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Does Your Child Have ADHD? Common Signs in Children and Teens

It’s normal for children and teens to daydream and have excess energy at times. But what if you think your child has signs of a more serious problem? Read on to find out the symptoms of ADHD and what to do if you spot them.

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, affects a child’s ability to focus and pay attention, stay still, and/or control their impulses.  It is normal for children to have difficulty with these behaviors at times, but children with ADHD experience them more often and to a much greater degree. ADHD can cause problems with learning and relationships.  

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

The main signs of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are more extreme than what children normally experience. Below are the most common symptoms. Children with ADHD may have a combination of these symptoms or only some of them.

Symptoms of inattention may include:

  • Being easily distracted, missing details, forgetting things, or losing personal items
  • Having difficulty focusing, organizing and completing a task, or learning something new
  • Being easily bored
  • Being frustrated and avoiding tasks such as homework that require prolonged attention
  • Struggling to listen or follow instructions
  • Daydreaming or being easily confused or moving slowly
  • Having difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others

Symptoms of hyperactivity may include:

  • Fidgeting and being unable to sit still
  • Talking non-stop
  • Dashing around, touching or playing with anything in sight
  • Being unable to do quiet tasks or activities
  • Moving constantly, as if driven by a motor

Symptoms of impulsivity may include:  

  • Being impatient and having difficulty waiting
  • Blurting out inappropriate comments, showing emotions without restraint, acting without thinking about consequences
  • Interrupting others’ conversations or activities

How is ADHD diagnosed?

It can be hard to tell the difference between ADHD and normal childhood behavior, especially for “high-energy” kids. To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must have many of the symptoms described above for many months and in more than one setting. It’s important to know that ADHD is only present if the symptoms go beyond what a child normally experiences at a given age and only if the symptoms are causing problems at school, home, or with friends. A complete evaluation by a trained healthcare professional is the only way to know for sure if your child has ADHD.

If you think your child might have ADHD, start by seeing your family doctor or pediatrician. Your child’s vision, hearing, and anything else that can cause inattention will be checked first. If other causes are ruled out, your doctor will ask questions about symptoms and do an evaluation or refer your child to a mental health specialist (such as a child psychiatrist) for evaluation.

How is ADHD treated?

In most cases, treatment involves medicine to control symptoms, behavior therapy, or a combination of the two. Because structure at home and at school is important for children with ADHD, parent training and school accommodations and interventions should also be part of the child’s treatment plan.   

Not all children with ADHD have the same symptoms, so not all will have the same treatment plan. For this reason, it is important for parents and doctors to work closely with everyone involved in the child's care, including teachers, coaches, therapists, and other family members. Close monitoring and regular follow-up with the doctor is important for checking how the treatment is working and if any changes need to be made.  

Why is it important to treat ADHD?

If untreated, children with ADHD can struggle in school and may end up being labeled as lazy, uncooperative, or trouble-makers. They may develop learning disabilities that cause them to fall behind in school, have difficulties that affect relationships with other children, and have conflicts with parents and other family members. In addition, children with untreated ADHD may have problems with depression or anxiety and they may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Getting proper treatment can help with all of these problems.

Does ADHD go away?

Children do not grow out of ADHD, but the symptoms often become less severe as they mature and learn to adjust. Hyperactivity usually stops in the late teenage years, but problems with organization and attention often remain. More than half of children who have ADHD will continue to have problems as young adults, and even adults with ADHD may need to learn organizational techniques that help them work with their condition.

These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease.  Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary.  Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regimen.

Sources

ADHD, Teens Health from Nemours:

http://kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/school/adhd.html#

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Overview, American Academy of Family Physicians:

http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd.html

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Symptoms and Diagnosis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/attentiondeficithyperactivitydisorder.html

Focusing on ADHD, NIH News In Health:

http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Sep2014/Feature2

How Do You Know If Your Child Has ADHD, Food and Drug Administration:

http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm269188.htm

Treatment Options for ADHD in Children and Teens: A Review of Research for Parents and Caregivers, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:

http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/search-for-guides-reviews-and-reports/?pageaction=displayproduct&productID=1148#5773

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? National Institute of Mental Health:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml