In San Francisco Friday, researchers at the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder conference (CHADD) talked about why adolescent girls are more prone to injure themselves and attempt suicide. To begin with, adolescent girls are vulnerable at that age anyway. When you add ADHD, girls find things are more challenging and that's when their self-esteem may suffer.
Through the years, three researchers in particular have closely followed boys and girls with ADHD. The most recent study done by Stepehn Hinshaw of UC Berkeley shows girls are often diagnosed later than boys. They also have higher rates of self-injury and attempts of suicide in their teenage years. "Depression, cutting, eating disorders, low self-image... We think that ADHD plus the normative adolescent pressures on girls is a bad combination, Hinshaw says.
Hinshaw says most adolescent girls tend to internalize things more and those with ADHD who may be doing poorly in school or are not fitting in may have a harder time coping. He believes girls with ADHD receiving counseling and taking medication may do better, but he cautions that kind of study has never been done on girls only.
But Russell Barkley has done a similar study on boys with ADHD. Dr. Barkley followed them in the late 70s through the 80s. "Childhood-only treatment that is limited to a few years in childhood and does not continue across those adolescent years has no effect whatsoever on altering the life course in these individuals," he says.
Lily Hechtman also conducted an early study on mainly boys with ADHD and continued to monitor them for 15 years. She says parents need to understand medication alone won't help kids with ADHD. "Be that organizational study skills, be that social skills, be that tutoring for things, so that you need to put a package together and once you do that, you begin to see real gains," she explained.
Another important issue discussed Friday was substance abuse. Several reports have found that those ADHD teens and young adults on medication were less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. The conference goes on through Sunday.