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SALT LAKE CITY -- Not everyone who has ADHD shows it in the same way. Some patients appear more inattentive while others appear inattentive and hyperactive. The hyperactive patients are much easier to spot.
Dr. David Jubelirer with the Attention Disorders Clinic in Salt Lake City says, "[With] the hyperactive person, you have a greater chance of making an appropriate diagnosis, if you're careful."
Jubelirer says he can understand why boys are getting the lion's share of prescriptions for Ritalin and other ADHD medications. Statistically, more boys are hyperactive and inattentive, while girls are usually just inattentive.
"You're going to recognize more boys and therefore more prescriptions are going to be written for boys. But, you're going to miss more girls," he says.
Of course, Jubelirer is talking about cases in general. Plenty of girls with the disorder show impulsive behavior and hyperactivity, while many boys are just inattentive. But statistically, most boys with it are hyperactive.
"I think there certainly is a chance that some boys, particularly young boys that are very active, could be misdiagnosed as having ADHD," he says.
Jubelirer says there are brain wave patterns in people with ADHD that can be detected. That way, doctors can better determine which boys actually have it and which boys are just hyperactive.
When girls show these impulsive tendencies, they may do it in a different way than boys do. Jubelirer says they might overreact and lash out at people quicker than normal.
It's a myth that all kids with the disorder do poorly in school. Jubelirer says he treats many children who get very good grades, possibly because they have to work harder at studying than other kids or because they can hyper-focus on topics they like. In a way, being smart can almost be problematic for kids with ADHD.
"If someone is particularly smart and has the inattentive form of ADHD, that also delays the recognition of this problem because they can maneuver around their ADHD," he explains.
He says the disorder might not be noticed in smarter people until later in life.