About attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd) in teens

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd) in teens?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common chronic disorders affecting school-age children. Current research indicates prevalence rates of 3% to 5% with males being diagnosed with this disorder two and a half times more often than females. ADHD is described as "a common neurobiologic disorder characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity." A more academic description is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V). This encyclopedia of mental health disorders indicates that ADHD is characterized as "a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals of comparable levels of development." ADHD manifestations may be subdivided into three types: 1) predominately inattentive, 2) predominantly hyperactivity/impulsivity, and 3) combined type. Originally thought to be "outgrown" by adulthood, current studies indicate that approximately 60% to 80% of patients diagnosed as children will meet diagnostic criteria during adolescence and adulthood.

What are the symptoms for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd) in teens?

Inattentiveness symptom was found in the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd) in teens condition

ADHD is not only a childhood condition. Researchers say roughly 60 percent of people diagnosed with ADHD in childhood will continue experiencing symptoms into adulthood.

That means along with all the other changes adolescence brings, you might also notice some changes in how your ADHD presents. Here are some examples of how ADHD may affect you during your teen years:

Changes in hyperactivity

Many people’s symptoms improve during adolescence. Which symptoms continue and which ones abate can vary from person to person.

One of the hallmarks of childhood ADHD is high energy and an inability to sit still. The amount of physical movement might change for some teens with ADHD. For example, hyperactivity may morph into general restlessness, but inattention and Impulsivity may persist.

Academic ups and downs

In late middle school and high school, academic demands increase at the same time as parents and teachers begin expecting students to show more self-discipline and independence. A variety of circumstances can lead to academic challenges:

  • The practicalities of high school — changing classrooms, having different teachers, and using lockers — can make it harder to stay organized.
  • An increasing number of complex or long-term academic projects can tax your time management skills.
  • Collaborating with other students can be a challenge if socializing is difficult for you.
  • Fewer parental and educational supports coupled with more independence and autonomy could lead to a drop in academic performance.

Relationship conflicts

For some people with ADHD, social conflicts can intensify or increase during this period. Social conflict isn’t uncommon among teens, but ADHD may present added challenges.

Studies show that some people with ADHD may have a harder time socializing than others. Engaging in extracurricular activities and having parents who are involved, attentive, and positive can help make socializing easier for people with ADHD.

Research also shows that conflicts between children and parents or guardians, along with conflicts in romantic relationships, might arise. There may be a tendency among some parents of adolescents with ADHD to become overly protective — possibly even controlling. Attentive and caring parenting styles usually feel more supportive.

While social conflicts in friendships, families, and dating relationships aren’t uncommon in teen years, they may be more of an issue if you have ADHD.

Mood and self-esteem differences

ADHD symptoms may make normal fluctuations in mood and self-esteem more extreme. Some people with ADHD feel particularly irritable during their teen years. Studies show that more authoritarian and less egalitarian parenting styles may make Irritability worse.

If you are having trouble in school or in important relationships, you might also be feeling more stress or Anxiety than you are used to feeling.

Research shows that, for some teens with ADHD, anger can trigger substance use. Stress, Poor sleep habits, emerging mood disorders, and substance use can make it harder to pinpoint what’s causing changes to mood and self-esteem.

What are the causes for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd) in teens?

No one knows exactly what causes ADHD, but certain things are known to play a role.

The Family Connection

ADHD runs in families. Anywhere from one-third to one-half of parents with ADHD will have a child with the disorder. There are genetic characteristics that seem to be passed down.

If a parent has ADHD, a child has more than a 50% chance of having it. If an older sibling has it, a child has more than a 30% chance.

Pregnancy Problems

Children born with a low birth weight, born premature, or whose mothers had difficult pregnancies have a higher risk of having ADHD. The same is true for children with head injuries to the frontal lobe of the brain, the area that controls impulses and emotions.

Studies show that pregnant women who smoke or drink alcohol may have a higher risk of having a child with ADHD. Exposure to lead, PCBs, or pesticides may also have a role.

Researchers believe that some toxins may interfere with brain development. That, they say, could lead to hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and trouble paying attention.

What are the treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd) in teens?

Primary to establishing a diagnosis of ADHD is the demonstration of symptoms detailed in the criteria of the DSM-V. Collecting information from both parents and teachers is crucial. Various rating scales (for example, Connors Scales) are objective and efficient to complete. Part of the evaluation for an individual for potential ADHD involves a thorough search for other associated (but not causative) disorders including (but not limited to) learning disorders, mood disorders, and more. By definition, it is crucial to exclude other causes of the ADHD symptom complex. This umbrella may include: 1) adverse effects of medication, 2) mental deficiency, and 3) psychiatric disorders (for example, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, posttraumatic stress disorder).

There are many opinions when it comes to treating ADHD in teens. Some experts believe that behavior therapy alone may work for teenagers. But according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 80% of those who needed medication for ADHD as children still need medication in their teen years.

Usually, a combination of medication and behavior therapy is best in treating teens with ADHD. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry all recommend behavior therapy to improve behavior problems that are a part of ADHD.

Stimulant medications are commonly prescribed to treat teens with ADHD. These drugs may make teens more alert and help them do better at school. Examples of stimulant medications include dexmethylphenidate (Focalin, Focalin XR), dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), methylphenidate (Concerta, Quillivant XR, Ritalin), and mixed salts of a single-entity amphetamine product (Mydayis). 

Non-stimulant medications such as  (Strattera),  (Kapvay),  (Intuniv), and  (Qelbree) are also used to treat teens with ADHD. Non-stimulant medications for ADHD  have different side effects from stimulant drugs. For instance, they don't often lead to anxiety, irritability, and insomnia as the stimulant drugs may. They also are not habit-forming and have less likelihood of being abused than stimulant drugs, which may make them a more appropriate option for teens with ADHD who also have alcohol or drug misuse problems.

Overmedicating doesn't help and can lead to thoughts of suicide, mood swings, and drug misuse.

Alternative treatments include elimination diets, the use of , parent training, memory training, and neurofeedback. These treatments are sometimes used along with prescribed medications.

Omega-3 fatty acids have also shown to be of benefit.  Recently, a small device to help stimulate the part of the brain believed to be responsible for ADHD was approved by the FDA. This device, called the Monarch External Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation (eTNS) System, can be prescribed for patients 7 to 12 years old who are not taking medication for ADHD.

How Can Parents Help a Teen With ADHD?

ADHD affects all parts of a teenager's life. As a parent, your first goal should be to talk openly with your teen. Be supportive and accepting at all times. You can also enlist your child's pediatrician for help in discussing ADHD and its treatment.

By taking the following actions, you can help your teen manage ADHD:

  • Provide clear, consistent expectations, directions, and limits.
  • Set a daily schedule and keep distractions to a minimum.
  • Support activities where your teen can have personal success (sports, hobbies, or music lessons, for example).
  • Build your teen's self-esteem by affirming positive behavior.
  • Reward positive behavior.
  • Set consequences for bad behavior.
  • Help your teen with scheduling and organization.
  • Keep a structured routine for your family with the same wake-up time, mealtime, and bedtime.
  • Set up a reminder system at home to help your teen stay on schedule and remember projects that are due. Be sure to include homework and playtime in the schedule. Kids may benefit from a visual representation of their schedule, such as a calendar or list. Review this with them often.
  • Work with your teen's teachers to make sure your teen is on task at school.
  • Stay calm when disciplining your teen.
  • Set a good example.  don't always show it, but the adults in their lives are very influential and important to them.
  • Make sure your teen gets plenty of sleep. Set firm rules for the TV, computers, phones, video games, and other devices. Make sure all of these are turned off well before bedtime.
  • Organize everyday items. Your child should have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. This includes clothing, backpacks, and school supplies.
  • Use homework and notebook organizers. Stress the importance of having your child write down assignments and bring home the needed books. A checklist can be helpful to make sure items like schoolbooks, lunch boxes, and jackets are brought home each day.

When Your Child Is Older

Living well with  means sticking with your treatment. When they’re adults, encourage your child to meet with the person who treats their ADHD. Together, they should talk about how they can manage their meds on their own. If they go to  therapy, they should have a plan for continuing that, too.

Discuss how they can make sure to order new medication before it runs out. If they are moving away or leaving for college, make sure they have another doctor or  professional near their new home so they can get help when they need it.

Your child needs to know that it's important to take their  as their doctor prescribed. Otherwise, their symptoms will get worse. That can make it hard to study or to do well at work. It even raises the odds they could engage in risky behavior, like  abuse.

Make sure they know that they should never share medication with someone else.

You’ll also want to talk to your child about the daily responsibilities they'll face when they are on their own. For example, how will they manage meals and do laundry? Which bills can they expect to pay, and how will they pay them?

What are the risk factors for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd) in teens?

Research shows that people whose ADHD symptoms are severe are more likely to have ADHD that persists into the teen years. ADHD also tends to continue into the teen years for people who also have conduct and depression disorders.

Some common risk factors for ADHD include:

  • having a parent who smoked cigarettes or used alcohol during pregnancy
  • having a parent who was exposed to lead or other environmental toxins while pregnant
  • having a low birth weight
  • experiencing a brain injury

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