What some may see as simply hormonal changes or mood swings in teens may be a sign that the teen has ADHD or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. When a teen is diagnosed with ADHD, they have much to learn about how their changing biology will impact their executive functions, decision-making skills, and emotions. There is a lot to know about ADHD in teens, and it requires a lot of patience and understanding.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?
The symptoms of ADHD in teens look different than in children, and the symptoms could differ depending on the subtype. There is the inattentive or impulsive hyperactive type. There is also the chance the two can be combined. But some symptoms are common.
A few common symptoms would include being distracted easily or lacking focus. They may also be forgetful, disorganized, hyperactive, and fidgety. Their emotions may also be heightened, and there may be rejection-sensitive dysphoria.
What confuses doctors and parents about ADHD in teens is that despite all these symptoms, they can still focus solely on specific activities or functions and have no issue using their executive function. For example, if they are playing a sport or making art, they can keep the focus on those tasks. Unfortunately, this leads to parents believing it is not ADHD but a lack of willpower. But they do not realize that ADHD is not a willpower problem but a chemical imbalance in the brain.
What Are the Risks?
When a teen has ADHD, several risks come with it. Teenagers, for a while, tend to make poor decisions, but when one is diagnosed with ADHD, they are at more risk for issues such as abusing drugs and alcohol. They may also receive lower test scores, leading them to drop out of high school and not obtain further education. It has also been shown to be common for a teen with ADHD to have more regretful decisions, such as something posted on the internet, a sexually-transmitted disease, or unwanted pregnancy. They may also find themselves struggling with dysautonomia, which refers to numerous health conditions caused by issues with the autonomic nervous system.
How Common is ADHD in Teens?
In the United States alone, it has been shown that around 9.4 percent of teens are diagnosed with ADHD. This makes it one of the more common neurodevelopmental conditions today. In addition, experts have said that 80 to 85 percent of preteens will still show symptoms of ADHD when they reach adolescents, and around 60 percent, will carry their ADHD diagnosis to adulthood.
Does ADHD Get Worse During Puberty?
As if the teen years are not challenging enough, those who have ADHD during their adolescence are faced with extra challenges. Along with that, puberty has been shown to exacerbate their symptoms. During puberty, there is also the change of their academics becoming more taxing and their drive for more independence as they get older. This leads to their dangerous impulsivity being triggered. This will only make their transitional milestones more complex, such as learning to drive, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, engaging in sexual activity, and forming new relationships.
During this tricky time, adding ADHD into the mix makes everything more complicated. Therefore, working with a doctor, school faculty, and a behavior therapist would be a good idea to help the teen navigate their adolescent years.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed in Teens?
Because ADHD is mainly diagnosed during elementary school, it is commonly tested in hyperactive boys. Still, for those who are the inattentive type, it is common for those to be missed. The thing to remember is that ADHD does not develop suddenly during the teen years. It just may be as apparent during their childhood years.
For a teen to be diagnosed with ADHD, they must demonstrate they have a history of ADHD symptoms in two different settings at home and school before they were twelve. In addition, their symptoms must indicate that they interfered with their development.
ADHD in teens comes with many challenges, such as rejection, frustration, and isolation. Therefore, it is vital to understand the signs and symptoms of ADHD during their adolescent years.