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.

What kinds of difficulties do teens with ADHD face?

Teenagers with ADHD will commonly have problems with relationships (parents and peers), academic and nonacademic (for example, sports) success, and self-esteem. It is important to include the teen when discussing management of his or her ADHD. Accepting the diagnosis of ADHD can be a major hurdle. A teen's sense of self-identity requires fitting in seamlessly with peers; this goal of blending in may be disrupted and the adolescent may feel that he or she has been "labeled" and thus ostracized. Helping the teen to appreciate his or her strengths and that there are options which will help to "level the playing field" will actually enable him or her to better fit in with their non-ADHD affected peers. The analogy of wearing glasses may help to make the point. The glasses merely enable the wearer to see as well as those whose vision is not impacted. Management of ADHD is merely designed to return the teen back to the baseline his or her contemporaries currently experience.

What are nonmedical treatment strategies for teen ADHD?

Nonmedical management strategies for the adolescent with ADHD include the following:

  1. Provide fair, clear, and consistent expectations, direction, and limits.
  2. Follow a regular (while not rigid) schedule and limit distractions.
  3. Establish a system of rewards and consequences to address the teen's behavior.
  4. Boost the teen's self-esteem by acknowledging success and positive behavioral choices.
  5. Create a home system to help the teen stay on schedule for both immediate- and more long-term academic projects.
  6. Establish a positive relationship with teachers so that regular, timely, bidirectional feedback occurs on a regular basis.
  7. Try to stay calm during the inevitable disagreements between you and your adolescent. Seek professional help if conflicts seem extreme.
  8. Encourage one hour of vigorous physical activity prior to starting homework. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated a positive relationship between vigorous physical activity and faster and more effective and accurate study habits.
  9. Establish regular, quality sleep patterns.
  10. Set firm, fair, consistent rules for the use of TV, computers, Internet, texting, cell phone usage, and video games.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/22/2015
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