Girls with ADD and Self-Harming Behaviors

Girls with ADD and Self-Harming Behaviors
When you think of the face of Attention Deficit Disorder what do you see? Is it an active and talkative boy? Do you envision a girl staring dreamily into the distance? Most people think of boys, since they have ADD at about twice the rate of girls. However, Attention Deficit Disorder affects girls in ways that were not even thought of before recent research shined a light on the self-harming and suicidal thoughts of girls with combined type ADD.

This research was done at the University of California at Berkeley. It took place over a 10-year period with girls who were 6 to 12- years-old when the study began. The girls in the study were a racially mixed group from diverse economic strata. Some girls had combined type ADD. This is a type that has both inattention and hyperactivity. Other girls just had the inattentive type of ADD. The 140 girls who had ADD/ADHD were studied with a control group of 88 girls who did not have ADD. About 95% of all of the girls completed the 10 years of the study.

Since Attention Deficit Disorder can cause problems in the classroom, due to developmental delays, inattention, and hyperactivity, students with ADD are often behind their peers academically and socially. While boys often act out, girls tend to go within themselves, internalizing their difficulties. These problems can help mold a girl’s self-image. She can see herself as less competent and be filled with a feeling of hopelessness. These feelings can lead her into self-injurious behavior or suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

In the study, about 51 percent of girls with the combined type of ADD reported that they had tried harming themselves. This was more than twice the rate of girls without ADD/ADHD. These types of self-harm practiced by girls included cutting, burning, scratching or hitting themselves. Girls with the inattentive type of ADD had a rate of 29 percent of self-harming behaviors, which is significantly less than girls with the combined type.

Suicide attempts were reported in 6 percent of the girls without Attention Deficit Disorder and 10 percent of girls with the inattentive type of ADD. Girls with the combined type of ADD who admitted to at least one suicide attempt totaled 22 percent. For those who have a young girl with ADD in their lives, these statistics are horrifying.

This study should be a wake-up call for parents and educators. Girls with ADD are often ignored, since their behaviors tend to negatively impact their environment less than the boys’ behaviors. It’s easy to miss the desperation in a young girl who is sitting at her desk and staring off into space.

Early intervention needs to be the first line of defense against these feelings of inadequacy that are internalized by girls going into adulthood. If a girl has Attention Deficit Disorder, she needs treatment. If medication could help, make sure that she has the right medication at the correct dose. It could take some time and effort to do this, but it is important. Find a physician who specializes in working with kids who have ADD. If a doctor tells you, “She’ll grow out of it,” find another doctor. Behavioral therapy has been shown to be a very effective intervention when paired with medication. If your child could benefit from therapy, find a place that specializes in therapy for ADD. Many therapists have sliding scales for people who need financial help.

In addition to these interventions, you need to make sure that your child is not suffering in the school environment. That means that you need to be a strong advocate. Often this is an uncomfortable position to be in, but it is imperative that your daughter has support. Tutoring can help with learning disabilities. These learning disabilities in reading and math often come with ADD. Make sure that your child has the accommodations that she needs to be successful in school. Don’t wait until your child is in upper elementary school. By that time, her self-image as a learner has already been set.

Find an area of competence for your child. This is a hobby or activity that she enjoys doing. Encourage that activity. In addition to problems that ADD can cause in the classroom, it can confer persistence and energy that is helpful when it is focused on a prized activity. Find out what your young girl with ADD enjoys and provide the support that she needs to excel at that activity. Self-esteem can be tied to more than school, make sure that she has an area of joy and excitement in her life.

From the United States to India, South Africa to Australia, in the United Kingdom, and all around the world, our girls are suffering when their ADD is not adequately addressed by families, schools, and the health care community. Don’t let your beloved girl with Attention Deficit Disorder suffer. Look at the statistics and say, “Not my girl!” Make a plan to help her develop her strengths.

What do you think of these statistics? Let's discuss it in the BellaOnline ADD forum. See what others are saying and add your voice. Now, your turn!

Disclaimer: This article was not written by a medical professional. It is written to provide information and is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


The related links at the bottom of the page also have links to more information.

University of California - Berkeley (2012, August 14). Girls with ADHD more prone to self-injury, suicide as they enter adulthood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 15, 2012, from

American Psychological Association (APA) (2012, August 14). Girls with ADHD at risk for self-injury, suicide attempts as young adults.ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 15, 2012, from
Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

You Should Also Read:
Parenting Children with Attention Deficit Disorder
School Success with ADD
ADD Medication for Children

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