ADHD in Teen Girls, as Experienced By a Teen Girl

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In the three years since our family’s first ADHD diagnosis, we’ve had to educate ourselves about ADHD in teen girls (since we have two in our house). Working with our family doctor and mental health professionals to come up with an effective treatment plan has been almost like having a second job! 

Jenn and daughter Rook on the sidelines supporting siblings at a competition.

Undiagnosed ADHD in four of our eight family members had a huge impact on our family life. As parents of tween girls, finding out that our two oldest daughters had ADHD answered a lot of questions for us. 

@dinkumtribe ADHD family assessment: how we got our diagnoses. #adhdfamilyissues #adhdfamilies #adhdfamilylife #adhdfamilies #familywithadhd #adhdassessmentprogress #adhdisasuperpower #adhdparentquestions #adhdparenthack #adhdparentingproblems #adhdvlog #adhdparentsofadhdkids ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe

ADHD in Teen Girls: Not So Obvious

Rook hard at work on school with her crochet project next to her.
Rook is an excellent student, so it might be easy to think she doesn’t have ADHD.

**Note: the facts listed below were gathered from multiple sources and references. I have included several links to articles as a starting point for those who may wish to research further. I am not a medical professional, and the statements in this post should not be construed as medical or professional advice/ information. We are sharing our family’s experience in the hope that others will find it helpful.

The signs had been there since early childhood, but in young children it’s very easy to dismiss them as immaturity. Even teen girls with ADHD are hugely under-diagnosed as compared to teen boys, and the disparity continues with adult women and adult men.

This is a major problem! Young people with untreated ADHD are at a much greater risk of drug abuse and engaging in risky behaviors. Other mental health conditions (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder) frequently occur in ADHD teens, and their academic performance can suffer greatly as well. 

Girl in flower field
Rook at age 9

Rook’s story

Our oldest daughter, Rook, received her diagnosis of ADHD when she was in middle school. She has done an impressive job of educating herself about how her ADHD impacts her daily activities. She continues to advocate for herself and other ADHD teens in her peer group. 

Since early ADHD treatment is so crucial to success, I asked Rook if she would be willing to share her experience. She has a heart for other teenage girls to find the right help for their ADHD as early as possible. Here’s her experience with ADHD symptoms.

Girl with photo frame.

ADHD In Teen Girls, by Rook Dinkum

“Hello, fellow human beings, it’s Rook again!

Welcome to my post on what it’s like to have ADHD as a teenage girl. Let me start by introducing you to my universe. 

I have had ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, for the entirety of my 15 and ¾ years of living. I am going to begin this post by doing what any good ADHDer who has thoroughly researched their brain would do, which is to immediately take issue with the way that our entire way of life is described. 

Our oldest daughter grins in front of a giant dinosaur at Prehistoric Gardens in Oregon.

A Disorder?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is possibly the worst name you could have for this! 

First off on the list of all of the reasons why this is a messed up title is the word disorder. (I put this in italics because my dad says we shouldn’t yell on posts, so if you are reading this, please understand it’s that way because I can’t even fully express the disgust and hatred I have for this title). 

ADHD is not and has never been a disorder. That makes it sound like there’s something wrong with you, which is messed up. If you heard someone say, “You have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” with absolutely no knowledge as to what that was, I am 99.99% sure you would freak out and wonder what horrible disease you have.

Different, not less

Girl writing at table. Selective attention is often a symptom of ADHD in teen girls.

ADHD is a neurological difference. Basically, what that means is, our brains are designed completely differently. They have the same basic outer appearance (aka it looks like a brain), but they work in entirely different ways. This is not a disorder. It is a big difference

Secondly, anyone who has ADHD will tell you that “attention deficit disorder” is incorrect. We don’t lack focus and attention. We lack the ability to control that focus and attention.

The challenge of attention

The ADHD brain is designed for stimulation. We run on it– it’s the power source of how our brain does anything. We can’t focus unless something is interesting to us. 

@dinkumtribe Replying to @girlthatsaws i can virtually guarantee you will never be bored if you live with an ADHDer! #adhdfamilies #adhdparenting#adhdproblems#adhdfamilylife #adhdfactoftheday #adhdemployee #adhdinfo #adhdingiftedkids #adhdstruggle #adhdinwomenandgirls #adhdinformation #adhdlearningaboutadhd #marriedadhd #adhdmarriageandrelationships #adhdspouse #adhdmarriage ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel

If something is interesting to us, we focus like nobody’s business, even sometimes getting so lost in it that we cannot un-focus. This is known as hyperfocus. For people with relatively normal brains, it’s known as flow, and is apparently a lot harder for them to get into. 

This also drives us and non-ADHDers who work with us insane! 

“So you can focus on this random book for an entire week, but you can’t even finish folding an entire load of laundry?”

Rook petting our black Labrador dog.
Our black Labrador dog provides great emotional support for our kids

These types of issues cause a lot of trauma for ADHDers because not only do others judge us and are embarrassed by this, we have the exact same thoughts and opinions of ourselves. We can’t even explain why we can’t focus like other people, because we don’t know why! Generally it causes us a lot of pain, and low self-esteem.

ADHD symptoms

Most people think ADHD just means that you can’t focus and you bounce around like a 5-year-old on a sugar high 100% of the time. But why don’t I tell you about the other signs of ADHD and the specific ADHD types?

Our oldest daughter gasps in excitement in front of the Hela movie costume from the Thor: Ragnarok movie
Super excited about the Marvel movie costumes at OMSI!

Almost anyone who has ADHD or works with an ADHDer knows the three main symptoms of ADHD. Every book mentions them, and they’re the clear things that almost everyone explains ADHD with. These three symptoms are: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness

1. Impulsive Behavior

Let’s start with impulsivity, because I feel like most people focus on the other two more. 

@dinkumtribe ADHD family stress: emotional intensity #adhdfamilylife #adhdemotionalregulation #adhdemotions #adhdemotional #adhdkiddos #adhdfamilyissues #adhdfamilytravel #adhdfamilies #adhdparentquestions #adhdparenthack #adhdparentingproblems #adhdingiftedkids #adhdgirlsandwomen ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe

Impulsivity is often the bane of every ADHDer’s existence. There are times when impulsive behavior is helpful (all of which have slipped my mind at this moment). However I’d say most ADHDers will have had at least one time where they either verbally or mentally cried “Why don’t I ever think before I speak/act?!?!” 

Mood Swings

A lot of us ADHDers have incredibly strong emotions. We’re either at the top of the world, “hallelujah-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music,” or we’re “the-universe-is-a-terrible-place-leave-me-alone-to-die”. 

Mood swings are a common symptom of ADHD in teen girls.

Unfortunately, these mood swings are a blessing and a curse. We have a great deal of trouble controlling them, and keeping them from affecting our decision making and consequential actions. 

When we have strong emotions, our impulsivity shines through like sunshine on a desert! These are the common things that cause us to end up in our room either destroying a pillow or crying out to the universe asking why we always do stupid things.

ADHD impulsivity in the early years

When I was little, I was told that no matter what I did, every action I took was a decision I made, even just a split-second decision (*ahem ahem hitting my sister ahem ahem*). Although that’s true, impulsive behavior takes a lot of time to slow down. 

@dinkumtribe Replying to @yourlocaldumbass1369 how to handle it when your ADHD kid claims to have accidentally injured another child. #adhdfamilies #adhdparenting#adhdproblems#adhdfamilylife #adhdfactoftheday #adhdemployee #adhdinfo #adhdingiftedkids #adhdstruggle #adhdinwomenandgirls #adhdinformation #adhdlearningaboutadhd #momsofadhdkids #adhdimpulse #adhdimpulsivity ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel

In younger children (ages 1-7), their impulsivity is in their body. They automatically make decisions and react. Yes, those reactions are sometimes wrong, and should be brought under control. However, it takes time for the impulsivity to separate itself from fully being ingrained in your brain (speaking from experience). 

Girl jumping into leaf pile. Impulsivity is a common sign of ADHD in teen girls.

When Does Impulsive Behavior Improve?

I would say that at around ages 8-12 you learn to control it more easily because your brain has developed more. You also have more experience to go off of as an older girl (eg. I shouldn’t hit my sister because I’ll get in trouble and that’s not fun). Your impulsivity doesn’t always control your actions anymore.


Surprisingly, impulsive behavior might be behind ADHDers getting distracted. Just the little thing of “I should do this;” or “Oh this looks interesting!”; or “Oh shoot! I forgot!” and we’re on a literal wild goose chase. 

Boy chasing goose.
Boy chasing goose

From my ADHD experience, it makes plenty of sense! Impulsivity, combined with distractibility, and the current task’s utter lack of intrigue, and boom! What math assignment

Creativity gone wild

Another way distractibility appears is in the form of new projects (before we’ve even finished the 79 others we were working on). We are creative, innovative people! 

So we might, for instance, watch a Wild Kratts episode on the spider’s silk, hear that they haven’t found out how to properly synthesize it, and make an entire intricate model out of green and pink yarn on our bulletin board because we’ve decided we’ll “figure out the secret of the spider’s silk!”, without even checking to see how recent the video was! 

Spider web with dewdrops on it.

(As a note, that was me at 13 or so. Our cat, Blaze, destroyed the model and my bulletin board. Appaloosa continues to tease me about it to this day.) 

This is still a problem for me, as my entire bedroom testifies to! There’s stacks of books on the shelf that I decided to read after I learned I should become an expert on five specific subjects (and have not touched since then). 

Or there’s the crochet projects that I will randomly pick up whenever I feel like it. Plus there are entire manuscripts of books I’m planning to rewrite and finish at some point, and so on.

Girl crocheting a blanket with dog. ADHD in teen girls can look like constant activity with hands or feet.

2. Inattentiveness

Next I’ll write about inattentiveness, as it’s the one quality that appears the least obviously for me. Burro has the inattentive type of ADHD and knows more about this subject than I do. Maybe she will write about it next!

As most people will tell you the big obvious symptoms of inattentive ADHD, I am going to hit the little ones that nobody thinks of. Inattentiveness looks like the following symptoms:

  • spacing out during conversations
  • watching/reading something a billion times because no matter what you try you’ll look over the entire page and process none of it 
  • not paying attention to boring things (long speeches by droning old men on uninteresting topics) 
  • getting distracted during even the simplest things 
  • literally not paying attention to anything 
  • forgetfulness
  • hyperfocusing 
Girl with volcano experiment in yard.

I used to really struggle with this. I was prone to doing something, saying I would take a break for X minutes, then reading a book for 2 hours… or having my parents call me and I wouldn’t hear them at all because BOOK! Clearly more important than lunch or chores or school (can I get an amen?).

I was finally able to train myself to snap out of it more quickly, because if I didn’t, I’d get in trouble, and I hated that. 

About Hyperfocus

Our oldest daughter wades a creek while carrying her little brother's shoes.

Today, my difficulty is in dragging myself away to do stuff I should. For example, I am enjoying writing this post so much that, even though I know I should:

  • edit that post for my mother, as she has so kindly reminded me, and 
  • probably should do that Geometry assignment, and 
  • switch laundry, 
  • I am having so much fun writing this post so I shall just hyperfocus on it and write the entire thing and get nothing else done for the rest of the day! 

Hyperfocusing is often listed with the negative behaviors.  When there is an assignment due tomorrow, a goal to do ten math assignments, or generally wasting time on something unimportant, hyperfocus causes issues because in those cases it uses up time, energy, and resources. 

Benefits of Hyperfocus

However, hyperfocusing on something we like can be a positive behavior. Last night, I sat down and watched five videos on historical dress and stuff from a YouTube channel I’ve recently found and am greatly enjoying. I hyperfocused the entire time, and I actually felt more rested, energized, and ready to go do some work. 

Children learning from woman in historical dress.

Right now, I am hyperfocusing on this. I can tell because my mind is entirely devoid of any thoughts. I am aware of the world around me, but not distracted by it, and I don’t want to look away from writing this post. However, I feel energized, happy, and ready to move on soon.

I think that’s because often when we force ourselves to focus, our ADHD brains need time to be distracted and to fill up our tank. Hyperfocusing can be one of those ways to do that. 

Use With Caution

However, we must focus on things that will make us feel better. If we must focus on work, we have to make sure not to spend six hours without a break working on it! That’s not healthy or good. Trust me: I did that daily for the entirety of 2020, and most of 2021 too.

@dinkumtribe Here are some of the things he knows about our oldest child that made us think that she was Neurodivergent. @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel #adhdtiktok #adhdingirls #adhdinkids #adhdparenting #adhdawareness ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel

I have gotten distracted, yet again. I think, however, I have given you a good amount of information on the small parts of inattentiveness (note to self, at some point go into a deep dive on hyperfocus). 

3. Hyperactivity

Now, let’s focus on hyperactivity. Right after I do those things I’m technically supposed to be doing. Yay, being responsible/adulting!

Hyperactivity is probably the most obvious symptom of ADHD. Yes, all kids move; however, there are those kids, teenagers, and adults who are always moving, 100% of the time. 

Three girls in front of car.

Bouncing their knees, twiddling their thumbs, kicking their legs, moving that one foot super fast (which I am doing right now). Even when they’re moving one body part, they’re moving another at the same time! Typing and moving your foot, crocheting and bouncing your leg, gesturing with your hands and pacing back and forth. 

For most people, the symptoms of hyperactivity aren’t that annoying… until you’re on the plane with them, or in a serious meeting with them, or generally in close quarters with them for a relatively lengthy period of time. 

Always Moving

Our oldest daughter on a rock in a yoga pose. ADHD in teen girls.

Hyperactivity is one of the stronger parts of ADHD in me. I have loads of memories of people in my early years telling me to hold still or stop moving, mostly during things like church when I was kicking my legs. Now that I think about it, that’s probably why I started moving my feet like that, because I couldn’t kick my legs. 

I have a clear memory of my sister, Appaloosa, putting her hand on my knee to tell me to hold still, because she was right next to me. Then the moment she took her hand off… bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce!

Constant Motion Creates Focus

This symptom, from my experience, is a reaction in the ADHD brain. We cannot think or focus while holding still. The mere instruction of holding still takes up all our focus so that we can’t even pay attention. 

Girl tossing leaves in the air. Constant motion can be a symptom of ADHD in teen girls.

We have a lot of energy, so when we are moving, we are focusing. I’ve found that, unlike a lot of people, I can’t call someone on the phone without pacing back and forth as I talk. Having a conversation with someone is always easier when I can move, because I can listen better. 

Why “Hold Still” is Counter-Productive

When ADHDers aren’t allowed to have an outlet for their energy, you will get nothing into their brains. Nothing (speaking from experience here!). 

When adults told me to hold still and look at them, and then proceeded to speak an entire paragraph at me, I got none of it. EVER

Our daughter sipping a drink in a rocking chair at a local coffee shop. What ADHD looks like in teen girls.
Rocking chairs can be particularly helpful for people with ADHD to get out the energy

Hyperactivity is the solution to distractibility. It’s also a natural tendency of ADHD, as we have trouble regulating our energy levels and emotions.

Let us move, and we can focus on whatever you want to tell us; have us hold still, and our brain wanders off. It’s a choice between physical wandering, but we actually hear it; or mental wandering, and we catch nothing. 


This is why fidgets are so helpful for us. Not only does it give us an outlet for our energy, but it also helps us listen and be more likely to stay in the moment, due to both sensory input and the ability to move. 

(Note: we have a great selection of our favorite fidgets on our Dinkum Tribe Amazon Store).

Only A Starting Point

Those are the three main symptoms of ADHD. There are lots of other symptoms, as well as many other things that come into play with ADHD, however most of them are less obvious and can also be symptoms of other things. 

This does not make it less important to learn about the other symptoms. It’s still super important, because a lot of those little things have a big influence on your daily life, especially after you’ve learned how to handle the obvious symptoms.

Our oldest daughter smiling with red and blue balloons in front.

Take it from someone who knows. I learned about only the big things at first, and assumed I knew all that was necessary (boy was I wrong!).”

-Rook Dinkum

Rook’s next post will discuss the hyperactive ADHD type, and the importance of diagnosis. For additional perspective on ADHD, also read our posts about ADHD time blindness, and check our our reviews of our favorite ADHD resources.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about ADHD in teen girls

Does ADHD get worse during puberty?

We have 2 teen girls with ADHD currently, and in our family’s experience, the symptoms didn’t necessarily get worse, they just looked different.

As ADHD children move into the teenage years, they start to learn to mask their socially unacceptable behaviors so the obvious ADHD symptoms can become less noticeable. However, this has a negative impact on mental health, which often shows up as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or emotional outbursts.

Both of our ADHD teens needed their ADHD medications adjusted to help them manage their symptoms better when they started puberty.

Credit to @overcoming_adhd

What are the symptoms of ADHD in females?

Here are some that we noticed that didn’t clearly match the traditional symptoms of “inattentive, impulsive, hyperactive”:

  • missing details on assignments or tasks
  • disorganized / messy personal spaces
  • extreme difficulty in creating and sustaining habits or routines (such as household chores or personal hygiene)
  • not listening when spoken to, inability to wait their turn in conversation, frequent interrupting (lack of social skills)
  • extremely talkative, or rushed speech
  • low self worth, feeling incapable
  • daydreaming, struggle with focus
  • highly sensitive to sensory input (loud noises, uncomfortable clothing)
  • extremely emotional: may cry easily over something that seems small, easily overwhelmed, goes from super happy to depressed in minutes

How do I know if my daughter has ADHD?

If you’re seeing a lot of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor for evaluation. They will be able to start you on an assessment and request assessments from others who work with your daughter in learning settings (school, sports, and so on).

© Copyright Rook Dinkum and Jennifer Warren 2022. Updated: September 28, 2023.

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About the author

Hey y'all! I'm Rook, one of the daughters of Brian and Jenn Warren, the creators and official "blogmasters" of Dinkum Tribe. I'm an ADHDer, a teenager, a Christian, and a contributor to the blog. I love writing, creating, and learning, and I can usually be found making something, learning something, doing something, or playing the piano. I'm looking forward to contributing more to the blog in the future, and I can't wait to see what Dinkum Tribe blossoms into, I bet it's gonna be fantastic!


  1. I think this is so inspiring to hear straight from a teen going through it. You have done an awesome job articulating your perspective. Great post!

  2. In my opinion, more people need to learn about ADHD. I was completely clueless of several parts of how to Live and cope with it. Thank you very much for sharing your inspiring story with us.
    Amazingly well-written

  3. Rook, this is very well-written, and the first hand experience is extremely helpful. It gives us clarity on ADHD, and it also proves that people with ADHD can achieve great things too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience!

  4. Firstly, Rook what an amazing young woman you are and I know your mum is proud of you.. I would be… I find this article so interesting because before there was even a name for this I can think of so many people that did one or all of those things as a child and we were just called …’damn kids’… I am speaking of 45yrs ago… I love this also because I strongly detest the word ‘disorder’ and agree they need another word as I believe many people my age (60) have it and don’t even know…may even be the ones naming things ;-)) great work

    1. I am also 100% certain that there are many older adults from the previous generations who have ADHD and blame themselves for the difficulties they face… so sad!

  5. Truly enjoyed reading this, especially after I just wrote about adult ADHD a while ago. Being a mental health nurse, working with children and adolescents, I have seen first hand, the neglected effects of ADHD. Thank you for the transparency in this article

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