It’s estimated that close to six million young people, between the ages of 3 and 17, are struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This represents about 10 percent of our youth population, making ADHD one of the most common mental health problems among young people today. While ADHD diagnoses are common, they can also be scary for parents hearing this news.
If you are a parent whose child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you may be wondering how this disorder will affect your loved one’s life—both in the present, and long-term. You may be worried about the impact of ADHD on your child’s mental well-being, social life, productivity, and future success. You are not alone.
The effects of ADHD are vast, and different people will have different experiences with this disorder. However, the good news is that ADHD is very manageable—especially when diagnosed early on. We understand that having a child or teenager diagnosed with ADHD can be overwhelming, but try to think of the positives. Now that you have a diagnosis, you can take steps to getting your loved one help. You can put a name to the troubling symptoms that have been affecting your son or daughter. You can start to manage the symptoms and mitigate the effects of ADHD on your child’s life.
Below, we detail some of the many effects of ADHD on children and teenagers, and further show how this disorder could influence them as they grow up.
Short-Term Side Effects of ADHD
Living with ADHD can be difficult when it is left untreated and unaddressed. The symptoms and side effects of ADHD make everyday activities more challenging, particularly for teens and children.
As noted above, the symptoms of ADHD can vary depending on the individual. Some people will experience more hyperactive effects, while others will face symptoms related to inattention (learn more here). Both circumstances can disrupt one’s day to day life. Here are some examples of the potential, short-term effects of ADHD that might be experienced regularly, without intervention or support:
Hyperactive Side Effects of ADHD:
- Getting in trouble at school, due to the lack of ability to sit still in class (e.g. may run, climb, or move in inappropriate situations).
- Inability to participate in relaxing, quiet, or leisure activities with their peers.
- Trouble forming friendships, due to constantly interrupting others, intruding on others, talking excessively, and/or not waiting their turn.
Inattentive Effects of ADHD:
- Trouble learning and paying attention in school/at work.
- Drop in grades, mistakes in school work, other academic struggles.
- Trouble forming friendships, due to having trouble listening and paying attention to others, as well as more shyness in social situations.
- Forgetting things that may be important, such as assignments or activities.
- Losing things that are necessary, such as keys, glasses, wallets, school materials, etc.
- Lack of motivation to do things that require a lot of mental effort.
- Lack of organization, in terms of both physical items and scheduling tasks.
Long-Term Effects of ADHD
When ADHD is left untreated, the short-term side effects can turn into longer-term struggles in one’s daily life. Unaddressed ADHD symptoms can lead to long-term problems in one’s social life, professional life, and overall mental and physical health. Below are some of the many examples of the long-term effects of ADHD when it is left untreated in young people. These effects can carry through to adulthood.
- Behavioral and Conduct Disorders:
Children and teenagers with ADHD may act more aggressively towards others when they are upset. Over time, this tendency can develop into a behavioral disorder, according to the CDC.
- Learning Disorders:
As noted previously, ADHD can greatly affect a young person’s ability to learn and retain information at school. This is because it affects their ability to sit still, pay attention, stay on task, and keep organized. For this reason, many children with ADHD also face learning disorders, reports the CDC.
- Other Mental Health Disorders:
Living with ADHD can be difficult without treatment or management. The symptoms can be especially difficult for children and teenagers who do not fully understand how to cope with the challenges they face at school, at work, and in their social lives. This inability to cope can lead young people to develop symptoms of other mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
- Substance Abuse:
Similarly, when ADHD symptoms are not treated, teens may turn to other substances to try and “feel better” or escape the challenges of daily life. This is known as self-medication. It is not uncommon for teenagers facing ADHD to turn to alcohol or drug use to temporarily alleviate their symptoms. However, this can spiral into a dangerous substance use disorder.
- Social Isolation or Conflicts:
While children and teens with ADHD can have many friends, some may struggle to build friendships. They may feel rejected by their peers because they are intrusive or aggressive (hyperactivity) or unmindful or withdrawn (attention-deficit). According to the CDC, children with ADHD are more likely than those without to have issues getting along with others. The CDC also explains that children who have difficulty making friends might also be more vulnerability to anxiety, substance abuse, and behavioral/conduct disorders as teenagers.
- Higher Risk of Injury and Accidents:
Without the proper management of ADHD, children and adolescents with ADHD are more prone to getting hurt and facing injuries. For example, the CDC reports that children with ADHD are more likely to get injured while riding a bicycle, experience head injuries, be hospitalized for unintentional poisoning, and injure more than one part of their body. They are also more at risk of injury to the mouth and teeth. While it’s unclear how ADHD increases this risk, it likely has to do with the inattentiveness and impulsiveness associated with the disorder.
For example, young children with ADHD may forget to look both ways when crossing the street. Teenagers with ADHD may take unnecessary risks, like trying drugs, without thinking about the possible consequences. They may also forget to pay attention in traffic, leading to more car accidents or violations with the law.
- Physical Health Problems:
In addition to facing injury, ADHD can have other long-term effects on a person’s health. When left untreated, ADHD might lead children to forget important, healthy behaviors like brushing their teeth, eating fruits and veggies, or exercising. Untreated ADHD might also affect one’s ability to get enough sleep. It can also lead a teenager to participate in behaviors that pose greater risk to their health and well-being.
How to Cope with the Effects of ADHD
The long-term effects of ADHD can sound scary, but know that these do not always happen and do not need to happen to your loved one. When ADHD is treated and managed appropriately, children and adolescents can go on to lead very successful and productive lives. As a parent, you can help your child overcome the difficulties of ADHD by taking the following steps:
- Have a regular routine. By having a plan each day, your child will feel more equipped to carry out their activities and know exactly what to do. This means having some sort of routine for the morning, school day, mealtime, and bedtime.
- Give instructions. Similar to having a plan, giving your child instructions can help them feel better prepared to tackle certain tasks. Be specific in your instructions if you need your child to do something. For example, rather than asking “Can you go study?” you might say “Please go do your math assignment.”
- Set expectations and boundaries. Let your child know what you expect in terms of their behavior. Set rules and boundaries in your home. Reinforce good behaviors with positive rewards, and use enforceable consequences (like taking away their phone) when boundaries are overstepped.
- Be encouraging. On top of positive reinforcement, help your child everyday by using positive, encouraging messages: “You did that really well” and “I am grateful for your help” are just some examples of ways you can encourage your child to do good.
- Offer incentives. One way you can reinforce positive behaviors is through incentives, such as offering a treat or a reward when your child does something great. This is especially helpful for young children.
- Manage social situations. Because people with ADHD might struggle to build healthy friendships, you can take initiative as a parent to monitor social interactions early on. Know when your child or teen is ready for social situations, and when they may feel overstimulated or overwhelmed, and need to take a step back.
- Encourage exercise. Especially for those with hyperactive symptoms of ADHD, exercise can be extremely helpful for burning energy and promoting better-quality sleep.
- Find academic support. Because some people with ADHD struggle in school, it can be valuable to find your child a tutor or mentor to help them through subjects where they may be struggling. Talk to your child’s teacher or school administrator about potential options to keep your child on track academically.
- Seek treatment. Most of all, get professional help for your child or adolescent if they are struggling with ADHD. The effects of ADHD are manageable with therapy, and there are mental health experts who specialize in the treatment of ADHD among children and teens. Without treatment, the effects of ADHD can become exacerbated and overwhelming for a young person.
If you are interested in learning more about how to manage the effects of ADHD, or about potential treatment options for your child, know that Turnbridge is here for you. Turnbridge is a recognized mental health treatment center for adolescents and young adults. Our clinicians are experienced in treating and managing ADHD. Call 877-581-1793 to learn more about our programs or to speak with a specialist.