Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Teens

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of children and adolescents throughout the United States. Young people with ADHD have a number of problems that interfere with day to day life including difficulty sustaining attention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.

Symptoms of ADHD in Young Adults

A child with ADHD may have some or all of the following symptoms:

Inattentive Symptoms:

  • Easily distracted, poor attention to detail
  • Forgetful
  • Frequently switches from one activity to another, difficulty focusing on a single task
  • Becomes bored easily
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Difficulty learning new things
  • Trouble completing homework assignments
  • Often loses things
  • Does not listen when spoken to
  • Daydreams or does not pay attention
  • Easily confused
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Difficulty doing quiet tasks

Hyperactive Symptoms:

  • Fidgets and squirms in their seat
  • Talks nonstop
  • Dashing around or playing with anything and everything in sight
  • Trouble sitting still
  • Constantly in motion

Impulsive Symptoms:

  • Very impatient
  • Makes inappropriate comments
  • Has difficulty waiting for things they want or taking turns
  • Often interrupts others’ activities or conversations

Children are naturally somewhat inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive.  For example, it is normal for young children to have short attention spans and be unable to focus on tasks that are not interesting to them.  A child should not be diagnosed with ADHD simply because they are more energetic than their siblings or peers or because they are struggling in school.  It is important for ADHD to be diagnosed by a doctor as many of the signs and symptoms of ADHD are also present in other disorders.

What Happens if My Teen is Untreated for ADHD?

Teens with ADHD struggle in many areas of their life and without proper treatment ADHD can interfere with school and home life as well as peer and family relationships and ultimately confidence and self esteem. These added struggles often contribute to lowered self esteem, interpersonal problems and poor decision making.  Due to these troubles children with untreated ADHD are at increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse and other types of dysfunctional and harmful behavior.

  • Struggle in the classroom.
  • Tend to have more accidents and injuries.
  • Have trouble interacting with and being accepted by peers.

Co-Occurring Conditions

Although ADHD does not cause these other disorders, it often occurs alongside of them.  If your child continues to struggle even after undergoing treatment for ADHD, it is possible that there is something else going on.  Children with ADHD are more likely to struggle with other complicating conditions including:

  • Learning Disabilities
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Tourette Syndrome

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Treatment for ADHD

The two most common treatments for ADHD in adolescents are medication and counseling.

Behavior Therapy/Counseling

Behavior therapy for children with ADHD involves the whole family.  Parents are an integral part of their child’s treatment because they act as their children’s behavioral models and disciplinarians.  Adolescents may also benefit from psychotherapy as it provides them an opportunity to explore maladaptive behavioral patterns and learn ways to cope with the unpleasant symptoms of ADHD.  Parents and children can also benefit from family therapy in order to cope with the stress of living with a family member who has ADHD.


The most commonly prescribed drugs for ADHD are stimulants. These are shown to have at least some positive effect on symptoms in about 80% of ADHD patients.  Stimulants enhance the activity of the central and peripheral nervous systems. They help increase alertness, awareness, endurance, productivity and motivation.  Commonly prescribed stimulants for ADHD include:

  • Concerta (Methylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (Dextroamphetamine)
  • Adderall (Dextroamphetamine-amphetamine)
  • Vynase (Lisdexamfetamine)

If your child can’t take stimulants because of health problems or unpleasant side effects, other non-stimulant medications used to treat ADHD include:

  • Wellbutrin (Bupropion)
  • Strattera (Atomexetine)
  • Norpramin (Desipramine)
  • Catapres (Clonidine)
  • Intuniv, Tenex (Guanfacine)

If an Adolescent Has Suicidal Thoughts

Sadly, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common with some mental illnesses.  If you think your adolescent is at risk of hurting themselves or attempting suicide get help right away:

  1. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  2. Call a suicide hotline number.
    1. In the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.

ADHD Treatment at Adolescent Growth

Adolescent Growth takes a holistic approach to treating ADHD and other related learning and attention disorders.  Each client at Adolescent Growth is thoroughly evaluated upon admission and an individualized treatment plan is created and adhered to throughout their stay.  Your child will be evaluated by our psychiatrist who specializes in treating adolescents and they will lead our treatment team in making decisions about your child’s treatment.

Your child will receive individual therapy at least three times per week.  In therapy sessions, the adolescent is encouraged to talk about their struggles and learns skills and strategies for coping with the symptoms of ADHD.   Adolescents also attend multiple group therapy sessions per day where they learn coping skills and strategies and receive support from their peers.

Your child will also have access to a state-of-the-art gym and will be instructed in yoga and meditation multiple times throughout the week.  Physical activity and meditation help children relax and learn discipline. All of this helps to manage the symptoms of ADHD.

Meals are planned by a registered dietitian who ensures that adolescents are optimally nourished which in turn gives them the physical and mental energy they need to focus on and engage in their treatment.

If you are struggling to help your child who is suffering from ADHD or another learning or behavioral disorder, please call our admissions department to discuss treatment options.


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