Teen ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder, also known as Inattentive-type ADHD, can be difficult to detect. It is a disorder that causes inattention behavior in teens inappropriate to their age. Unlike other forms of ADHD, ADD often does not cause disruptive behavior, so teens who suffer from this disorder may go unnoticed.
Struggling at school alone does not indicate that a troubled teen has ADD. For a doctor to consider a diagnosis of teen ADD, symptoms must have been present from childhood, must manifest themselves in more than one setting - such as school, home, or work - and must interfere with successful functioning in two or more of those settings for at least six months. For instance, a teen who is having problems at school but is fine at home, at work, and in social situations would not be evaluated for ADD, but might have another problem, such as a learning disability.
If your teen was diagnosed with ADD as a child, the beginning of the teenage years is a good time to have him or her reevaluated, as symptoms of ADD can change during this time. The normal struggles of the teenage years can be especially difficult for teens with ADD. Though living with ADD can be challenging for teens and their parents, teens with ADD can learn to deal with their challenges. ADD sometimes gets better with age, but in some cases the associated learning disorders do not improve, and the teen may develop problems with disruptive behavior or defiance. Many teens with ADD, however, are able to learn to function well as teenagers and adults.
The cause of teen ADD is unknown. It is not caused by problems at home or school or poor parenting, though these factors may cause additional difficulties for teens with ADD. Researchers currently believe the mostly likely causes for teen ADD are neurological imbalances and genetics. Exposure to alcohol or cigarette smoke in the womb, premature birth, or exposure to lead may increase the risk of ADHD.
Some conditions that may accompany ADD include:
- Depression or anxiety
- Bipolar disorder, with dramatic swings between grandiose thoughts and depression
- Tourette's Syndrome, which may cause tics or outbursts
- Learning Disabilities, such as dyslexia
- Other behavior problems, such as conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder
Some problems can look like ADD, which is why only a medical professional can diagnose the condition. Some things that can cause symptoms that may look like ADD include:
- Undetected seizures
- Anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders
- Middle ear infections that affect hearing
- Sleep deprivation
- Recent changes or losses, such as a move, divorce, or death
- Gifted children may also display some of the same symptoms as ADD children, such as inattentiveness in class.
The professional who evaluates a teen for ADD can be his or her doctor, a neurologist, a psychologist or psychiatrist, or a clinical social worker. A doctor, neurologist, or psychologist can also prescribe medication, if needed. A psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker can provide counseling.
The medical professional should diagnose the patient by checking his or her medical records, talking to parents, teachers, and others such as coaches, and, if possible, observing the child in a variety of setting and activities. Some questions a professional will consider are:
- How many symptoms does the teen display?
- How long have they been going on?
- Are the behaviors periodic or more continuous?
- How do the behaviors affect the teen's life at school, at home, with friends, and in extracurricular activities?
- What other, related problems does the teen have?
If your teen is diagnosed with ADD, there are a variety of treatments to help him or her cope with the disorder, though there is currently no cure.
What is Teen ADD Sources:
- National Institute of Mental Health: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [online]
- WebMD/The Cleveland Clinic [online] ADDvance [online]
- The Center for Disease Control: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) [online]
- U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" [online]
- TeensHealth from Nemours Foundation [online]
- KidsSource [online]