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Teen ADHD/ADD: Coping Skills and Treatment Options

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According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 11% of kids ages 5-17 are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Out of the 11%, boys make up 14.6% and girls 6.9%.

It has been a common belief that teens grow out of ADHD/ADD and that adults can't have ADHD/ADD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, that national prevalence of adult ADHD is between 4%-5% of the general population. And, approximately 33% of teens with ADHD/ADD continue to experience symptoms of ADHD/ADD in adulthood.

Teens with ADHD/ADD can present with inattentive type, hyperactive or impulsive type, or a combination of both. Those teens with inattentive type without hyperactivity are commonly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Those teens with inattention and hyperactivity or impulsivity are commonly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD/ADD in teens presents in various ways. Below are common symptoms that teens with ADHD/ADD may struggle with.

Symptoms of ADHD/ADD

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According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V), there are 18 symptoms of ADHD. Nine of the symptoms involve inattention and 9 involve hyperactivity or impulsivity.

Inattentive Type (ADD)

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or in other activities

  • Often has trouble sustaining attention

  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly

  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores or workplace duties

  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities

  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities

  • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli

  • Is often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactive or Impulsive Type (ADHD)

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat

  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected

  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless.)

  • Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly

  • Is often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor”

  • Often talks excessively

  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed

  • Often has difficulty waiting their turn

  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others

To be diagnosed with ADHD, only 5 of the inattentive symptoms are required or 5 of the hyperactive or impulsive symptoms.

Coping Skills for ADHD/ADD

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Teens with ADHD or teens with ADD want to do well but may not have the coping skills to do so. Below are several common coping skills that teens with ADHD or ADD can use to help them succeed.

Own It and Accept It

The first and most important coping skill is ownership and acceptance. Owning and accepting their ADHD/ADD lays the ground work for implementing coping skills. If a teen with ADHD or ADD cannot accept this fact, they will spend time working against their ADHD or ADD instead of working with it.

Divide and Conquer

Teens with ADHD or ADD will need to break larger tasks up into smaller, achievable mini tasks. Tasks could include homework, chores, and other 'less desirable' teen activities. As a teen practices the coping skill of divide and conquer, they need to reward themselves when they succeed. So much time is spent being self-critical that successes and wins need to be recognized and celebrated.

Create a Distraction Free Zone

It is important that teens with ADHD or teens with ADD conscientiously create a distraction free zone in the house. This zone becomes inviolate to other members of the family while the teen is occupying that space. Teens with ADHD or teens with ADD become distracted easily. The smallest sound, sight, smell, sensation, etc. can pull them from their task.

Ask for What You Need

This skill can only be used once a teen has accepted that they do have ADHD or ADD. If a teen is in class and misses what the teacher has said, they may miss important information. Often teens with ADHD or ADD may play it off as if they heard their teacher or will move on without asking for help.

It's okay to ask for what you need. If a teen misses information in a classroom setting, it's important to raise your hand and ask the teacher to repeat it. You can also approach the teacher after class and ask them for the information. This skill can be applied to other areas outside the classroom as well.

Own your struggle, don't let the struggle own you! Don't shy away from asking for what you need due to ADHD or ADD.

Multitasking is Overrated

Teens with ADHD or teens with ADD may not be the best multitaskers. It can be helpful to not take on too much at the same time. Focusing on one task at a time can help prevent the overload that can come from multitasking.

Sticky Notes, Planner, and Alarms

Teens with ADHD or teens with ADD can use things around them and easily accessed to help remind them of important things. Sticky notes are small and can fit into a teens pocket. When a thought comes to mind or something comes up that needs to be completed at a later time, take out the sticky note pad and write it down.

Along with the sticky notes, planners can be helpful. This is a more formalized way to track the day, week, and random thoughts or tasks that come up. Planners have calendars where the teen can write down the day, time, break down tasks into smaller parts and helps to keep them organized.

Every teen owns a smart phone. The alarm on the smart phone can be used as an excellent tool to help keep a teen with ADHD or a teen with ADD organized. As a teen write's something down on a sticky note or their planner, they can set an alarm to remind them at a future date.

It's important that these three tools are used in the moment, as the thought, task, or assignment is given. Should the teen put this off and think they will write it down at a later time, more often than not they will be driven to distraction and forget to do so.

Treatment Options

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Owning and accepting ADHD/ADD can allow teens to actively practice coping skills. These coping skills can help. Along with coping skills, there are several treatment options that are supported by research and shown to be effective.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for Teen ADHD/ADD

According to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for teens with ADHD or teens with ADD can be effective. CBT can help a teen understand the underlying drivers for ADHD/ADD. CBT for teens can also help them challenge irrational, harmful beliefs about themselves that have developed as a result of ADHD/ADD.

As teens challenge underlying, irrational, harmful beliefs, they can change the thoughts they have about themselves. If they can change their thoughts they can change their emotions. Negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions. Shifting the thoughts from negative to neutral to positive can bring positive emotions.

CBT is also helpful in providing behavioral therapy for teens with ADHD or ADD. As the coping skills above show, to be effective, teens must commit to regular practice of the skills. The skills need to become habit and an every day routine.

A CBT therapist for teen ADHD or teen ADD can help the teen find the right coping skills for their unique personality and situation. A CBT therapist can help teach and reinforce these skills with the teen. They can follow up on a weekly basis in teen therapy and family counseling to continue to help the teen in developing and practicing the skills.

Neurofeedback for Teen ADHD/ADD

Neurofeedback for teen ADHD or teen ADD has shown to be effective. Combined with CBT, neurofeedback can help lay the foundation for the teen to be more effective in practicing the coping skills.

Neurofeedback for teen ADHD/ADD treats the problem at the source -- the teen's brain. ADHD/ADD is a result of the brain underperforming or over performing in key regions of the brain.

Neurofeedback can map the brain. This brain map can help identify the regions of the brain that correlate with the symptoms the teen presents with. Once this has been identified, a training program can be developed.

The training for neurofeedback can help bring balance to the regions of the brain that are creating ADHD/ADD symptoms. The training is enjoyable, safe, fun and relaxing. Over the course of 40 training sessions, the brain can be brought back into balance and the symptoms of teen ADHD/ADD significantly reduced.

Natural Treatment Approaches

There are approaches to treating teens with ADHD or teens with ADD that are natural. These approaches have some support by research but further study is needed. Dr. Daniel Amen, founder of the Amen Clinics, is at the forefront of treating ADHD/ADD through a natural and/or psychopharmacological treatments.

Dr. Amen has been using SPECT imaging since 1991. Dr. Amen has a library of brain images showing the effectiveness of natural approaches in treating teen ADHD and teen ADD. He has divided teen ADHD/ADD into 7 sub-types of ADHD/ADD. These subtypes are based on the region of the brain that is creating the unique symptoms the teen is experiencing.

Based on these subtypes, Dr. Amen has created an algorithm for treating teens with ADHD or teens with ADD. This algorithm includes natural supplements and or medication. Dr. Amen prefers to start with natural treatments if possible before starting a teen on a stimulant medication. He has shown that natural treatments can be effective.


Medication can be an effective way in treating teens with ADHD or teens with ADD. Stimulant medication has a paradoxical effect on teens with ADHD/ADD. Teens with ADHD/ADD usually have problems accessing the frontal lobes of their brain.

The frontal lobes of the brain govern executive functioning. Executive functioning helps in impulse control, planning, organizing, emotional regulation and other important functions. Stimulant medication jump starts the frontal lobes and gets them activated.

Once the frontal lobes are activated through stimulant medication, it is much easier for the teen to control their impulses, plan, organize and regulate their emotions. Medication can be a powerful treatment approach in treating teen ADHD or teen ADD.

There are side effects with medication. However, one has to balance whether the gains made through medication outweigh the side effects. Many people have chosen the medication route and have been highly successful.

If you are interested in this route, a psychiatrist board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, is your best route.

Katy Teen & Family Counseling:

Treating Teen ADHD and Teen ADD in Katy, TX

There are effective approaches in treating teens with ADHD or teens with ADD. At our Katy, TX location, Katy Teen & Family Counseling can help. We use a variety of approaches that can help your teen learn to manage and overcome the effects of teen ADHD or teen ADD.

You do not have to continue the battle with ADHD and ADD alone. We have teen therapists and family counselors who can help. If you are ready to start the journey towards healing, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:

  1. Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling at our Katy, Tx location

  2. Talk with one of our teen therapy and family counseling specialists

  3. Start the healing process and learn how to manage and overcome ADHD/ADD

Katy Teen & Family Counseling:

Other Teen Counseling & Family Therapy Services Offered at our Katy, Tx location

At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we want to help your teen and family overcome the obstacles in your path. Along with therapy for teens with ADHD or teens with ADD, we also provide other services.

Below are other teen therapy and family counseling services we offer at our Katy, Tx location:

Neurofeedback For:

Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)

Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

About the Author

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Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker. He is a Specialist in Teen Therapy & Family Counseling. He has provided therapy to teens and families since 2003.

Through his expertise, he has helped teens who struggle with ADHD/ADD and with teens who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, PTSD, and other teen and family challenges.

He works with talented teen athletes who have experience mental blocks. Gifted students have unique challenges that Jason understands well.

Jason uses CBT, EMDR, Neurofeedback, FFT, and Motivational Interviewing. At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, through teen therapy and family counseling, we can help your teen and family restore hope, happiness, and connected family relationships.

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Proudly serving Katy, Tx and Houston.


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