ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to stay focused, sit still, and/or control his or her impulses. It is a legitimate medical condition that requires special care and attention.
ADHD symptoms in teens usually manifest somewhat differently than they do in younger children or adults because of the distinctive aspects of this phase of life. Normal stressors such as rapidly changing bodies, hormonal changes, and the increased academic and social expectations of high school, tend to aggravate ADHD symptoms, making this an especially tough time for a teen with ADHD.
Teens with ADHD, for instance, tend to have lower grade point averages, complete and turn in a much lower percentage of classwork and homework assignments, and are much less likely to be working up to their potential. They are also more likely to be absent or tardy and to drop out of school.
The earlier you recognize the symptoms and get help for your teen, the better the outcome.
Types of ADHD.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5-TR), there are three types of ADHD: primarily inattentive, primarily impulsive/hyperactive, and a combination of the two.
In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, a teen must exhibit six or more of the symptoms in a category (five if they are over the age of 17); the symptoms must have started before they were 12 years old; been present for six months or longer; and impact their functioning in at least two settings such as home, school, or social.
Primarily inattentive ADHD.
Teens with primarily inattentive ADHD struggle to pay attention, stay focused on what they are doing, be organized, and complete tasks, which can have a severely negative impact on their performance at school. On the other hand, they do not usually have a problem managing their impulses or activity level. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty understanding or following instructions.
- Failure to pay attention to detail.
- Making careless mistakes.
- A wandering mind that seems far away when being spoken to.
- Failure to follow through on instructions or finish assignments.
- Inability to organize things.
- Frequently losing or forgetting things.
- Easily distracted.
Primarily impulsive/hyperactive ADHD.
Teens with primarily impulsive/hyperactive ADHD have a hard time controlling their impulses and will talk or act before they think; do things without asking for permission first; rush through their assignments, making many careless mistakes; and be prone to emotional outbursts or reactions that are inappropriate or out of proportion to the situation. Symptoms include:
- Tendency to be restless, fidgety, and have trouble sitting still.
- Inability to engage in activities quietly.
- Easily bored.
- Talking excessively and interrupting others who are speaking.
- Calling out answers in class before the teacher finishes asking the question.
- Trouble waiting in line or for their turn.
- Impatient and easily frustrated.
Combined ADHD is the most common type of ADHD. Teens with this type exhibit both inattentive and impulsive/hyperactive behaviors.
Helping your teen cope with the symptoms of ADHD.
- Educate yourself about ADHD symptoms in teens and the challenges they create so you can better understand and support your teen.
- Accept your teen for who he or she is.
- Stay positive and encouraging.
- Recognize that your teen’s symptoms cannot be fixed by rigid rules or parenting styles and that they are not due to a lack of discipline on his or her part.
- Set clear expectations with consequences.
- Praise and reward good behavior.
- Don’t punish your teen for behavior he or she has no control over.
- Target the ADHD and not your teen.
- Focus on solutions to ADHD-related problems and helping your teen achieve them.
- Help your teen with scheduling and keeping things organized.
- Minimize stress and overstimulation in your home environment and keep distractions to a minimum.
- Help your teen create and stick to regular routines that provide structure to his or her day.
- Make sure your teen has access to any necessary accommodations in school.
- Seek counseling for your teen and remain involved and supportive in his or her care.
Benefits of counseling for ADHD symptoms in teens.
A trained mental health professional can help your teen understand ADHD and equip him or her with the necessary skills to cope with the challenges created by his or her symptoms.
If you are interested in learning more about ADHD symptoms in teens or would like to set up an appointment to meet with a faith-based counselor specializing in teenage ADHD please give us a call.
David Perlstein. “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Teens.” eMedicineHealth. emedicinehealth.com/adhd_in_teens/article_em.html.
Katie Hurley. “ADHD & Teens: How to Help Them Cope with Their Struggles.” Psycom. Updated October 17, 2022.
Zia Sherrell. “What to know about ADHD screening?” MedicalNewsToday. July 30, 2021. medicalnewstoday.com/articles/adhd-screening.
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