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ADHD in Children Health Center

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ADHD in Teens

Most children who are diagnosed with ADHD still have it as teens. Symptoms of ADHD in teens are similar to those of ADHD in children. They include:

  • Distractibility
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

During teen years, especially as the hormonal changes of adolescence are going on, ADHD symptoms may get worse.

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How does ADHD affect a teen's life?

Because of problems with distractibility and poor concentration, many teens with ADHD have problems in school. Grades may fall, especially if the teen is not getting ADHD treatment.

It's not uncommon for teens with ADHD to forget assignments, lose textbooks, and become 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 their teacher and classmates, and they may rush through assignments. Teens with ADHD may also be fidgety and find it tough to sit 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 bad grades on tests and being passed over for sports teams, after-school activities, and peer groups.

Does ADHD raise the risk of car accidents and problem drinking?

Yes. Driving poses special risks for teens with ADHD. 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 make accidents and serious injury more likely. 

Still, studies show that teen drivers with ADHD who take their medication are less likely to have 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 studies, teens with ADHD were twice as likely as other teens to have abused alcohol within the past 6 months and three times as likely to abuse drugs other than marijuana.

Getting the right treatment for ADHD 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. But 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.

Usually, a combination of medication and behavior therapy is best in treating teens with ADHD. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry all recommend behavior therapy to improve behavior problems that are a part of ADHD.

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