Tween & Teen Mental Health: ADHD

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We continue our series about adolescent mental health because understanding the nuances of ADHD and teen mental health can help educators make a meaningful difference in a child’s life.

What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder characterized by “a combination of inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.”[1]

ADHD can appear as fidgeting or forgetfulness or be misunderstood as laziness or disruptiveness. The symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. And, more often than not, ADHD can be present with other conditions, including disorders related to learning and conduct as well as anxiety and depression.[2] There are different forms of ADHD, and each can affect school performance, friendships, or behavior at home.

ADHD can manifest in three main subtypes:

•  Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: Children may feel restless, interrupt, fidget, have a need to stay busy, and may try to do several things at once. They may act before they think.[3]
•  Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: The child may appear to be working while sitting quietly, but may be having trouble focusing on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes.[4]
•  Combined Presentation: Children who exhibit a combination of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention have all of the above symptoms.[5]

Early diagnosis can help children reach their full potential since treatment for ADHD is more effective for adolescents.[6] A key factor in determining if an adolescent meets the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD is whether these symptoms emerged before the age of seven and now impede his or her ability to function on a daily basis in two or more places, often school and home.[7]

ADHD and Teen Mental Health

When children are referred to mental health resources, ADHD is one of the most common reasons since it affects about 8% of children.[8] Both boys and girls are affected by ADHD, but boys are three to four times more likely to experience the disorder.[9]

Teens and tweens with ADHD are more likely to experience other mental disorders:

• Approximately 50% of kids with ADHD may also have oppositional defiant disorder
• Approximately 25% of kids with ADHD may also have an anxiety disorder
• Approximately 30% of kids with ADHD may also have depression
• Approximately 20% of kids with ADHD may also have bipolar disorder[10]

Students with ADHD may also struggle when it comes to relationships with their peers. Research indicates about 50% of adolescents with the disorder may have fewer friendships and are more likely to be ignored or excluded by classmates. They are also more prone to bullying – or to even bully others. This may be tied to the impulsive behaviors associated with ADHD or inability to listen or pick up on social clues.[11]

ADHD and Substance Abuse

Some studies have found that adolescents with ADHD are more likely to “misuse alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit substances” when compared with children without the disorder.[12]

For instance, in an examination of kids who use marijuana, ADHD occurred in 40–50% of both girls and boys.[13] Adolescents with untreated or undiagnosed ADHD may also be at risk for substance abuse. Research indicates that children treated for ADHD have “lower rates of substance abuse than children who go untreated.”[14]

Middle School and ADHD Students

Middle school can be a difficult transition for any student, but especially those with emerging ADHD symptoms. ADHD inattentive type often goes undetected until middle school.[15] Moving from the pace of elementary school to a less structured setting like middle school where tweens need to utilize organization and preparation to better keep up can be challenging for any student. But for ones struggling with inattentiveness, impulsive or hyperactive behaviors, it can feel nearly impossible to make this adjustment smoothly.  This is where educators can help make the difference since they are interacting with students daily and can observe the changes.

Great strides have been made in understanding ADHD and developing school-based mental health interventions. There is still, however, a need to further develop these programs and processes to provide additional resources and training for administrators, teachers, and staff. For many schools, those resources can come in the form of carefully collected information.

Since 1980, Pride Surveys has been providing research-quality data for schools and communities to study student mental health. Our Social, Emotional and Bullying Behavior Survey collects data that assess middle school problem behaviors that affect student engagement. Using SEBBS, schools can determine the underlying causes of increased absenteeism, lower academic achievement, and increased substance abuse. The Pride Learning Environment Survey is also recommended as a student evaluation tool for grades 6-12 because of its powerful reporting system and examination of current issues in education such as student mental health, teacher involvement, student learning and more.

The benefit of working with a survey company is that we can gather fact-based data and information through anonymous and effective survey tools. With this information, educators, parents, PTAs and coalitions are in a better position to fight bullying and secure future funding from a variety of sources to support their programs.

Please browse through the different types of student surveys we offer and find out why more than 14 million students, parents, and faculty members have responded to Pride Surveys. Questions? Please call us today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form.



[1] “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Teen” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[2] “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Other Concerns & Conditions.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[3] “Childhood & Teenager ADHD Symptoms.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “AD/HD and Kids” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[7] “ADHD Inattentive Type in Tweens Part I: Diagnosis.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[8] “How common is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? Towards resolution of the controversy: results from a population-based study.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[9] “AD/HD and Kids” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[10] “AD/HD and Kids” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[11] “ADHD in Teenagers.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[12] “Substance-use disorders in adolescents and adults with ADHD: focus on treatment.“ Retrieved 28 October 2018 at

[13] “History and significance of childhood attention deficit disorder in treatment-seeking cocaine abusers.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[14] “AD/HD and Kids” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at

[15] “ADHD Inattentive Type in Tweens Part I: Diagnosis.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at


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