What is ADHD?
ADHD is short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
There are three types of ADHD:
The Inattentive Type causes people to have a hard time focusing or concentrating, and they get distracted easily.
The Hyperactive/Impulsive Type causes people to feel restless and sometimes to do things without thinking them through.
The Combined Type is the most common type. It causes problems with both attention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Who gets ADHD?
ADHD is fairly common. Studies have shown that approximately 11% of all school-aged kids (4-17 years old) have ADHD. It’s usually diagnosed in childhood, but can sometimes go unnoticed until the teen years or adulthood. Boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD.
ADHD often runs in families. It is common for someone with ADHD to have a parent who also has ADHD, although their parent may never have been diagnosed.
Remember that people with ADHD are just as smart as other people. Some people think Albert Einstein had ADHD. In fact, people with ADHD are often very creative and adventurous.
What are the signs of an attention problem?
A person with an attention problem might:
Be easily distracted during a conversation or when doing something
Make careless mistakes
Have a hard time finishing school work, chores or other tasks
Be told she is “lazy” or “rude” because she tends to put off or not finish important tasks
Daydream when she is supposed to be paying attention (such as during a class)
Have trouble following directions
Lose things easily
What are the signs of hyperactivity?
A person with hyperactivity might:
Move around and feel restless a lot of the time
Have trouble waiting her turn
Get herself into bad situations because she doesn’t think things through
Engage in risky behavior such as speeding while driving, drug/alcohol abuse, or unprotected sex without thinking about the consequences
Have trouble getting along with people because she isn’t able to finish things they ask her to do, or because she is impatient
Get frustrated easily
What should I do if I think I have ADHD?
Talk to your parents or your health care provider. Your health care provider (or a qualified mental health professional) will ask you, your parents, and maybe your teachers questions about how you act at home and at school. He or she will also ask about what you were like when you were younger, because the signs and symptoms of ADHD usually show up at an early age. You may be asked to take some tests that will show if you are having trouble with attention or hyperactivity. This process is called neuropsychological testing.
Sometimes, people can have problems with attention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity because they feel depressed or anxious, not because they have ADHD. That’s why it’s important to talk to your health care provider about your symptoms so he or she can figure out the best way to help you.
What is the treatment for ADHD?
The two most common forms of treatment for ADHD are medication and behavior therapy.
What medications can I take to help with ADHD?
Many people take medication to help them with their ADHD symptoms. The most common prescription medications used to treat ADHD are known as stimulants.
Examples of stimulants are:
A non-stimulant medication such as Strattera® may also be prescribed.
Depending on what medication your health care provider thinks is best for you, you may take the medicine once a day or several times a day. Some teens only need to take their ADHD medicine on school days or when they need to do homework. Talk to your health care provider, because you may not need to take your ADHD medicine on weekends or during summer break.
Do ADHD medications have side effects?
Prescription ADHD medicine can cause some side effects, such as decreased appetite, weight loss, trouble sleeping, headaches, stomach aches, and irritability. These side effects usually go away after the first month, but it’s important to tell your health care provider if they don’t. He or she may be able to change your medicine so that you don’t have these side effects.
Are there other things I can do to help with my ADHD besides medicine?
Some teens use behavioral strategies with or without medication to help them with their ADHD symptoms.
Here are some examples:
Keeping a calendar or schedule to help you remember important things
Color-coding your notebooks for school or finding other ways to stay organized, such as creating a to-do list
Practicing ways to help you remember to stop and think before you do something
Setting small and realistic goals for yourself
Break up tasks or chores into smaller tasks and take frequent short breaks.
Rewarding yourself for sticking to your tasks and achieving your goals