great change in a girl's life as she begins the transition from childhood into adolescence and toward becoming a woman.

Her body is growing and developing both physically and sexually and she may experience a wide range of emotions that go along with the biological, cognitive, and social changes that are taking place. Your daughter may feel that she is on an emotional roller coaster and as a parent you may be on the receiving end of her moodiness and emotional volatility as she sorts out the issues and internal confusion that her developing body and mind and changing social relationships can bring about.

Understanding How Puberty Can Affect Girls with ADHD

Unfortunately, for a girl with ADHD the changes and transitions of puberty can be further complicated by the ADHD itself. Kids with ADHD tend to lag behind their peers (who do not have ADHD) in terms of emotional maturity. This means that for both boys and girls with ADHD -- though their bodies are growing and developing physically similarly to their peers -- they are having to deal with all the changes puberty brings about at a "younger" emotional level.

To top it off, the hormonal changes and fluctuations associated with puberty can bring about an escalation or a worsening of ADHD symptoms. These hormonal changes may cause mood and behavioral difficulties. Many girls with ADHD become more over-reactive emotionally and hyper-irritable, and may have problematic mood swings, anxiety, and even feelings of panic.

Sleep problems may increase and sometimes girls with ADHD struggle even more and more during puberty with difficulties of distractibility, inattention, disorganization and feeling overwhelmed. All this can lead to increased self-consciousness and feelings of inadequacy. Self-esteem may plummet as a girl begins to internalize negative thoughts about herself.

In addition, it is helpful to be aware that the hormone fluctuations that occur throughout a female's menstrual cycle can also worsen symptoms of ADHD. Girls with ADHD also tend to have more problems with PMS symptoms, as well, which can further compound the problem.

If these issues are a concern, be sure to talk with your child's doctor. Just being aware of the effect puberty can have on your daughter is important. When you understand this, you can consciously be more sensitive and proactive in helping your daughter navigate and overcome these challenges and develop positive coping skills that will help her throughout her life.

There are some wonderful books that can be a help, as well. Attention Girls! A Guide to Learn All About Your ADHD by Patricia O. Quinn, M.D., is geared towards girls age 8 to 13 and is a great resource to help girls better understand their own ADHD.

Dr. Quinn has another book called 100 Questions & Answers About ADHD in Women and Girls. She is also co-author with Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D., and Ellen B. Littman, Ph.D., of Understanding Girls with AD/HD. These are three information-packed books that I highly recommend.


Kathleen Nadeau, Ellen Littman, and Patricia Quinn. Understanding Girls with AD/HD. Advantage Books, 2002.

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