ADHD and Social Awkwardness in Teens

Children and teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be impulsive, forgetful, or easily distracted 15. According to statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 to 7 percent of school-aged children have ADHD, and the behaviors associated with ADHD can have negative social impacts on their lives 35.

Old Problem, New Scene

Because a teenager's struggle with ADHD began long before adolescence, many social deficits carry over from childhood. Teens with ADHD continue to have difficulty controlling themselves, talk excessively, interrupt others, and generally feel restless, all of which can contribute to social awkwardness. According to the Healthy Place website, research supports the concept that children diagnosed with ADHD are about three years behind other children in social and emotional development 3. While other teens are finding their niche in the social structure of high school and seeking out their first intimate relationships, ADHD teens may be unable to understand others' senses of humor, and might seem anti-social.

Developing Friendships

Cultivating peer relationships in high school can be difficult enough without the delayed maturity that is common in teens with ADHD. Carol Brady, Ph.D., advises parents to encourage their ADHD teens to join school clubs with other like-minded adolescents or participate in youth groups like those offered through church organizations or community groups. If group activities are too overwhelming, some teens may be more comfortable inviting one or two potential friends along on a family outing. Parents should be aware of the difficulty their teens could have forging friendships.

Overcoming Social Awkwardness

Moving into adolescence sometimes changes the rules and depth of social challenges. Social skills groups that teach techniques and offer feedback on conversational skills, friendship and handling social situations can benefit the teen facing serious social deficits. Brady points out that teens who turn a deaf ear to parents' suggestions are more likely to listen to advice and feedback offered by group leaders and members.

Other Obstacles

Teens diagnosed with ADHD are at risk for other disorders such as anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, and depression, and these issues can complicate what might already be a socially challenging situation. reports a higher incidence of substance abuse, parental conflict and delinquency in those with ADHD than in non-ADHD teens. Adolescents with ADHD can also be reluctant to take responsibility for their behaviors, and often reject medical treatment and parental advice.