Teen ADHD: Symptoms and Treatment

Primary Symptoms: A Teen with ADHD is:

  • Inattentive – can’t seem to get focused or stay focused on a task or activity OR
  • Hyperactive/impulsive – very active and often acts without thinking OR
  • (Collectively) Inattentive, impulsive, and too active

Below is what The year 2000 Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) provides as criteria for diagnosing ADHD.

[I] Either (A) or (B)

A) Six or more of the following symptoms of Inattention have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:


  1. Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  2. Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
  3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  4. Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
  5. Often has trouble organizing activities.
  6. Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  7. Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  8. Is often easily distracted.
  9. Is often forgetful in daily activities.

B) Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level


  1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  2. Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
  3. Often runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).
  4. Often has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.
  5. Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”.
  6. Often talks excessively.


  1. Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
  2. Often has trouble waiting one’s turn.
  3. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

[II] Some hyperactivity – impulsive or inattentive symptoms that cause impairment were present before age 7 years.
[III] Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g. at school/work and at home).
[IV] There must be clear evidence of significant impairment in social, school, or work functioning.
[V] The symptoms do not happen only during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

Based on these criteria, three types of ADHD are identified:

  1. ADHD, Combined Type: if both criteria 1A and 1B are met for the past 6 months
  2. ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type: if criterion 1A is met but criterion 1B is not met for the past six months
  3. ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: if Criterion 1B is met but Criterion 1A is not met for the past six months.

Treatment: Psychiatry24x7.com suggests that

Family doctors are generally the first healthcare professionals you may turn to for help. They are most likely to know your child, and have an understanding of your family as a whole. You may want to ask about their experience with ADHD, since not all family practitioners treat ADHD. Family physicians are also an excellent resource for therapeutic referrals to local ADHD specialists.

Pediatricians have specialized training in treating children’s illnesses. Like the family practitioner, pediatricians may or may not have experience with ADHD. Because ADHD is most prevalent in children, it is likely that a pediatrician has experience in the ADHD screening process, and can help rule out (or identify) medical conditions similar to behavior or learning patterns of ADHD. In addition, pediatricians will have more experience than a family physician in prescribing medications for children. And like family physicians, they, too, are an excellent resource for therapeutic referrals to local ADHD specialists.

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