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ADHD in Children Health Center

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How to Recognize ADHD Symptoms at Every Age

ADHD in Elementary School Kids continued...

Because she may act without thinking things through, your child may be accident-prone.

There is no one test for ADHD. Many kids have some signs, but for an ADHD diagnosis, several signs need to be present for at least 6 months, and they have to be taking a toll on the child’s social and academic activities, says Cuffe.

Once a child is diagnosed with ADHD, you and your doctor will discuss treatment options. They most often include both medication and behavioral therapy. You may need to try different things before you settle on the right treatment.

ADHD in Adolescents

In the teen years, hyperactivity tends to decline, but your child may feel restless and be uncomfortable sitting for long periods.

At this stage, Barkley notes, “other problems, with time, motivation, organization -- these are going to become the costliest symptoms for them.”

An adolescent with ADHD may have a hard time concentrating on school work, but may do well with video games, which offer immediate rewards.

All teens can be emotional, but one with ADHD may have more trouble keeping her emotions in check.

Because of the tendency to be impulsive, a teen with ADHD might engage in risky behaviors, including using alcohol and drugs, lying, stealing, and having unprotected sex. Safety in the car may also be an issue. “This is one of the worst disorders you can have while operating a motor vehicle,” says Barkley.

ADHD in Adults

The hyperactivity that comes with ADHD wanes with age. But impulsivity, an inability to focus, and a lack of inhibition can continue to create problems in many areas of life for adults.

An adult with ADHD may:

  • Be messy and disorganized
  • Have trouble paying attention
  • Struggle to finish tasks
  • Lose keys, wallet, sunglasses, or cell phone often
  • Take shortcuts, behind the wheel and at work
  • Engage in risky sex and drug and alcohol abuse
  • Quit jobs on impulse
  • Use credit cards to excess
  • Make poor food choices

He may also tend to have relationship problems. “Their divorce rate is very high,” says Barkley.

Still, if you get a diagnosis as an adult, it may give you a new understanding of issues you have struggled with since childhood. Treatment can help you with your symptoms, so stick with it. If you find it's no longer working, talk to your doctor about making adjustments.

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Reviewed on June 06, 2014

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