ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a widely diagnosed childhood neurodevelopmental disorder. Some statistics suggest ADHD is one of, if not the most frequent childhood mental health diagnosis. Most cases of ADHD are diagnosed in early childhood and last well into adulthood. Children and teens with ADHD experience challenges with attention and focus. They also struggle to “sit still” or act impulsively. There are many challenges related to ADHD, some of which affect not only one’s mental health as a teen but also as an adult. So, how would you organize your life with ADHD?
Types of ADHD
Many people are familiar with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder but may not realize there are three different ways ADHD presents. The type of ADHD your teen has will depend on the symptoms that present the most strongly.
- Predominately hyperactive-impulsive presentation-Someone with this type of ADHD talks or fidgets frequently. They experience difficulty sitting still or remaining calm for long periods. They will often feel restless and act impulsively, such as grabbing things from others, interrupting, or speaking out at inappropriate times. They may also have difficulty following directions and are often more prone to accidents or injuries due to certain behaviors.
- Predominately inattentive presentation- This type of ADHD is characterized by difficulties finishing tasks or getting and remaining organized. Following directions, engaging in conversations, and paying attention to detail are also challenging. Your teen may also be easily distracted and forget details about their daily routines and obligations.
- Combined presentation- Combined ADHD involves symptoms of both of the above two types.
Teen ADHD Statistics
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest more than 6 million (nearly 10%) adolescents and teens ages three to seventeen were diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder between 2016 and 2019. Of those, more than 3 million were between the ages of twelve and seventeen.
Statistics also show that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls. Data from the above survey shows boys are more than twice as likely (13%) than girls (6%) to receive an ADHD diagnosis in childhood.
In many cases, youth and teens with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder also have other mental health conditions. Statistics from a 2016 national survey of parents whose children have ADHD showed that 60% (6 out of 10) of children with ADHD also have a least one other mental health condition. Approximately half of the children with diagnosed ADHD also have a conduct or behavioral disorder, 33% had anxiety, and 17% met the diagnostic criteria for depression.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is generally diagnosed by your child’s medical or mental health provider. An assessment for ADHD involves collecting a description of symptoms from your teen and their caregivers. Your provider may also collect questionnaires and other assessment tools from your teen, their caregivers, and teachers to develop a complete picture of their individual symptoms.
Your teen’s provider will also conduct a complete medical and environmental assessment to rule out any medical or other behavioral health conditions that may contribute to their symptoms. No lab or imaging tests are used to diagnose attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, imaging and lab work may help rule out other conditions, such as head injuries, thyroid disorders, or other medical conditions that may share similar symptoms with ADHD.
How to Organize Your Life with ADHD
If your child or teen has ADHD, they may frequently find they have difficulties organizing and staying on track. Sometimes daily tasks others find simple such as organizing for school, keeping track of schedules, or even helping make dinner, can become frustrating and overwhelming. Struggles with organization and focus are key symptoms of ADHD, and if your teen faces challenges in these areas, they are not alone. What is important to remember is that although organization is challenging for someone with ADHD, it is not impossible. Below are a few tips your teen can try to get and stay organized.
Multi-tasking, planning, and other “executive function” skills are challenging for someone living with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prioritizing, putting things away in the right place, managing time, or figuring out where to start on a project or assignment can all seem like insurmountable challenges. Because ADHD symptoms vary in intensity and severity from person to person, organizational abilities will also vary. Rather than keeping everything in your head, begin by writing things down.
The best way to set goals is to understand your goals and which ones are the most important to address first. Write down a list of tasks you need (and want) to accomplish, and then take a moment to list which ones are the most vital. Once you have an order to your task list, it is time to figure out how to check your tasks off the list. This process will help identify the places where you experience organizational challenges while offering a way to devise a plan you can stick to. With a plan, goals are likely to succeed.
Make your goals attainable
It is ok to “aim big,” but for goals to be attainable, they must be achievable. If a goal has several parts or steps, it is important to break each of those pieces down into smaller and more manageable tasks. This allows you to check items off your list more frequently and helps provide a feeling of accomplishment, even if it takes longer to accomplish 100% of your goals. It also shows that you can achieve your goals by approaching them one step at a time.
Schedule your time
If you have a goal and a path to achieve it, you must allow time to address each task. The challenge with scheduling is that what works for one person may not work for another. For this reason, it is essential for your teen to find the process that works best for them to manage their time and surroundings. Here are a few possible organizational tools that may help:
- Use a digital calendar to manage the day
- Add tasks to your calendar as “appointments.” This process ensures you allot time each day to complete necessary and important tasks.
- Avoid “to-do” lists, as they can be stressful. Instead, focus on achieving a few tasks each day and remember that you do not need to do everything all at once.
Provide a place for everything
Disorganization or consistently misplacing things makes it difficult to feel and stay organized. If your teen consistently misplaces their phone, car keys, phone charger, or even textbooks, they may find it helpful to develop a system where everything is returned to the same spot at the end of each day. They can do this by scheduling a few minutes (in their calendar) each day to organize and put everything in its place for the night. This way, when the hurried nature of the morning arrives, they are not frustrated or stressed because they need help finding essential items.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Asking for support when you need it is critical to living with ADHD (or another medical or mental health condition). Unfortunately, this tip may be the most challenging of all to try. People of all ages experience difficulty acknowledging that they cannot do everything “on their own.” Sometimes asking for help leads to challenging emotions such as feelings of failure, inadequacy, anxiety, and depression. Remind your teen that asking for help in no way suggests failure. For that matter, seeking help to start a complex project or task may help it move along more smoothly.
What Does ADHD Treatment Look Like?
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a diagnosable mental health condition. With support and treatment at a teen-focused program like Beachside, your teen can learn and practice many beneficial coping tools to reduce ADHD symptoms’ interference in their day-to-day life. Most treatment programs for ADHD in children over age 6 include a combination of behavioral therapies and medication. For children younger than age 6, behavioral therapy is considered the first-line treatment.
Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that approximately 77% of children in the United States with an ADHD diagnosis receive treatment to address their symptoms. The same survey shows that 69% of youth ages 6 to 11 and 62% of teens between ages 12 and 17 used medications as part of their treatment plan.
As previously noted, medications are not ideal for all treatment programs. Data from the 2016 parental survey suggest that an average of 47% of youth and teens with ADHD received behavior therapy alone (60% of youth ages 2-5, 51% ages 6-11, and 42% ages 12-17).
The combined data show that 30% of youth and teens were treated with ADHD medication only, while 15% received only behavioral interventions. Approximately 32% of teens received a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. The survey also noted that 23% of children with diagnosed ADHD at the time of the study did not receive treatment of any kind.
In addition to behavioral interventions and medications, your teen’s mental health treatment team at Beachside may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help manage their symptoms during and after treatment. Staying healthy is vital to your teen’s overall physical and emotional health and a critical component of ADHD symptom management. Examples of healthy behaviors that may help your teen include:
- Following a healthy, balanced diet including fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and vegetables.
- Limiting daily screen time on phones, computers, televisions, and other electronics. This is an especially challenging tip to follow, given the high level of technology use in today’s academic settings.
- Getting a healthy amount of sleep (based on your child’s age) each night.
- Engaging in regular physical activity, again based on age and ability.
Treatment for ADHD is effective and provides many benefits to a teen living with ADHD symptoms. To learn more about how our teen-focused programs at Beachside can help your teen and family, contact a member of our admissions team today.