Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, most commonly known as ADHD, is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions in children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly six million young people have been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States. More than half of these individuals (3.3 million) are teenagers, between the ages of 12 and 17.
ADHD is a chronic disorder that typically manifests through hyperactive behaviors, difficulties paying attention, and/or impulsiveness. Those struggling with ADHD have differences in their brain chemistry and development, affecting their ability to concentrate, sit still, and exhibit self-control.
Most cases of ADHD are diagnosed in childhood, with the symptoms of ADHD typically emerging between the ages of 3 and 6. However, parents do not always understand or flag these symptoms right away. Early signs of ADHD can sometimes look like a child with a lot of energy, or a teen who forgets to turn in assignments at school. As a result, ADHD often goes undiagnosed until its symptoms progress.
According to ADDitude Magazine, teenagers with ADHD struggle more than the average teen, as ADHD can exacerbate symptoms and stresses. For example, puberty can aggravate a teen’s impulsivity and likelihood of making irrational decisions, leading to dangerous behaviors and situations. The stress of tackling high school with ADHD symptoms can also strain a teen’s executive functions.
Because ADHD is a chronic condition, its symptoms can carry into adulthood, too. Still, there is good news: ADHD is a very manageable and treatable condition, for those who receive professional help. ADHD symptoms can become milder and change as a child grows up. Left untreated, however, ADHD can lead to other mental health problems—such as mood disorders and substance addiction. Therefore, early intervention is important. If you are a parent and suspect that your child or teenager is showing signs of ADHD, now is the time to act.
Early intervention can be elemental to your child’s success. In order to intervene, though, parents should be educated on the condition and its warning signs. Below, we outline the most common symptoms of ADHD in teens, so that parents can know when it’s time to seek treatment and support.
Common Symptoms of ADHD in Teens
The signs and symptoms of ADHD do not look the same in every individual. Some people will experience more hyperactive symptoms, displaying high energy and impulsive behaviors. Others might show more inattentive symptoms, in which they struggle to concentrate or complete tasks. Often, children and teens will experience a combination of inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.
Inattentive Symptoms of ADHD:
- Difficulty paying attention
- Struggles with listening or following conversations
- Trouble with following directions
- Inability to stay focused on tasks, especially those that are time-consuming
- Short attention span and easily distracted
- Loses things frequently
- Forgetful in daily activities
- Makes careless mistakes in school/at work
- Difficulty organizing or prioritizing tasks
Hyperactive and Impulsive Symptoms of ADHD:
- Inability to sit still
- Fidgeting and squirming frequently
- Excessive physical movement
- Talks excessively, often interrupting others
- Blurts out answers
- Difficulty waiting for his or her turn
- Trouble sitting or playing quietly
- Acting without thinking
- Little to no sense of danger
- Inability to concentrate on tasks
- Heightened emotionality
- Trouble reading social cues
Typically, ADHD is diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. However, it may not be detected right away. It’s important for parents to know that ADHD does not just suddenly appear during the teenage years. The signs of ADHD usually begin in childhood, but may not become apparent to parents until their child encounters a more challenging milestone, such as high school.
To receive an ADHD diagnosis, a teenager must demonstrate a history of ADHD symptoms starting before the age of 12, in at least two settings (like home and school). These symptoms must also interfere with the teen’s functioning or development.
What Else Parents Should Know About ADHD in Teens
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is the most common neurobiological disorder in teenagers today. Boys are more commonly diagnosed than girls, with research suggesting that males are diagnosed with ADHD six times more often than females in childhood, and three times more often than females in adolescence.
Additionally, ADHD is often just one of several diagnoses. The CDC reports that roughly 60 percent of children with ADHD struggle with at least one other mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. For example, about half of children with ADHD struggle with a behavior or conduct problem. About 40
percent of children with ADHD struggle with anxiety. If you believe your teen is showing signs of ADHD, it’s important to receive a full mental health screening to understand any other, potential co-occurring disorders at play.
When ADHD is left untreated, it can cause teens to spiral into disruptive and dangerous behaviors. For example, teens with unaddressed ADHD symptoms may feel more inclined to abuse drugs and alcohol, drive under the influence, or participate in risky activities. They may also develop symptoms of anxiety, depression, or conduct related disorders.
Parents should also know that ADHD is not always easy to diagnose, especially at home or on your own. It can be difficult for parents to tell whether a teenager is unmotivated, overly energetic, or whether he or she is struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is not uncommon for the average teen to procrastinate on homework assignments, or get distracted at school. A mental health professional can help evaluate your teen’s full scope of symptoms, and further determine a diagnosis.
With that said, it’s important for parents to know that teenagers who are in fact struggling with ADHD are not lazy or unmotivated. They may want to do well in school; they may want to balance their priorities. They may just need the tools to do so. Professional ADHD treatment can help with this.
Perhaps the most important thing for parents to know is that ADHD is a manageable and treatable mental health disorder. Once receiving a diagnosis, you can begin a treatment plan that will help your teen on the road to success. ADHD treatment for teenagers may involve behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, or a combination of modalities. According to the CDC, almost one-third of children with ADHD receive both medication and behavioral treatment.
Behavioral treatment can be highly beneficial for ADHD, in that it can help teenagers develop coping skills, social skills, and learning techniques. The vast majority of youth in ADHD treatment receive support for their academics, as well as skills training to help them become more productive and gratified in their daily lives.
Getting Help for Teens with ADHD
Understanding the signs of ADHD and getting a diagnosis for your teenager is incredibly important. While you may feel as though these symptoms are manageable alone, the fact is that a diagnosis can greatly help a growing teen. Teens who receive a diagnosis ultimately receive a name and explanation for their symptoms – which can help their identity, confidence, and general well-being. It can also put them on a path to recovery, happiness, and productivity.
If you are interested in speaking with a mental health professional, or interested in learning about ADHD treatment for your teen, please do not hesitate to reach out to Turnbridge. Turnbridge is a recognized mental health treatment facility for teenagers and young adults. Call 877-581-1793 to learn about our programs today.