Guide to ADHD in Teenagers

By Ashley Miller
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ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a challenging disorder that causes behavioral difficulties. Children with ADHD are usually diagnosed in early childhood, but some might not be diagnosed until adolescence. ADHD affects at least one to two teens in every school classroom, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, or AACAP. Teens with ADHD may experience difficulties in a number of areas, including socialization, academic performance and behavior. But with proper treatment and parental intervention, teens with ADHD can lead happy, productive and normal lives.

Signs and Symptoms

Teens with ADHD might display a variety of problematic, troublesome behaviors. The main components of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Some teens might display all of these components, while some might experience symptoms in just one of two of these areas. Inattention means that a teen might have trouble paying attention in class, jumps quickly from one subject to the next during study or has problems finishing assignments on time. Teens with predominantly inattentive ADHD might seem disorganized or scattered. Impulsivity means that a teen might not be able to control his urges. They frequently act out, such as blurting out answers in class or interrupting others. Hyperactivity is usually displayed as an inability to sit still. Hyperactive teens might seem to fidget, feel restless or experience difficulty performing quiet-time tasks. Due to these symptoms, teens with ADHD might have trouble developing and maintaining friendships with their peers and may experience a number of academic challenges.


No one knows the exact causes of ADHD. Some doctors hypothesize that ADHD might have a genetic component, while others feel that ADHD might be caused by food additives and diet. For example, a study published in the October 1994 issue of the "Annals of Allergy" hypothesized that food additives or allergies might have a significant impact on symptoms of ADHD. The AACAP points out that stress and social factors such as poverty or family violence might also be related to the development of ADHD. But as of the date of this publication, scientists and researchers have not identified one specific reason that teens develop ADHD.

Professional Evaluation

Consider having your child evaluated by a qualified child and adolescent psychiatrist if you suspect that he has ADHD. There's no shame in seeking professional help; and in most cases, symptoms of ADHD don't improve on their own. A professional evaluation can help determine whether your child really has ADHD or whether there are underlying factors that might be causing his symptoms, such as medical concerns or other psychological problems. Professional treatment, including medication or therapy, can help improve your child's symptoms and help him achieve his highest potential.

What Parents Can Do

Parents can take certain steps to help their teens cope and possibly help improve their behavior. The AACAP advises that parents try to learn as much as they can about the disorder by speaking to qualified mental health professionals and their child's teachers. Parents can also learn coping strategies and effective ways of interacting with their child through parent training programs, usually offered by organizations such as Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), the national, nonprofit organization dedicated to educating parents, educators and individuals with ADHD.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.