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ADHD in teenagers - Boys versus Girls

April 4, 2018

Teenage years can be hard to handle when ADHD and puberty come together. The physical and emotional changes of adolescence can make the teenage years hard for children with ADHD.

Hormonal changes can have a direct impact on teenagers' ADHD symptoms. The impact is more visible and intense in girls, but it can also be hard for boys.

Puberty in boys and ADHD

  • Changing testosterone levels is linked with greater risk-taking behavior among boys. Experts say that testosterone interacts in complex ways with dopamine and other hormones that are linked to ADHD. This makes them more vulnerable to substance abuse.
  • The hormonal changes can lead to intense physical and psychological changes. Teenagers can find these hard to handle when they are trying hard to fit in. Many boys may be unwilling to take ADHD medication as they don't want to seem different from their peers.
  • Listen and discuss the child's concerns. If your teenager insists on not taking medication, suggest a trial period without medication, and then look at how his various activities have been affected.
  • Lifelong ADHD signs may lead to poor social skills and lack of friendships. Socially rejected boys with ADHD form friendships with kids who don't do well in school or sports. This combination of low self-esteem and peer pressure may lead boys with ADHD to try alcohol and drugs. It helps to learn the signs of substance abuse and get help if needed.
  • Watch out for signs of behavioural disorders, which is marked by hostile and adversarial behavior. These can put impulsive boys with ADHD in dangerous situations.

Puberty in girls and ADHD

  • Teenage girls with ADHD have more academic problems, more aggressive behavior, earlier signs of substance-related problems, and higher rates of depression. They tend to internalize their problems, which means their struggles go unnoticed.
  • Hormonal changes at puberty can cause the efficacy of ADHD medications to reduce. This leads to intense ADHD symptoms at certain times of the month. Experts believe that girls with ADHD experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) more acutely. Feelings of depression and anxiety become worse.
  • Strategies for time management and improving organizational skills can help. If your daughter's ADHD symptoms worsen at certain times of the month, encourage her to complete schoolwork before they hit.

What parents can do

  • Maintain excellent parent-child communication that is non-judgmental.
  • Educate your teen on how to handle herself around major risks, like internet use, social media, drugs, etc.
  • A healthy lifestyle is critical. A child who is well-rested, well-nourished, getting enough exercise, and managing his or her stress well, will cope better.
  • Offer your child many opportunities to participate in activities that boost self-esteem.
  • Make sure your child gets between 9-10 hours of sleep a night.

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