What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition. It’s been diagnosed in over 3.3 million Trusted Source people between the ages of 12 and 17, according to a 2016 survey.

You may have noticed a few symptoms in younger children, but the average age Trusted Source at diagnosis is 7. Symptoms can continue into adolescence and adulthood.

In this post, we’ll look at ADHD in teens and how it manifests itself.

Symptoms of ADHD in teens

Nobody has all of the effects of ADHD. And just because your teen has a handful does not mean they have it. Here are 16 ways ADHD can manifest itself in a teen:

Lack of focus

A teen with ADHD can struggle to keep focused. They can begin one project only to begin another before completing the first. Being easily distracted can result in reckless errors at school, work, or home.


All lose their house keys from time to time. However, this is a natural phenomenon in a teen with ADHD. They can spend a significant amount of time looking for their belongings. Missed appointments and deadlines will result from poor time management.

Self-focused behavior

A teen with ADHD can struggle to understand what other people want or need. They may have difficulty waiting for someone or taking turns.


ADHD is often characterized by restlessness. Someone with ADHD can struggle to sit still without squirming or getting up.

Heightened emotionality

According to research, individuals with ADHD may not achieve the cognitive maturity of a normal 21-year-old until their late twenties or early thirties. Adolescence is a rollercoaster of emotions. With ADHD, violent outbursts and excessively dramatic scenes can occur in inappropriate situations.

Fear of rejection

People with neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD are prone to rejection-sensitive dysphoria. Rejection, teasing, or critique can both elicit strong emotions.


A person with ADHD may find themselves lost in daydreams for long periods.


People with neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD are prone to rejection-sensitive dysphoria. Rejection, teasing, or critique can both elicit strong emotions.

Difficulty following a conversation

ADHD can interfere with conversational skills in the following ways:

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  • Interfering
  • Excessive talking
  • Leaving in the middle of a chat
  • Interfering in other people’s conversations


Procrastination is a side effect of a lack of emphasis. It’s most obvious when things take a long time. Your teen can procrastinate on homework or other responsibilities for so long that they totally skip deadlines.

Trouble working quietly

Quiet tasks are typically difficult for a teen with ADHD. It could be frustrating for them to sit and read or focus on a project by themselves.

Always “on the go”

Teens with ADHD showed less hyperactive signs than younger children. Some, on the other hand, are a whirlwind of operation. They may be determined to play their beloved video game one minute and then head to a friend’s house the next.

Trouble reading social cues

They might be unaware that they have distracted or irritated anyone. Making and keeping friends can be difficult.

Trouble compromising with others

It will be impossible to compromise with someone if you are unable to concentrate, have difficulty following a conversation, or have difficulty reading social cues.

Personal hygiene issues

It is not true of any adolescent with ADHD, although some struggle with personal grooming. That may be due to disorganization and procrastination.

Difficulty following directions

Lack of concentration, restlessness, and mind-wandering will make it difficult to obey precise directions.

Are symptoms different between teen boys and teen girls?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD at 12.9 percent versus 5.6 percent Trusted Source.

Symptoms vary between boys and females. Girls can prefer less apparent inattentive symptoms over obvious hyperactive symptoms. In females, symptoms are often ignored.

What risks do teens with ADHD face?

Puberty and emerging maturity are natural stages in the development of every adolescent. Managing these problems for ADHD can be more difficult. Research suggests that teens with ADHD may have higher rates of:

  • “risky” sexual behaviors
  • suicidal thoughts
  • incarcerations
  • car crashes
  • job problems
  • illegal drug use
  • smoking
  • obesity

Lower self-esteem and social functioning can lead to trouble with:

  • relationships with peers
  • getting along with family
  • academic performance

Co-morbidities like anxiety and depression are common.

How are ADHD symptoms in teens diagnosed?

ADHD is commonly diagnosed in infancy. Since hyperactive signs are less apparent in teenagers, it is more difficult to detect. Because of the overlapping signs, it is important to differentiate ADHD from other conditions such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sleep disorders
  • hearing and vision problems
  • learning disabilities
  • mood or personality disorders

There is no one-size-fits-all test for ADHD. A physical inspection, as well as hearing and vision checks, are part of the procedure. It normally entails filling out questionnaires and getting feedback from parents and instructors.

ADHD is not a condition that can be diagnosed on your own. Specific signs as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders must be evaluated by a qualified health practitioner (DSM-5).

Criteria for those 16 and younger include:

  • six or more inattention signs
  • six or more hyperactivity-impulsivity signs

For those 17 and older:

  • five or more symptoms of inattention
  • five or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity

In all cases, symptoms:

  • have been observed for at least 6 months
  • are not developmentally normal for age
  • appear in two or more environments
  • specifically, interfere with the functioning
  • are not due to another mental disorder
  • some symptoms were present before age 12

The three types of ADHD are:

  • predominantly inattentive
  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
  • combined presentation

Treating ADHD in teens

At the age of 25, about 15% of children with ADHD also have symptoms. And 65% also have symptoms that interfere with their normal lives. Treatment is determined by the severity of the symptoms. In certain cases, medicine is used in conjunction with behavior modification.

Any co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression, must be addressed as part of the recovery strategy.


About 70 percent of teens respond to a stimulant medication like:

  • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (Adderall XR, Mydayis)
  • lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin, Focalin)

Usually, you will begin with the lowest possible dosage and change as appropriate. Your doctor will go through the possible advantages and disadvantages.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral counseling will assist ADHD youth and their caregivers with learning how to deal with feelings and explore the environment. This could provide instruction in the following areas:

  • social skills
  • problem solving
  • organizational skills

Diet and lifestyle changes

Research Trusted Source suggests that children with ADHD may do better when making certain lifestyle choices, such as:

  • balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein
  • replacing sweetened drinks with water, avoiding caffeine
  • daily exercise
  • limited screen time, especially before bed
  • getting adequate sleep

Speak with your teen’s doctor about their daily habits and ask where improvements can be made.

How to help a teenager with ADHD cope

Teens have a natural need for freedom, but they do need support and encouragement. Here are few strategies for assisting the adolescent in dealing with ADHD:

  • Be understanding of their difficulties. Harsh alerts are ineffective.
  • Make a sleep schedule that includes a wind-down period, a bedtime, and a wake-up time.
  • Use a planner to assist them with organizing their schedule.
  • Organize the house so that commonly used objects, such as keys, have a designated landing zone.
  • Assist them in organizing their bedroom, including their quarters, desk, and backpack.
  • When offering advice, be precise.
  • Set up alerts for crucial things, or assist them in doing so.
  • Assist them in breaking down difficult tasks into manageable chunks.
  • Academic assistance can be provided by homework buddies or tutors.
  • Set up a chore map to help them keep track of their responsibilities.
  • Learn from their peers.
  • Encourage people to talk about their marriages, sexuality, and drug use.
  • Enable them to express their dissatisfaction in a safe environment.
  • Help them understand the dangers of distracted driving and drug use.
  • Make it clear that coming to you for help is the mature and responsible thing to do.
  • Don’t scold or punish them for things they can’t control.
  • They’re on their way to adulthood, so let them have a say in things that affect their health and well-being.
  • Praise all small progress.

Learn the potential side effects of ADHD medicines. It could shed light on some issues.

You’re not by yourself. Many people are dealing with the difficulties that come with having ADHD. Investigate ADHD services and inquire with your teen’s psychiatrist or school psychologist about area resources.

The Take Away

Many individuals with ADHD experience signs that last into puberty and adulthood. That is why it is important to fix ADHD and assist your teen in coping. ADHD, fortunately, is a treatable disorder.

Read more about: 11 Tips to Manage ADHD Procrastination