Girls with ADHD at Increased Risk for Mental Health Disorders

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) comes with a host of challenges, including difficulty concentrating, procrastination, disorganization, and restlessness. A new study shows that, for girls, ADHD can be even more problematic.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that girls with ADHD are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse issues and other psychiatric problems by the time they become adults.

The study followed nearly 200 girls ages 6 to 18 for a period of 11 years. Those girls with ADHD were more likely to develop symptoms of the above disorders than girls without ADHD:

  • By age 30, more than three-quarters of girls with ADHD suffered depression
  • More than three-quarters had symptoms of anxiety disorder
  • Nearly two-thirds had problems with drugs or alcohol

While the reaction of many parents may be to put their daughters on ADHD medication, such as Ritalin or Adderall, there is not sufficient evidence to show that the drugs will prevent the other disorders from arising. A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics suggested that children treated with ADHD medications were less likely to develop depression or anxiety disorders, but there is no determinative correlation between the two.

Instead, parents of girls with ADHD should be aware that their daughters may have or could develop a disorder such as depression, anxiety, disordered eating or substance abuse. Parents should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of these disorders and be alert for any of the symptoms in their daughter.

Treating ADHD

Treating ADHD does not always mean putting children on prescription medication. Many of the symptoms of ADHD can be handled without the use of drugs.

Children with ADHD often do well with behavioral therapy, which can increase a child’s coping skills while changing negative behaviors. This type of therapy models behavior by encouraging appropriate behavior with positive praise or rewards and negatively reinforcing undesirable behaviors through consequences.

Through behavioral therapy, parents can help their children by doing the following:

  • Establishing routines
  • Communicating expectations
  • Practicing appropriate behaviors
  • Identifying and modifying unwanted behaviors
  • Modeling more effective interactions

Parenting-skills training can also be effective for parents of children with ADHD. The training can help parents learn ways to deal with their children’s behavioral problems so that they can better function on a daily basis.

For those children and teens who are struggling with ADHD and are unable to manage the disorder on their own, it may be worthwhile for parents to enroll their children at a boarding school or summer camp that specializes in children and teens with ADHD. In these environments, adolescents can receive individualized counseling in a supportive environment that allows them to experience change and growth.

A private ADHD boarding school or ADHD summer camp for children and teens can also address any other issues a child is experiencing, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

While it may not always be easy to diagnose and treat, ignoring your daughter’s ADHD can lead to problems at school, social isolation, depression, increased anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. If you suspect your daughter has ADHD, spend some time learning about the disorder and get needed treatment so that your child can live a more productive life.

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