Are you the parent of a teenager who is beginning to show some of the signs and symptoms often associated with ADHD, such as hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity? Are you finding it difficult to locate information on ADHD in teenagers, including whether or not the ADHD test for teenagers and young children is similar? If you search online for topics relating to ADHD, what you’ll invariably find is a massive amount of information on ADHD in children, and even a respectable quantity of information on ADHD in adults, but sadly, the sum of information on ADHD in teenagers is not nearly as impressive. This poses a problem for parents who want to find help for their teenage child—help that begins with the proper diagnosis. In this article we will discuss ADHD in teenagers in a bit more detail, including some of the problems diagnosing ADHD in teens, and some information on how ADHD tests for teenagers both resemble and differ from the tests given to young children.
ADHD Test for Teenagers: The Difficulty in Diagnosing ADHD in Teenagers
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a neurological disorder that affects nearly 8%-11% of all school-age children, and 60% of these children will continue to show some of the signs and symptoms of ADHD throughout adolescence and their teenage years. The condition is typically characterized by three main symptoms: hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention, which can manifest in the form of unwanted or problem behavior and poor performance in school.
There is no biological ADHD test for teenagers, nor is there one for children. Instead, the disorder is diagnosed based on the type, frequency and severity of certain types of symptoms and behaviors. This sounds easy enough, but the difficulty in this type of “observation diagnosis” is that the symptoms of ADHD often mirror the symptoms of other mental, behavioral and emotional disorders, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, conduct disorder and a number of different types of learning disabilities. A teenager who is easily distracted, for example, could indeed be suffering from ADHD, as this is one of the classic symptoms of the disorder, but being distracted is also one of the hallmarks of bipolar disorder. Poor performance in school, while regularly seen with ADHD, could also be caused by a learning disability of some kind. To accurately diagnose ADHD in teenagers, doctors must look for a combination of ADHD symptoms, that happen frequently and severely enough that they interfere with the child’s ability to live and behave normally.
ADHD Tests for Teenagers vs. ADHD Tests for Children
An ADHD test for teenagers is conducted in much the same way as it is for children, but the symptoms of ADHD will usually present a bit differently between the two groups. Children with ADHD, for example, especially younger boys, tend to be very intrusive and disruptive because of the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. They tend to act before they think, and this usually creates a lot of disciplinary problems at home and at school. Teenagers between the ages of 13-18, on the other hand, tend to have more control over their behavior, usually due to lessons learned over time, and are less disruptive than their childhood counterparts. However, when ADHD is not treated when a child is young, the ADHD symptom of inattention, which may have previously caused little or no problems, may begin to catch up with the ADHD teenager, causing the teen to fall behind or struggle with schoolwork. This is especially noticeable when the teenager is undergoing a major life change, such as starting a new school or going off to college.
In summary, ADHD in teenagers can often be difficult to diagnose, largely because the disorder shares many of the same symptoms found in other disorders. And while the ADHD test for teenagers is very similar to the test given to children, the symptoms doctors are looking for can vary substantially between the two groups, with children leaning more to the hyperactive and disruptive side of the spectrum, and teenagers exhibiting the symptoms of inattention and disorganization—both of which can be barriers to academic success.