Teen ADHD, or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a disorder that causes inattentive or hyperactive and impulsive behavior in teens inappropriate to their age. ADHD can be difficult to gauge in the teenage years because teenagers mature at different rates and may naturally be inattentive or impulsive at times. Also, teens usually show fewer symptoms of ADHD than children. ADHD sometimes improves with age, but in some cases the associated learning disorders remain, or the teen may develop problems with disruptive behavior and defiance. The normal challenges of the teenage years can be especially difficult for teens with ADHD. Though ADHD is a struggle for teens and their parents and families, many teens with ADHD learn to function well and go on to successful adult lives.
If your teen was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, the beginning of his or her teenage years is a good time for a professional reevaluation, since symptoms of ADHD can change during this time.
Struggling at school or home does not necessarily mean a troubled teen has ADHD. For a doctor to consider a diagnosis of teen ADHD, 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 only having problems at school, but is fine at home, at work, and in social situations, would not be evaluated for ADHD, but might have another problem, such as a learning disability.
The cause of teen ADHD is unknown. It is not caused by problems at home or school, or by poor parenting, though these factors may cause additional difficulties for teens with ADHD. Researchers currently believe the mostly likely causes for teen ADHD are neurological imbalances and genetics. Exposure to alcohol or cigarette smoke while in the womb, premature birth, or exposure to lead may also increase the risks of ADHD.
There are currently three types of ADHD recognized by most health professionals: inattentive type (also known as ADD), hyperactive-impulsive type, and combined type.
Some conditions that may accompany ADHD 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 ADHD, which is why only a medical professional can diagnose the condition. Some things that can cause symptoms that look like ADHD 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 ADHD children, such as restlessness and inattentiveness.
Some of the trained professionals who can evaluate a teen for ADHD include doctors, neurologists, psychologists or psychiatrists, or clinical social workers. The doctor, neurologist, or psychologist can also prescribe medication, if needed, while a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker can provide counseling.
A medical professional will gather information from a variety of sources to diagnose teen ADHD. Some questions he or she 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?
Though there is no cure for ADHD, there are a variety of treatments you can discuss with your health care provider to help your teen cope with ADHD.
What is Teen ADHD 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]