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ADHD typically encompasses three behaviors: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. A person with ADHD may exhibit all three behaviors or may just exhibit one or two.

  • Inattention: distracted, disorganized, daydreamer, easily bored, makes careless mistakes, doesn’t seem to listen, doesn’t follow through on activities, procrastinates or avoids activities that they don’t like, forgetful
  • Impulsivity: acts without thinking, talks excessively, blurts out answers, has a hard time waiting his/her turn, often interrupts or intrudes on others
  • Hyperactivity: restless, constantly in motion, fidgets, leaves the room/moves around when it isn’t appropriate, runs or climbs on inappropriate things

Because the symptoms associated with impulsivity and hyperactivity are easiest to identify, hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is more frequently and accurately diagnosed than inattentive ADHD. Also, although expression of symptoms vary from person to person, girls often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because they manifest the inattention behavior rather than the less-subtle hyperactivity and impulsivity.

In addition to the three classic signs of ADHD, children and teens who have ADHD also often have learning disabilities, sleep problems, inability to learn from rewards and consequences, an impaired sense of time, poor verbal skills, poor empathy skills, low frustration tolerance, and a two to four year developmental delay.

3 Important Facts

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is usually first diagnosed in childhood and continues through adulthood.
  • Boys are diagnosed with ADHD two to three times more often than girls. Again, this is possibly because girls often display subtle symptoms that are overlooked.

Signs to look for

  • Excessive daydreaming
  • Forgetfulness
  • Leaving tasks incomplete (such as homework or chores)
  • Frequent shifts in conversation
  • Losing interest/attention during conversation
  • Missing details, instructions, or parameters of activities in social situations
  • Inattention to details
  • Procrastination
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty performing or completing tasks that require concentration
  • Talking too much
  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Difficulty taking turns
  • Difficulty getting along with others

Next steps

Fortunately, there are several effective options for child and teen ADHD treatment. It can be an enormous relief for someone to realize that there is an explanation for her longstanding social, emotional, and learning difficulties — an explanation that can be effectively treated.

Most experts agree that a combination of different treatments is most effective. Treatment may include the following:

  • Medication: Stimulant medication such as Ritalin can effectively reduce Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder symptoms. Talk with your doctor or psychiatrist to learn about medication options and choose the best one for your situation.
  • Classroom accommodations: This can be very helpful for teens with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder but a lot of teachers don’t have the knowledge to make the accommodations. However, a psychologist or special education teacher can work with you to create a list of classroom accommodations that your teen can implement.
  • Tools: A set of tools can go a long way for someone with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. A daily planner or detailed checklist of tasks can help teens remember responsibilities. Tools can also establish a set routine, helping those with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder develop functional life skills.
  • Psychotherapy and Behavioral Therapy: Many people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder feel shame, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Therapy can help them work through these feelings in a safe place. In addition, behavior modification therapy is a highly structured system of rewards and consequences that help people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder manage tasks and relationships. It has been found that this type of therapy is very effective for ADHD. When choosing a therapist or behavioral therapist, choose someone familiar and experienced with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and working with teens.

Common Q and A

What causes Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This means it is a disorder of how the brain grows and develops. Thus, it is classified as a brain-based medical disorder.

What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

The terms refer to the same disorder. However, not all people express the hyperactivity aspect of the disorder. They may be referred to as having attention-deficit disorder, but it is not a separate disorder.

Do other mental health conditions occur with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

Yes. Depression, anxiety and sleep disorders are common in those with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Does ADHD always require treatment?

Neglecting to diagnose and treat ADHD is costly. Without treatment, people with ADHD may likely have problems succeeding at school or work, problems in relationships, more driving citations and accidents, and even problems with the law.

What are the risk factors for developing ADHD?

ADHD is brain-based disorder, so it’s not caused by poor parenting, watching too much TV or eating too much sugar. However, there is a heavy genetic component to ADHD.