Teens Living With ADHD
It seems more and more teens are struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) these days. Whether we are just doing a better job of diagnosing it, if current trends including use of electronic devises are contributing, or if it’s simply genetic or environmental factors, or even perhaps some combination of these, it seems ADHD is on the rise. If you suffer from ADHD, you are clearly not alone. Chances are that at least some of your friends have it, too. Being a teenager is hard enough. Couple that with ADHD, and you’ve got some real struggles.
What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml). While many people experience some of these symptoms sometimes, those who suffer from ADHD experience find that it affects their ability to function is school, families, social activities, and jobs. While some people suffer from just inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity, many suffer from a combination of one or more types of ADHD. All types of ADHD present serious challenges for teenagers, particularly during the difficult high school years.
What are some of the struggles?
When you have hyperactivity, it becomes difficult or impossible to sit still for any substantial period of time, such as you are expected to do in a classroom. This makes it incredibly challenging to learn, You might always be fidgeting or getting in trouble for squirming around in class.
If you have impulsivity, you are often blurting out in class when it isn’t appropriate or your turn to speak. This gets you in trouble with your teachers. You frequently interrupt others, which can cause social problems. This pattern can leave you labeled as a “trouble maker”.
When you are inattentive, you tend to both be disorganized and lack the attention span required for learning. Your executive functioning skills, those skills necessary for organizing yourself and carrying out tasks, are severely lacking. It can leave you feeling quite dysfunctional in the world of high school. Teens with this type of ADHD often forget to do or turn in homework, lose things, have trouble following instructions and remembering things, and get so distracted that they fail to complete common tasks.
How is ADHD treated?
There are several treatment options available for ADHD. When it is severe, and interfering with your ability to perform academically, medication is usually most effective. But all strong medications have negative long term side effects – so try to make medication your last option.
Psychotherapy and behavioral therapy can also be quite useful in teaching you more awareness and coping skills to deal with obstacles. Some people are even having success using educational and biofeedback methods.
What are some practical tips to help?
It is important to identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Be very clear and honest with yourself about which areas you are lacking in. Only then can you find solutions and ways to manage your ADHD. Here are some tips for managing different issues related to your ADHD:
Forgetting your homework: Get an organizer and write every single thing in it, even things you think you’ll remember. Accept that remembering on your own is not your strength, and use your organizer religiously. You can even use an app as your organizer.
Forgetting to complete important tasks: Invest in lots and lots of sticky notes. Stick them everywhere to remind you what you need to do. You can also write reminders on your hand with a Sharpie. This is sort of old school, but if it works for you, then by all means, do it.
Forgetting appointments: Find an app with an alarm or vibration, or a watch if you don’t have a cell phone. As you as you make an appointment, set the alarm reminder for that date and time on your device. Set it a few minutes before, and have it continue to remind you until you turn it off. Don’t turn it off until you arrive at your appointment.
Losing school work: Choose a binder or notebook organizer and set up a system for each and every class. You should immediately put away returned homework, quizzes and test in specific sections, and should also have a section for homework needing to be turned in, notes, assignments, etc. Always put every single thing where it belongs immediately.
Losing other items: Label every single thing you own. Consider GPS locater devices for expensive or important items. Have a designated place for everything, such as backpack, keys, sports uniforms/shoes, etc.
Fidgeting: Purchase a silent and small item that you can fidget with when you’re feeling hyper. Keep it in your pocket. Discuss with your teacher ahead of time to make sure it’s okay. Also, explain your issues to your teacher, and when possible, arrange for permission to take short breaks as needed to improve your ability to sit in the class and to be less distracting to others.
Inattention: Discuss with your doctor what your options are. Before considering medication, ask your doctor if you are getting enough exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting enough quality sleep. Many times lack of exercise, a junk food diet or sleep deprivation will cause the same side effects as ADHD. Sit in the front in class, and minimize all distractions. Tell your teacher you have trouble paying attention, and ask him or her to help redirect you as needed.
Impulsivity: Let your teachers know this is a problem. Work with them to develop a way that they can remind you gently when you’re doing this. Be as mindful as you can, and try to “catch yourself” before you blurt out. Writing things down on a piece of paper often helps you avoid blurting out. This ensures that you won’t forget, but you can save it for a more appropriate time. Breathe slowly to help slow yourself down a bit.
In a nutshell, you are getting older and you need to take control of managing your own deficiencies. Talk to your own teachers. Use all of the tools available to you. Ask for help when you need it. Breathe, slow down, and be aware. This will allow you to stay calm, focus longer, and function better. Over time, you will either outgrow your ADHD, or learn how to best manage it. Start now learning how to manage it for the best possible chance at success. You can do it!