ADHD Teenager Out of Control

Managing Your ADHD Teen: Strategies for Regaining Control and Supporting Healing

The journey of a parent and teenager managing ADHD is challenging, but understanding how to help your teen manage their condition and regain control will make a significant difference for both of you.

Millions of children are diagnosed with ADHD every year in the United States. ADHD, a behavioral disorder, affects 13% of teenagers, as reported by the CDC

Unfortunately, boys are twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with this condition. However, it is indicated that girls may not receive a diagnosis until they reach adulthood. Furthermore, over half of the children with ADHD also have a diagnosis of behavior or conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, or substance abuse.

Understanding ADHD in Teenagers

Recognizing the Signs

When it comes to ADHD in teenagers, awareness is critical. As parents, you might notice certain behaviors that indicate ADHD. These include inattention, where your teen might forget daily tasks or struggle with organization; hyperactivity, which can manifest as constant movement or restlessness; and impulsivity, leading to hasty decisions, impulsive behaviors, or conversation interruptions.

For a comprehensive understanding of ADHD symptoms in teens, we encourage you to read “What are the symptoms of ADD/ADHD in teens?” ADHD recognition requires more than just identifying symptoms. It involves comprehending how ADHD manifests differently in boys and girls. Typically, boys display more visible signs like physical restlessness, whereas girls may internalize their symptoms, making them less evident.

Beyond the ADHD Diagnosis

Comprehending these differences plays a significant role in choosing the right educational and support environments for your child. Our article “Recommended Alternative Schools for a Child with ADHD” delves into various educational settings that cater specifically to children with ADHD. From personalized learning plans to environmental modifications, these schools offer tailored strategies to support your child’s unique needs.

The Challenge of Co-Occurring Conditions

Common Co-Occurring Disorders and Dual Diagnosis

When navigating the complexities of ADHD in teenagers, it’s crucial to understand that it rarely travels alone. Often, ADHD is accompanied by co-occurring disorders, most commonly anxiety and depression. These are not just mere companions to ADHD; they significantly affect your teen’s behavior and emotional health.

Anxiety Disorders in ADHD teens might manifest as constant worry about upcoming events or an excessive concern over past actions. This anxiety can exacerbate the inattention aspect of ADHD, making it even harder for teens to focus or stay organized.

Depression, on the other hand, often presents as persistent sadness, lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities, or a general sense of hopelessness. In teens with ADHD, depression can deepen the challenges of impulsivity and emotional regulation.

Understanding these co-occurring disorders is not just about identifying them but also about appreciating their interplay with ADHD. Each condition can amplify the effects of the other, creating a more complex web of challenges for your teenager.

Impact of These Dual Diagnosis 

The presence of anxiety and depression alongside ADHD significantly complicates the management of each individual condition. The symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulty focusing and impulsivity, can intensify the feelings of anxiety and deepen depressive states. 

Conversely, the emotional turmoil brought on by anxiety and depression can make it more challenging to manage ADHD symptoms.

This intricate relationship often results in a cycle where one condition fuels the other, making it difficult for parents and healthcare providers to determine where one ends and the other begins. For instance, the lack of focus characteristic of ADHD can lead to poor academic performance, which in turn can increase anxiety and lower self-esteem, contributing to depression.

The interplay of these conditions necessitates a holistic approach to treating ADHD. It’s not sufficient to treat ADHD on its own; the co-occurring conditions of anxiety and depression must also be addressed.

This approach ensures a more comprehensive and effective strategy for helping your teen manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being.

In the next section, we’ll explore treatment options and strategies that can address not just ADHD but also the co-occurring conditions that so often accompany it, providing a pathway to a more balanced and fulfilling life for your teenager.

Beware of Other Conditions that Resemble ADHD

As we delve deeper into understanding ADHD and its management, it’s crucial to be aware that other conditions can mimic or coexist with ADHD, complicating diagnosis and treatment. It’s not uncommon for certain health issues to present symptoms that are strikingly similar to those of ADHD, leading to misdiagnoses.

Managing out of control behaviors of children with ADHD.

Managing Out of Control Behaviors of Children with ADHD 

If you have a teenager with ADHD, you need to know what behaviors to watch for that indicate the problem has become serious and additional help is needed. Some signs to watch for include the following:

  • Self-destructive behavior – Self-destructive behavior can be overt, such as self-harming, or covert, such as a child who regularly gets in trouble at school to the point it is affecting them socially or academically. Either way, this is a warning sign.
  • Overwhelm – If your teen is shutting down regularly or seems to have trouble prioritizing their tasks, more so than is normal for them, it could indicate their ADHD is out of control.
  • Emotional dysregulation – If emotions cannot be moderated and the teen is having strong emotional reactions or the inability to calm down after an emotional event, then it is time to get additional help.
  • Academic struggles – ADHD in teens often leads to poor academic performance, even if the teen has the right abilities to thrive in school. 
  • Withdrawal and avoidance – Sometimes, teens with ADHD will also suffer from anxiety or depression, and when life gets overwhelming, they withdraw. When they have difficult stimuli, these kids practice avoidance. Both are signs that ADHD is not being properly treated or managed.

Remember that these behaviors may indicate that ADHD is getting out of control even if the teen isn’t officially diagnosed. ADHD in teens can be hard to spot, especially in girls who are good at masking it, and that can allow many teens to go undiagnosed. If you suspect your teen has ADHD due to behaviors like these, consider reaching out to a counselor for help.

Facing a child’s undiagnosed, untreated, or improperly treated ADHD feels overwhelming. You may feel powerless to help your child excel and grow into a healthy adult. However, there are options out there to help both you and your child if you are willing to think past what you have been doing and embrace a new choice.


Navigating Treatment Options

From Home to School Support

Supporting a teenager with ADHD requires a journey of collaboration from home to school, demanding a unified approach to their triumph. As a parent, your partnership with your family and your child’s school is vital.

Effective Communication with Educators: Foster regular and open communication with your child’s teachers and school counselors. Share insights about your child’s specific challenges and strengths, and inform them of any diagnosed conditions or medications. This knowledge enables educators to provide tailored support in the classroom.

Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 Plans: These formal plans are designed for students with special educational needs. For a child with ADHD, such a plan might include accommodations like extended test times, periodic breaks, or access to a quieter workspace. Collaborate with the school to formulate a strategy that caters to your child’s unique requirements.

Creating a Consistent Home Environment: Stability is vital for children with ADHD. A structured routine at home supports school efforts by providing a consistent backdrop, aiding in anxiety reduction. This includes regular bedtime routines, an organized study area, and clear, consistent expectations.

Parent-Teacher Collaboration: Actively participate in your child’s educational journey. Attend parent-teacher meetings, embrace feedback, and work together on strategies that can be applied at both school and home.

Teen Treatment Options: ADHD Medications and Therapy

While there’s no cure for ADHD, existing treatments can significantly enhance quality of life. Treatment for ADHD typically involves a combination of medications, educational strategies, behavior therapy, and supportive therapy.

Pharmacological Treatments

The primary treatments in the United States for ADHD are stimulant and non-stimulant medications. Similar to how glasses aid in focusing vision, ADHD medications help individuals maintain focus on their thoughts and reduce distractions, which is particularly beneficial during school hours. However, these medications do not cure ADHD but rather alleviate symptoms temporarily.

Some studies indicate that stimulant medications may pose risks like heart problems and exacerbate psychological symptoms in some children, leading to worsened behavior.

When stimulants are ineffective or problematic, often manifesting as anger or defiance, non-stimulant medications can be prescribed. These drugs increase brain norepinephrine, improving attention. Nonstimulants are primarily used for treating ADHD.

Therapy for ADHD

Various therapies are available for managing ADHD. Children with ADHD often receive behavioral counseling, social skills training, and parent skills training from mental health professionals.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

  • Cognitive Component: Focuses on identifying and correcting cognitive distortions, encouraging a positive outlook.
  • Behavioral Component: Involves environment modification to boost concentration and learning, addressing both problematic and positive behaviors and teaching relaxation techniques, communication skills, and exposure therapy for overcoming fears.


Social skills training, akin to CBT, is crucial for teaching new behaviors and improving social functioning, aiding ADHD individuals in better communication and social interaction.


Considering Residential Treatment to Help Teens with ADHD

For some, residential treatment programs offer a comprehensive solution for ADHD, particularly when co-occurring conditions are present.

What is Residential Treatment?

 Specialized facilities where teens live temporarily, receiving intensive support and therapy for ADHD and any co-occurring disorders. These environments are structured to meet the specific needs of teens with ADHD.

Benefits of Residential Treatment:

  • Comprehensive Care: A combination of academic support, behavioral therapy, and medical management.
  • Personalized Attention: Smaller enrolment allows for individualized care and tailored therapeutic interventions.
  • Learning Coping Strategies: Teens acquire skills in emotional regulation, time management, and social interaction.
  • Family Involvement: Many programs include family therapy and parent education, equipping the entire family to support the teen’s progress.

While your child is in an ADHD residential treatment program, they will benefit from the following:

  • Learning emotional regulation – A vital issue for ADHD kids is the challenge of managing their emotions. This is a common strategy taught in residential treatment.
  • Improving academic performance – One of the biggest risks for ADHD kids is the risk of falling behind academically. ADHD can make it hard to stay on track in school, and leaving school for therapy or medical appointments lets them fall even further behind. In residential treatment, they get the chance to catch up while receiving necessary treatment and support.
  • Controlling impulses and improving high-risk behaviors – Teens with ADHD often lack the mental brakes necessary to stop dangerous or high-risk behaviors before they escalate. In treatment, they learn how to stop these behaviors when needed. This gives them the best chance to excel in the future as adults.
  • Embracing a brighter future – Some of the best minds in the world have ADHD, but in the teen years, the disorder can create many challenges. With the right treatment in a residential facility, you will give your child the best chance at overcoming these challenges and finding success.


Selecting an RTC to Aid Teenagers with ADHD

When considering a residential treatment program, thorough research is essential. Look for accredited facilities with experienced staff, a robust academic curriculum, and a successful history of aiding teens with ADHD. 

Visiting the facilities and speaking with staff and other families can provide valuable insights.

By exploring these treatment options, you can craft a comprehensive plan addressing the myriad needs of your teenager with ADHD, charting a course for their success and overall well-being.


Finding Help

The Behavioral Health Treatment Service Locator offers a helpful resource for finding mental health services in your area. For more guidance, visit our Help with Illness page. Call 1-800-275-TALK (88255) or text “HEY” to 74181 for Crisis Textline if immediate support is needed.




Speak to an expert about Navigating ADHD in Teens: Effective Treatment Insights and how it may help your child.

Connect with an Admissions Counselor who specializes in Navigating ADHD in Teens: Effective Treatment Insights to help your teen begin their recovery today.

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