What to know about ADHD in boys
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neuropsychiatric condition. Boys tend to receive more ADHD diagnoses than girls. This is likely due to the way the symptoms of ADHD present in each group.
Around 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Doctors diagnose ADHD more commonly in boys than girls. In fact, around three times as many boys receive an ADHD diagnosis as girls. School-age children often receive a diagnosis when they become disruptive in the classroom.
ADHD affects the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The condition can make it difficult to focus on tasks for extended periods of time or keep track of things such as homework assignments.
Boys with an ADHD diagnosis may be more restless, impulsive, and hyperactive than their peers. They may also have difficulty concentrating, find it hard to remain seated in school, or have learning delays.
Keep reading to learn more about ADHD in boys and how it differs from the condition in girls. This article will also look at the treatment options available and how parents and caregivers can help manage the condition.
How is ADHD in boys different from girls?
Doctors diagnose and treat ADHD more frequently in boys than in girls because the symptoms in boys can be more noticeable and distracting for others.
Externalizing behaviors related to ADHD are generally more common in school-age boys than internalizing behaviors, which are more commonly present in girls. Practitioners are, therefore, more likely to label classroom hyperactive behaviors as ADHD in boys.
This is a sort of natural bias in diagnosis. In fact, the number of boys with an ADHD diagnosis compared with the number of girls is 3:1, and it may be as high as 9:1 in some populations.
Girls with ADHD typically have fewer hyperactive and impulsive symptoms and more inattentive symptoms. Because of this, girls with ADHD, while distracted, are less disruptive. This is especially apparent during school hours, where ADHD is easier to notice.
Teachers, therefore, tend to refer boys for ADHD treatment more often than girls because of the more significant disruption that boys’ behaviors can cause.
Some research also suggests that since ADHD is not as externally obvious in girls, they often go without an ADHD diagnosis despite having the condition. Adults and school-age peers may sometimes view girls with hyperactive-impulsive symptoms as overemotional, pushy, or overly talkative. Girls may also work hard to hide their symptoms.
Learn more about ADHD in girls here.
Learn more about untreated ADHD in adults here.
Signs and symptoms
ADHD is one of the most common childhood neuropsychiatric conditions. Its defining features include hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.
Those with ADHD tend to possess a combination of these symptoms:
- making mistakes in activities such as homework
- disliking or avoiding tasks that require consistent mental effort
- not listening when spoken to directly
- forgetting daily activities
- not following through on instructions
- difficulty maintaining attention
- losing things regularly
- being easily distracted
- difficulty organizing tasks and activities
Some symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity include:
- fidgeting when seated
- having difficulty waiting for one’s turn
- interrupting people when they talk
- not being able to play quietly
- finding it difficult to stay seated
- running or climbing in inappropriate situations
- being constantly in motion
- talking nonstop
However, these behaviors are not solely symptoms of ADHD. This makes providing an accurate diagnosis more challenging.
Impaired self-regulation is common among those with ADHD. Self-regulation involves an individual managing and controlling their emotions and behaviors in an appropriate way for a given situation.
Some aspects of self-regulation include calming oneself down when upset, handling frustration without an outburst, resisting highly emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, and adjusting to changes in expectations.
Benefits of ADHD in boys
Although ADHD comes with numerous challenges, there are also some potential benefits and strengths that can arise from having the condition.
For example, boys with ADHD may be more creative, especially when completing a goal-driven activity.
In one 2017 study, for instance, researchers recruited 71 adult participants with ADHD and 36 control participants. They found that both groups generated a similar number of ideas when given a task, with no difference in creativity, no matter their ADHD diagnosis.
However, when the researchers alerted the participants to a potential bonus, the individuals with ADHD had more ideas than those in the control group.
The researchers were not entirely sure of the mechanisms involved. Still, the findings suggested that people with ADHD may perform better than their peers when they work toward a goal — particularly if they pursue an area that fits their skills and interest.
Although this study involved adults, it is reasonable to expect similar findings in younger boys and girls. That said, the adult participants may have had to develop these skills during later cognitive developmental phases to compensate for the struggles of learning during childhood.
Some other potential benefits to having ADHD include:
- high energy
- conversational skills
Learn more about the potential benefits and strengths associated with ADHD here.
The two main types of treatment for ADHD are behavior therapy and medication.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the parents of any child under the age of 6 years with an ADHD diagnosis receive parent training in behavior management before the child receives any other treatment.
If the child is above 6 years old, they should receive a combination of treatments involving both medication and behavior therapy.
The AAP also suggests school support and classroom interventions for those with ADHD.
Behavior therapy helps children with ADHD control behaviors that may affect their relationships with others. This form of treatment can include behavior therapy with children, parent training in behavior management, and behavioral interventions in the classroom. These approaches can work in combination or individually, but it is best if parents and teachers work together.
In young children, behavior therapy is just as effective as medication. The reason that young children should not take medication is that they typically experience more side effects than older children. Additionally, researchers have not extensively studied the long-term effects of ADHD medications in young children.
Behavior therapy also aids emotion regulation by helping children build strategies to manage their emotions and strengthen their social skills. It also helps them build methods for managing and organizing information.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved various medications to treat ADHD in children. These medications are either stimulants or non-stimulants.
Stimulants are the most widely used ADHD medication, and they are fast acting. Around 70–80% of children with ADHD see a decrease in their symptoms while taking stimulants.
Non-stimulants do not work as quickly, but they last longer. They typically last for up to 24 hours.
Learn more about medications for ADHD here.
How parents and caregivers can manage ADHD
For those with ADHD, repetitive and uninteresting tasks are more challenging to complete. So, tasks such as homework, getting dressed, and going to bed may be so difficult that a child protests the action in any way they can.
They may throw tantrums, for example, hoping that their parents may change the task in a way that is easier for them to accomplish. They may also use avoidance strategies — such as arguing, defiance, and power struggles — to try to manage their emotions.
Children with ADHD may require more structure. Having a routine allows them to know what to expect, and the adult should provide clear instructions as to optimal behavior.
Adults may find that losing their temper and issuing punishments is ineffective in children with ADHD, as they simply become accustomed to the situation.
Alternatively, praising adaptive and prosocial behaviors in order to promote them can help children form positive relationships with their parents and caregivers. This may be the best way to manage disruptive behaviors.
Learn more about caring for a child with ADHD here.
ADHD is a neuropsychiatric condition characterized by hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.
It presents differently in boys and girls. Boys tend to display more hyperactive and impulsive symptoms, while girls more often present symptoms of inattentiveness. Because of this, boys receive ADHD diagnoses and treatment more often than girls.
Treatment for ADHD includes behavioral therapy and medication, with a combination of the two preferred in children over 6 years old.
Category: adhd awareness