ADHD in Teens: How Symptoms Manifest as Unique Challenges for Adolescents and Young Adults

In adolescence, ADHD is related to a suite of distinct and measurable challenges — govt disorder, greater menace for substance misuse and car injuries, stimulant medicine diversion, emotional dysregulation, high-risk behaviors, and extra. Robust, long-term research confirm that, if unaddressed, those teenage challenges can have an effect on high quality of life and normal functioning smartly into maturity.

For absolute best outcomes, clinicians should help sufferers and households perceive how ADHD impacts the adolescent and young grownup brain specifically, and how early care and interventions can have positive results. If the conversations and interventions start early, and a family’s vigilance remains excessive, teens with ADHD will grow and release into remarkable young adults.

ADHD in Adolescents: Developmental Overview

ADHD Persists into Adulthood for Many

While symptoms of consideration deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) tend to decline and shift with time, it is the rule – no longer the exception – that almost all of teens with ADHD (seventy five percent) continue to revel in ADHD in maturity1. This fundamental aspect of the condition underscores the significance of creating supports and using methods in previous years which are constructed to remaining particularly in the course of the critical transition from formative years into young maturity.

ADHD Adolescent Years and Brain Development

Significant brain growth, especially in the frontal lobe – the region concerned in govt function talents like drawback fixing, warfare answer, planning, and impulse keep watch over – occurs right through the teenage years and continues until about age 25. With ADHD, however, brain development in this area is reasonably behind schedule, which means these talents may develop slowly.

Delayed frontal lobe development additionally makes regulating the limbic machine – the circuitry related to emotion, nervousness, praise, and risky conduct – more difficult. This differential mind construction would possibly explain some observable dysregulation and instability in adolescents with ADHD, and it builds a case for why families still wish to remain involved and vigilant in the course of the youngster’s development in this period.

[Learn: The Neuroscience of the ADHD Brain]

ADHD in Adolescents: Challenges and Impacted Areas

Increased Academic Demands

Teens with ADHD progressing through highschool will have to navigate and tackle more and more difficult workloads. There are extra tests, extra homework, a grueling and an increasing number of aggressive faculty or trades application procedure, and more to keep observe of normally in comparison to prior college years. Missed assignments and truancy, for instance, could have serious penalties.

Extracurricular actions additionally include increased demands, particularly in college or the trades. In sports activities, for example, playbooks are turning into thicker and extra advanced. Increased competition makes for a higher level of play, and willpower is required to keep up with apply, coaching, vitamin, and other facets of the sport whilst also maintaining grades excessive sufficient to qualify for play.

The menace of throwing in the towel of high school is upper in those with ADHD in comparison to friends without ADHD2, which has a powerful affect over long run source of revenue levels, hire-ability, and different geographical regions.

Social Impairment

Many people with ADHD battle with social skills, and the transition to maturity can spotlight these challenges. Studies reveal that teens and young adults with ADHD have a tendency to:

  • Be much less socially competent than their friends3
  • Be involved in fewer social activities4
  • Have fewer buddies4
  • Have delinquent friends5
  • Be socially remoted5

Adolescents with ADHD will also be unreliable resources for assessing their social functioning, giving themselves overly optimistic appraisals of their abilities3. To improve peer relationships, teens can sign up for in individual or on-line groups and actions that align with their interests and leisure pursuits.

[Click to Read: The Dangers and Promise of #ADHD Videos on TikTok]

Substance Use and Misuse

ADHD is associated with greater risk of cigarette or nicotine vaping, recreational drug use and substance use disorders6, particularly in those untreated for their ADHD. About one-half of young adults with ADHD document recreational drug use in comparison to simply over 30 p.c in the neurotypical team2. This also contains cigarette smoking – the transition from adolescence to adulthood is where we see a dramatic increase with about 70 p.c of teens with ADHD figuring out as people who smoke compared to less than Forty percent of teens without ADHD2.

Substances are deleterious to the creating adolescent brain. Alcohol alone impacts finding out, data recall, memory, and sleep. Marijuana use, particularly ahead of the age of 16, creates vital problems with the mind’s connectivity and capacity, and hampers executive functioning. On a good observe, long-term, large-scale studies display that early stimulant remedy lowers the risk of cigarette smoking and substance use problems in people with ADHD7.

While highly effective, stimulant medicine misuse and diversion is also an issue for teens and young adults with ADHD. Research suggests that as much as 20 p.c of youth have used stimulants non-medically, with the bulk – up to Eighty five % – diverting them from teens with ADHD and a stimulant prescription. Misperceptions round stimulants – that they’re risk free, that sharing isn't illegal, and with out moral concerns – contribute to fairly high charges of misuse of stimulants. Immediate-release formulations are more likely to be misused than are extended-release formulas8, making a powerful case for clinicians to prescribe extended-release drugs when appropriate for adolescent patients with ADHD. Parents are encouraged to oversee and track their adolescent’s medications in moderation; and in faculty or boarding colleges, protected garage of stimulants-not in medicine cabinets-is highly really useful.

Other Comorbid Conditions

The threat for other comorbid conditions with ADHD is high, particularly right through the transition from formative years into young adulthood. Depression and nervousness problems are possibly the most common and pressing comorbid prerequisites among teens with ADHD. Treatment of young folks with ADHD includes a focal point no longer simplest at the ADHD, but in addition the comorbid prerequisites.

Research presentations that remedy has a protecting impact in opposition to the improvement of multiple comorbid disorders in people with ADHD9. But apart from stimulant misuse, teens with ADHD might face obstacles to medical adherence for various reasons, including stigma, cost, unwanted side effects and insurance issues, plus easy loss of consistency.


The frequency of car injuries and violations is greater among teens with ADHD in comparison to their neurotypical friends. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens with ADHD are:

  • Two to 4 times more likely to be in an car coincidence
  • Four instances much more likely to be at fault for injuries
  • Up to six occasions more likely to get rushing tickets
  • Six to 8 occasions much more likely to have suspended licenses

All young folks with ADHD will have to pay attention to the higher dangers for accidents-and to minimize distractions such as cellphones all the way through using. It is significant to notice that the higher charges of motor automobile injuries support dramatically when young other people with ADHD are receiving efficient ADHD remedy9.

ADHD in Adolescents: Core Treatments

An efficient treatment plan for adolescence with ADHD facilities on ongoing schooling about possible challenges and interventions, and also has the next parts:

  • Awareness of the person’s unique strengths and weaknesses
  • Supports and interventions for areas of most need
  • Collaborative monitoring via mother or father and teenager of ADHD symptoms, activities, and habits

Accommodations and Self-Regulation Skills

If heading to school and the trades, teens and young adults with ADHD will have to accept that they're going to want to search out assist. Many accommodations to be had in the learning setting may also be useful, such as extended time for assessments and additional assist from writing and math tutoring facilities.

The significance of tapping into one’s self-help skills is put to the check in college and early-occupational training. It is best possible for caregivers to help instill wholesome behavior — like adequate sleep and nutrition, exercise, and rigidity leadership — in early early life. They will have to test in with the young grownup incessantly through asking questions about how they’re overlaying these conduct. Teens will also wish to know how to independently create construction, and if receiving certain drugs, how to check all over drugs protection periods. Also consider decreasing the educational load consistent with semester, particularly when transitioning to the harsh first semester.

Outside the varsity route, households can believe vocational review and occupation counseling to explore options for their youngster. Many occupational fields provides training with some type of lodging.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for ADHD is an effective remedy that improves ADHD symptoms and self-management general, and new research shows that it is specifically effective for young people with ADHD. In this treatment, sufferers discover ways to compensate for residual symptoms and are taught to look their patterns of idea , emotion, and habits and their penalties. Group and individual modes are to be had, and each settings are useful.


Medicines must not be promoted as cure-alls, but they are helpful for ADHD, . Stimulants are first-line treatments, followed by non-stimulants, antidepressants, and different empirically primarily based drugs. The affected person and clinician should work with the purpose of lowering target symptoms by way of about 50 p.c.

To make sure that clinical adherence, clinicians and/or oldsters can suggest a reminder system at home, or be offering additional information on engagement methods (designed to spice up independence and self-advocacy, which might help reduce detrimental feelings towards drugs)

The adolescent to young adult transitional years mark crucial length for independence and development. ADHD in not a cosmetic or trivial dysfunction; it brings with it struggles, suffering, and impairment. Now, can you harness ADHD and use it on your get advantages? Absolutely, yes. Knowing yourself existentially will permit you to do this. With the correct care and special attention, teens with ADHD will develop and flourish as they transition to adulthood.

ADHD in Teens: Next Steps

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The content for this article was once derived from the ADDitude Expert Webinar “Navigating the Life Stages of ADHD: Key Concerns in Diagnosing and Treating Adolescents” by Timothy E. Wilens., M.D. (available as ADDitude ADHD Experts Podcast episode #321), which was broadcast live on August 26, 2020.


1 Adler, L., Shaw, D., Kovacs, K., & Alperin, S. (2015). Diagnosing ADHD in youngsters and adults. In L. Adler, T. Spencer, & T. Wilens (Eds.), Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults and Children (pp. 16-23). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139035491.003

2Biederman, J., Faraone, S. V., Spencer, T. J., Mick, E., Monuteaux, M. C., & Aleardi, M. (2006). Functional impairments in adults with self-reports of recognized ADHD: A controlled find out about of 1001 adults in the neighborhood. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 67(4), 524–540.

3Barkley RA, Anastopoulos AD, Guevremont DC, Fletcher KE. Adolescents with ADHD: patterns of behavioral adjustment, academic functioning, and remedy usage. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1991;30(5):752–761

4Bagwell, C. L., Molina, B. S., Pelham, W. E., Jr, & Hoza, B. (2001). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and problems in peer family members: predictions from childhood to formative years. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(11), 1285–1292.

5Greene, RW., Biederman, J., Faraone, SV., Sienna, M., Garcia-Jetton, J.Adolescent consequence of boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and social disability: effects from a 4-year longitudinal follow-up find out about. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1997; 65: 758-767

6Wilens, T. E., Martelon, M., Joshi, G., Bateman, C., Fried, R., Petty, C., & Biederman, J. (2011). Does ADHD expect substance-use disorders? A 10-year follow-up learn about of young adults with ADHD. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 50(6), 543–553.

7Boland, H., DiSalvo, M., Fried, R., Woodworth, Okay. Y., Wilens, T., Faraone, S. V., & Biederman, J. (2020). A literature assessment and meta-analysis on the effects of ADHD medicines on purposeful results. Journal of psychiatric analysis, 123, 21–30.

8 Timothy Wilens, Courtney Zulauf, MaryKate Martelon, Nicholas R. Morrison, Andrew Simon, Nicholas W. Carrellas, Amy Yule, Rayce Anselmo. Nonmedical Stimulant Use in College Students. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2016; 940 DOI: 10.4088/JCP.14m09559

9Biederman, J., Monuteaux, M. C., Spencer, T., Wilens, T. E., & Faraone, S. V. (2009). Do stimulants offer protection to towards psychiatric problems in early life with ADHD? A 10-year follow-up study. Pediatrics, 124(1), 71–78.

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