Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Teens

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

ADHD Teens and Driving

Three areas -- driving, homework, and alcohol/drugs -- are areas that may spark a fire between the parents of a teen with ADHD and their child. It is appropriate that parents anticipate and formulate a plan to address these issues with their adolescent.

Motor-vehicle accidents are the number-one cause of death in children 16-20 years of age.

Teen ADHD facts

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common chronic disorders affecting school-age children. Current research indicates prevalence rates of 3%-5% with males being diagnosed with this disorder two and a half 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, 5th Edition (DSM-V). 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."
  • ADHD manifestations may be subdivided into three types:
    1. predominately inattentive,
    2. predominantly hyperactivity/impulsivity, and
    3. combined type.
  • Originally thought to be "outgrown" by adulthood, current studies indicate that approximately 60%-80% of patients diagnosed as children will meet diagnostic criteria during adolescence and adulthood.

What are risk factors and causes of 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 people not experiencing ADHD symptoms. While these theories may have interesting research implications, a more conventional approach utilizes both a mental-health evaluation and a thorough physical examination in determining the diagnosis of ADHD and providing a rational treatment program. There is clear evidence of a hereditary predisposition toward ADHD. Children with ADHD are more likely to have a parent or nonidentical twin sibling with the same diagnosis. An even higher likelihood exists when considering identical twins.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/22/2015
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