Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavior disorder in childhood. It affects between 8% and 10% of school age children and adolescents. Typically diagnosed in childhood, ADHD continues into the teenage years in the majority of these children. The symptoms -- inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity - are intrusive, which means they interrupt and seriously interfere with a teen's life.
Sometimes ADHD coexists with other conditions including learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders. In addition, a teen with ADHD may also have oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder. Getting an accurate medical diagnosis and effective treatment for ADHD and coexisting problems is important. ADHD touches all aspects of a teen's life.
Recommended Related to ADD-ADHD
For adults with ADHD, the standard treatment is medication. But experts say that ADHD therapy -- and other psychosocial treatments -- can play a key role alongside drugs.“I think for many adults with ADHD, therapy is essential,” says David W. Goodman MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. While ADHD medicines are effective, they may not be enough. To use a phrase popular among ADHD specialists, pills don’t build skills. Even with medication, a...
Drug abuse in general and stimulant abuse such as cocaine abuse in particular, even at a very young age, can cause behavioral aberrations that mimic ADHD.
What are symptoms of ADHD in teens?
Symptoms of ADHD in teens are similar to those of ADHD in children. They include:
· Poor concentration
During teen years, especially as the hormonal changes of adolescence are going on, symptoms of ADHD may intensify.
How does ADHD affect a teen's life?
Because of problems with distractibility and poor concentration, many teens with ADHD have difficulty in school. Grades may fall, particularly if the teen is not receiving ADHD treatment.
It's not uncommon for teens with ADHD to forget assignments, misplace textbooks, and become easily bored with their daily class work. Teens may become inattentive, or excessively attentive -- not waiting for their turn before blurting out answers. They may interrupt the teacher and classmates, and rush through assignments. Teens with ADHD may also be fidgety and have a difficult time sitting still in class.
Often, teens with ADHD are so busy focusing on other things they forget about the task at hand. This can be seen especially with homework and athletic skills and in relationships with peers. This lack of attention to what they're doing often leads to poor performance on tests and being rejected from sports teams, extracurricular activities, and peer groups.
Does ADHD increase the risk of car accidents and problem drinking?
Driving poses special risks for teens with ADHD. In fact, teens with ADHD are two to four times more likely to have a car accident than teens without ADHD. Teens with ADHD may be impulsive, risk-taking, immature in judgment, and thrill seeking. All of these traits increase the chance of an automobile accident and serious injury. Still, studies show that teen drivers with ADHD who take the prescribed medication have a significantly reduced chance of accidents.
Teens with ADHD are more likely to be heavy drinkers than teens without ADHD. They are also more likely to have problems from drinking. In clinical studies, researchers confirmed that teens with ADHD were twice as likely to have abused alcohol within the past 6 months. They also found that teens with ADHD were likely to abuse drugs and three times more likely to abuse drugs other than marijuana.
Getting proper treatment for ADHD in teens may cut the risk of later alcohol and drug abuse.
What's the recommended treatment for teens with ADHD?
There are many opinions when it comes to treating ADHD in teens. Some experts believe that behavior therapy alone may work for teenagers. Yet, 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.
Typically, a combination of medication and behavior therapy is best in treating teens with ADHD. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry all recommend behavioral intervention to improve behavioral problems that are a part of ADHD.
Stimulant medications are commonly prescribed to treat teens with ADHD. These drugs may actually increase alertness and help teens perform better at school. Stimulant medications work by slowly increasing levels of the brain chemical dopamine. Examples of stimulant medications include Adderall, Focalin, Ritalin, and Vyvanse.
Non-stimulant medications such as Intuniv, Kapvay, and Strattera are also used to treat teens with ADHD. Non-stimulant medications for ADHD do not have the side effects of stimulant drugs. For instance, they don't increase anxiety, irritability, and insomnia as stimulant drugs may.
There is no cure for ADHD. Overmedicating can be counterproductive and can produce adverse effects, such as thoughts of suicide, erratic mood swings, and drug abuse.
How can parents help a teen with ADHD?
ADHD affects all aspects of a teenager's life -- from relationships with family and peers, to motivation and productivity, to overall self-confidence. Therefore, a parent's first goal should be to talk openly with the teen and be supportive and accepting at all times. Parents can do the following to help teens self-manage their symptoms of ADHD:
· Provide clear, consistent expectations, directions, and limits.
· Maintain a daily schedule and keep distractions to a minimum.
· Support activities where the teen can experience personal success (sports, hobbies, music lessons, for example).
· Build the teen's self-esteem by affirming positive behavior.
· Set up an effective discipline system and respond to misbehavior with time out or loss of privileges.
· Help the teen with scheduling and organization.
· Keep a structured routine for the family with the same wake-up time, mealtime, and bedtime.
· Set up a reminder system at home to help the teen stay on schedule and remember projects that are due.
· Work with the teen's teachers to make sure the teen is on task at school.
· Stay calm when disciplining the teen.
Parents can also help a teen with ADHD by making sure the teen gets plenty of sleep. Set firm rules for the TV, computers, cell phones, IPods, and video games. Make sure all of these are turned off well before bedtime.
Parents should set firm limits and goals for the teen with ADHD. Reward positive behavior and seek help for a teen that exhibits frequent oppositional behavior.
It's also important for parents to find ways to help teens develop the skills they will need for living on their own when the time comes