young girls with ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a relatively common mental disorder that affects primarily children and can be carried into adulthood.  This disorder is most commonly treated with prescribed medication and is effective for roughly 80% of people.  However, like most medications, ADHD medications can come with some harsh side effects and are not effective for everyone.  Additionally, ADHD can be quite difficult to diagnose, particularly in girls, because the symptoms don’t always present themselves as the “typical” symptoms that boys face.  If you have a daughter with ADHD and are looking for alternatives to medication you have come to the right place.  

What is ADHD and what are common treatments?

ADHD is a chronic condition categorized by attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.  This condition often begins in childhood and may persist into adulthood.  This condition is relatively common as an estimated 6.4 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD.  If left untreated ADHD can contribute to difficulty at school or work, troubled relationships, and even low self-esteem.  When treated with medication ADHD patients are typically given stimulants to help boost concentration and reduce hyperactive behaviors.  These medications have shown to be a very effective treatment for ADHD but unfortunately can come with some pretty negative side effects.  

Common side-effects of ADHD medication include:

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Delayed growth 
  • Headaches and stomach aches
  • Moodiness and irritability  

How Does ADHD Show Up in Girls?

ADHD can be difficult to identify in some children, particularly in girls, because symptoms of ADHD tend to present themselves differently in girls and boys.  While hyperactivity is known to be one of the most common symptoms of ADHD (after all, it’s in its name) this isn’t always the case for girls.  

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Talking all the time, even when asked to be quiet
  • Frequent crying
  • Constant interruptions in conversation
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Frequent daydreams
  • Difficulty finishing work
  • Being messy or having a messy bedroom

While all of these may be symptoms of ADHD, it is important to note that ADHD appears differently in everyone and your child may show some of these symptoms without having ADHD.  If you suspect your child may have ADHD, it is recommended you get them diagnosed by a professional in order for your child to get the proper treatment they need.

Alternative Treatments to ADHD

Prescribed medications are the most common treatment for ADHD.  Medications for ADHD may help concentration in the short term, but there is little evidence about their effectiveness in the long term.  Even in the short-term, ADHD medication may not treat all symptoms, for example, a child may do better on medication with focusing at school but may still have trouble with outbursts at home.  In this instance, incorporating some holistic medicinal practices into your child’s ADHD treatment may help to alleviate some additional symptoms.  These alternative treatment methods may also be taken on their own, but it is important to note that they should not be taken as a substitute to prescribed medication, and you should only take your child off of medication if it is recommended by a doctor.  With that being said, here are some alternative holistic treatments for ADHD.

  • Eat a balanced diet.  Nutrition has a significant impact on your mood and energy levels.  Consuming excess sugars or carbohydrates can contribute to burst in energy, therefore causing hyperactivity and can later result in irritability as their energy wears off.  Regularly eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables can help to regulate energy levels and calm the nervous system, stabilizing mood and activity levels.  
  • Get regular exercise.  If you’re concerned about your daughter’s restlessness, exercise can be a helpful and constructive outlet for hyperactivity.  A recent study showed that regular physical activity decreased the severity of ADHD symptoms and even helped to improve cognitive functioning in children.  
  • Try supplements.  Many natural supplements can be used to calm anxious energy and improve concentration.  Supplements to help improve symptoms of ADHD include zinc, L-carnitine, vitamin B-6, magnesium.  However, it is best to get a doctor’s approval before adding these supplements to your child’s diet.
  • Practice mindfulness.  Having ADHD can make it more difficult to live in the present moment and be aware of your surroundings.  Regularly practicing mindfulness helps teens to become more aware of their behaviors and emotions, and helps them understand what they need at the current moment in time.  Mindfulness also helps to improve concentration and helps to reduce stress and emotional reactivity.
  • Try behavioral or parental therapy.  Behavioral therapy works on resolving specific problematic behaviors and offers solutions to help prevent these behaviors.  This approach can also involve setting up goals and rules for the child.  Behavioral therapy is particularly helpful to young children and children with more severe ADHD.  Parental therapy helps to equip parents with the tools you need to help your child succeed.  Equipping parents can be helpful to both the parent and child in the long term.    

Asheville Academy Can Help!

Asheville Academy for Girls is an accredited Therapeutic Boarding School for girls ages 10-14 that struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other learning difficulties.  Our classrooms are made up of smaller sizes to help girls who struggle with concentration and allows room to provide additional support for girls struggling with academic skills.  This program focuses on emotional regulation to help girls build confidence, communication skills, and social skills to help girls transition back into their home and school lives.  We are here to help you!

For more information about helping your daughter with ADHD at Asheville Academy, please call 800-264-8709 today.

Cat brings more than thirty years of experience making an impact in the lives of adolescents. Cat has developed multiple programs helping children, teens, and young adults in a variety of settings and with a diverse range of diagnoses. She has dedicated her career to behavioral health and is honored to be part of the passionate team at Asheville Academy for Girls. She recognizes how delicate this age is and is proud of the role she and her team play in helping girls grow and prosper.