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ADHD in Adolescence and Strategies to Deal with It

Updated: Jun 17

By Natasha Tanic

An Abstract


Adolescence is a period that marks the transition from childhood into adulthood. As such, adolescence features changes in cognitive, physical, and emotional development. ADHD impacts all areas of a young person’s life, causing:

· poor school performance

· interpersonal difficulties

· risk-taking behaviors.

Using available resources such as the Fitango Health technology platform, practical therapeutic approaches, and positive parenting styles can alleviate symptoms and help the adolescent grow into a healthy and happy adult.

Introduction


Experiencing adolescence may be challenging for both adolescents and their parents. Puberty causes teenagers to struggle with the hormonal and body changes that influence their thoughts and emotions, and often make an adolescent feel confused, frustrated, lonely, sad, or angry. However, if your adolescent has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the challenges of adolescence become even more significant.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition typically diagnosed in early childhood. But many kids who are diagnosed with ADHD in childhood still have it as adolescents.


ADHD normally doesn’t develop newly in adolescents and adults. To be diagnosed with ADHD, several symptoms that cause ADHD challenges must be present in childhood. However, adolescents can be diagnosed with ADHD that was missed when the adolescent was a child. If a teenager develops symptoms that look like ADHD in adolescence, then the current symptoms may be the result of some other disorder such as anxiety or depression.

ADHD is a disorder that involves ongoing attention problems, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Since the condition includes self-regulation challenges, it is not unusual to see symptoms worsen in adolescence.


The Challenges of ADHD in Adolescence


ADHD makes it difficult for an adolescent to stay focused and organized, follow the rules, and control emotional reactions and impulses. Kids and teenagers with ADHD usually struggle with challenging behaviors, learning difficulties, low self-esteem, and poor grades. They often have problems establishing and maintaining positive relationships.


The most common symptoms of ADHD include:

· Disorganization

· Distractibility

· Hyperactivity

· Impulsivity

· Poor attention and concentration


Executive Skills and School Success


One’s executive skills determine learning and academic success. These skills involve attention, memory, cognitive flexibility, and cognitive control. Research has proven that executive function in children with ADHD matures more slowly than in their peers, which causes a delay in the development of executive skills.


Delayed development of executive skills in children with ADHD causes difficulties including lack of organizational skills, lack of ability to focus, poor emotional control, problems with tolerating frustration, and so on.


ADHD and Risk-Taking Behaviors


Also, ADHD raises the risk of challenging behaviors such as alcohol and substance use or car accidents. Adolescents with ADHD may be impulsive, prone to risk-taking, and thrill-seeking.


The gap between the development in some parts of the brain may cause the adolescents’ inability to perceive and judge risk successfully.


Research shows that the amygdala matures sooner than the prefrontal cortex, which may explain adolescents’ impulsivity, moodiness, and risk-taking behaviors. The prefrontal lobe of the brain – which is responsible for impulse control, judgment, decision-making, and problem-solving – isn’t completely developed until the early 20s. Therefore, adolescents may rely on the amygdala – a part of the brain that controls emotional life, impulses, and aggression – to make decisions and solve problems.


Studies show that teenagers with ADHD are two to four times more likely to have a car accident than their peers without ADHD. Similarly, adolescents with ADHD are more likely to engage in heavy drinking and drug abuse than teens without ADHD.


Strategies to Deal with ADHD in Adolescence


Getting the support and the right treatment for ADHD may help improve your child’s school success and decrease the possibility of risk-taking behaviors.


1. Try Psychotherapy and Medications


Behavior therapy is the most effective in treating ADHD in teens. However, the combination of behavior therapy and medication has proven to give the best results in treating adolescents with ADHD.


While behavior therapy helps improve behavior problems that result from ADHD, medications may make adolescents more alert and help them perform better at school.


2. Use Digital Health Technology Platforms


Sometimes traditional therapy is not an option. Luckily, today’s digital health technology allows you to get support anytime, anywhere. Fitango Health is a leading digital health technology platform that offers custom screenings and assessments, care management, remote patient monitoring, patient engagement, and more.

Adolescents with ADHD and their families can utilize Fitango Health’s platform to access educational resources, instructional material, and self-care guidelines for ADHD and for general health and wellness. Fitango Health offers Education Plans and ActionPlans, which are interactive health guides that allow individuals to self-report and monitor their progress directly via web browser or mobile application.


The Fitango Health Patient Engagement technology also allows caregivers and motivators to provide support directly through the platform. Care team members can communicate directly with individuals and their families using Fitango Health’s secure messaging and telehealth capabilities.


Fitango Health’s digital offerings expand the clinician’s ability to monitor patients outside the clinical setting, which removes the barrier of an adolescent’s unwillingness to attend sessions in a conventional doctor’s office setting. Ultimately, expanding care beyond the point-of-care with Fitango Health can lead to better health outcomes for adolescents with ADHD.


3. Practice Parenting Strategies


ADHD affects all areas of a teen’s life. To help your child manage their ADHD, be supportive and accepting even when their behavior upsets you. However, make sure to provide clear and consistent rules and expectations. Stick to routines and schedules to minimize distractions and set clear and firm boundaries. Use Fitango Health’s customized Education Plans and ActionPlans to help your child stick to routines, follow instructions, and learn more about ADHD. Additionally, access Fitango Health’s Community dashboard for family support resources.


Emphasize your teen’s strengths and support their engaging in activities where they can succeed, such as sports, art, or hobbies. Reward and affirm positive behavior; this will boost your child’s self-esteem and confidence. However, don’t avoid calmly disciplining your teen and setting consequences for bad behavior. Ensure that your adolescent gets plenty of sleep and work together with his teachers to make sure he is on his tasks at school.

Kids and teenagers with ADHD are bright and energetic. However, they struggle to stay organized, control impulses, follow the routines and rules, and need continual support and encouragement to develop and learn.


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