*The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and it’s a condition characterized by several factors impacting focus, socialization, organization, executive functioning, and energy. There are two main types of ADHD, and each one can be noticed differently, depending on how it presents.
If you suspect your teenage child has ADHD, you might be on to something. However, here are some of the top signs of ADHD in teens that parents might not pick up on right away.
Stress and Anxiety in School and Work Situations
ADHD can cause teens to feel extremely stressed and anxious and not know why they’re feeling like that. This stress and anxiety might come out in the following behaviors:
- Yelling out of nowhere
- Storming off
- Fidgeting often
- Appearing to “zone out”
- Avoiding events, socialization, or important dates
- Stumbling on words
- Sounding “irritated” or appearing to have “an attitude”
Teens often react to fear and uncertainty with anger. That’s why it’s important to understand the root cause of your child’s emotional reactions.
Something as simple as a heated and weighted pillow or blanket can help regulate their emotions enough to allow them to talk to you about what’s going on.
A Messy Room and Messy School Folders/Backpack
ADHD can cause teens to feel like their mind isn’t in order, which in turn makes it hard for them to work on simple chores and tasks around the home. If you do enforce chores in your home, you might notice more resistance or feel like your child is trying to avoid responsibility by not picking up after themselves.
In all reality, for kids with ADHD, it’s difficult to clean up the house when they can’t even clean up their own minds. They may feel extremely overwhelmed and not know where to start.
Using a game to help them organize the clean-up experience can help. You can also label each section of the room and have them work on one corner at a time so their focus can be brought to only a small area instead of a large and scary mess.
Difficulty Concentrating on Homework
For many kids with ADHD, concentrating on homework or schoolwork is one of the hardest tasks. It’s similar to the example of cleaning a room. When there are multiple things at once to be done (in this case, maybe it’s an entire worksheet or a school project), their mind doesn’t know where to start.
To help your kid focus on homework, have them deliver the worksheet or homework to you when they get home from school. Sit down with them and cover all of the additional questions on the sheet with a piece of paper. Have them focus just on the first question and solve that one. Once they finish, you’ll move on to the next one. It works better if they don’t know how many questions there are remaining. Reward them when they finish half and reward them more when they finish the entire assignment.
Remember, rewards don’t need to be expensive or large. It can be a fruit snack, a hug, encouragement, or 30 minutes on the PlayStation.
You can also get your child accommodations at school if they need to use voice-reading software or have extra time on tests. This accommodation can take some of the pressure off of them when they’re not at home with you.
If your child has an issue with the foods they eat, this might be a sign of ADHD. Often, children and teens with ADHD get overwhelmed by too many flavor profiles at once. They may prefer eating something bland or familiar like mac and cheese or chicken nuggets.
There are healthy alternatives to these types of foods. Although kids can usually pick up on it, there might be something you can find. At the end of the day, it’s more important for your kid to eat something than it is for them to eat what you want them to eat. Often, as these children grow into adults, they’ll sample new foods on their own time.
Never Seeming to Run Out of Energy
If your child has the hyperactive type of ADHD, you may notice that they have a lot of energy. This energy can come out in different ways, including:
- Touching other people often, pulling hair, or using physical communication
- Running around the house
- Participating in many sports and never getting tired
- Speaking in a loud voice without realizing it
- Interrupting other people who are conversing out of excitement
- Needing to be a part of everything that is happening
- Not being able to sit down for more than a few minutes
- Not being able to sit and focus on an activity unless it’s a hyper-focused activity that they’re passionate about
- Making sounds and expressions that others don’t understand
Some of these symptoms can also be early signs of bipolar disorder, and others may be signs of developmental issues like autism as well. That’s why it’s important to get your teen evaluated by a neuropsychologist for a diagnosis.
Getting Hyper-Focused on One Thing
One of the biggest symptoms of ADHD for many teens is getting hyper-focused. Often, this might mean focusing on a video game they really love and not being able to talk about anything else. Or it might be a book series or a fictional character. You might notice that their interests seem to come in phases and that they’re always very extreme.
This symptom is also a sign of autism, so it’s a good idea to discern whether your child also struggles socially and with sensory input or if they simply have issues with focusing too much or too little.
Now you know a little more about what ADHD looks like in teens. These symptoms can come up at an early age as well and may last throughout adulthood. Medication and therapy are available for ADHD at any time. If you’d like to learn more about the symptoms of this condition, check out BetterHelp’s articles today.