Diagnosing ADHD in teens

Adolescents & diagnosing ADHD


An adolescent’s journey to getting a diagnosis is similar to a child’s. However, some of the struggle is due to the fact that many teenagers (ages 13 to 17) are no longer accompanied by a parent when seeing their GP, meaning the doctor may not have a complete idea of the patient’s history. In addition, if the teen has moved from their family doctor onto a new GP, the new doctor will not have first-hand experience with the patient’s medical and behavioural history. Another challenge for the diagnosis is the changes in behavior that come with puberty. Some of the symptoms below are associated with those changes and not attributed to a potential ADHD diagnosis.It is therefore very important to have documented evidence of difficulties both at home and at school.

To meet the criteria for ADHD, symptoms must have been present before a patient turned 12 years old, and the symptoms must have been a constant challenge in his or her day to day life. A teenager’s doctor should have access to their medical history, enabling the doctor to learn more about possible signs of ADHD before age 12. A teenager may experience these ADHD symptoms:

  • Inner restlessness
  • Disorganised schoolwork that shows little to no follow through
  • Hyperactivity (possibly less pronounced than in childhood)

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