Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Teens

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ADHD in teens introduction

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common chronic disorders affecting school age children. Current research indicates prevalence rates of 3% to 5% with males being diagnosed with this disorder 2.5 times more often than females. ADHD is described as "a common neurobiologic disorder characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity." A more academic description is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4th Edition (DSM-IV). This encyclopedia of mental health disorders indicates that ADHD is characterized as "a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals of comparable levels of development." Furthermore, ADHD manifestations may be subdivided into three types: 1) predominately inattentive, 2) predominantly hyperactivity/impulsivity, and 3) combined type. Originally thought to be "outgrown," current studies indicate that approximately 60% to 80% of patients diagnosed as children will meet diagnostic criteria during adolescence and adulthood.

What causes ADHD in teens?

ADHD is a disruption of neurocognitive functioning without a single cause. Current research is utilizing powerful neuroimaging techniques (for example, functional MRI) and has developed intriguing hypotheses of neurochemical dysfunction of the brain as a cause of ADHD behaviors. Regions of the brain felt to be responsible for executive functioning, problem solving, and goal seeking and impulsivity may function differently in those individuals with ADHD when compared to those without the diagnosis. Interestingly, regions of the brain not felt to be associated with ADHD behaviors may also be different when individuals with ADHD are compared to persons not experiencing ADHD symptoms. While these theories may have interesting research implications and have been the basis for lucrative systems of assessment for neuroimaging providers, conventional knowledge remains the use of mental health and physical examination in determining the diagnosis of ADHD and providing treatment.

There is clear evidence of a hereditary predisposition toward ADHD. Children with ADHD are more likely to have a parent or non-identical twin sibling with the same diagnosis. An even higher likelihood exists when considering identical twins.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/19/2013

ADHD in Teens: Symptoms

Children or teens with ADHD may:

  • Get distracted easily and forget things often
  • Switch too quickly from one activity to the next
  • Have trouble following directions
  • Daydream too much
  • Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
  • Lose toys, books, and school supplies often
  • Fidget and squirm a lot
  • Talk nonstop and interrupt people
  • Run around a lot
  • Touch and play with everything they see
  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments
  • Have trouble controlling their emotions

Children may first develop ADHD symptoms at an early age (between 3 and 6 years old). However, ADHD is most often found and treated in elementary school (between 7 and 9 years old).

ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity may get better as a child gets older. However, symptoms may not disappear completely and may continue into adulthood.

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