ADHD – or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – is a chronic mental condition which causes disruptive behaviours and is usually diagnosed in childhood. Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty focusing, sitting still, and staying organised. There are various levels of severity of ADHD and many different treatment options. Recently, doctors have determined that there are important differences in how ADHD commonly presents itself in boys and girls.

In girls, ADHD can often show up as being withdrawn, inattentiveness or the tendency to ‘daydream’ or ‘space out’, trouble focusing, appearing not to listen, low self-esteem, difficulty with academic achievement, and verbal aggression. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD in their 30s or 40s, often after their child has been diagnosed. Women with the condition often have issues with depression and anxiety, as well as panic similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. By adulthood, men and women receive ADHD diagnoses at nearly equal proportions.

In boys, ADHD often presents as hyperactivity, running, hitting, physical aggression, inability to sit, excessive talking, impulsivity, and interrupting activities or conversations. Since these behaviours are more likely to cause disruptions at school, boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed in childhood. However, the reverse symptoms can also be exhibited. Most girls who present with the hyperactivity symptoms are diagnosed and treated, while girls and boys with  inattentive symptoms often go undiagnosed and without help.

As a parent or teacher, it’s important to watch out for all of these signs. If a child suddenly begins to exhibit these characteristics, it could be a signal that something has changed in the home or school environment, and could also be a signal that abuse has occurred. We must be mindful that ADHD is overly diagnosed in many Western countries and try to understand the root of the problem. If you suspect your child has ADHD, it’s important to take them to your doctor or specialist for an evaluation. Getting an early diagnosis and treatment can improve symptoms and limit other disorders from developing later in life.

According to research, ADHD persists from childhood to adulthood in 50 to 66% of cases. Treating ADHD is not only about medication. In children, studies show that daily outdoor play can reduce symptoms, as well as sticking to a consistent bedtime. Good nutrition, social skills training, and behavioral therapy also play a big part in treatment.

For more information, please get in touch with the International Centre of Cognitive Development in District 2. Ph: +84 0965 729 346. Email: ICCD.hcmc@gmail.com

Shannon Brown works in international education in Ho Chi Minh City and has a background in social work, public heath, and early childhood education.