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For teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), finding the right treatment can be a challenge. But with Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment, you can give your child the support they need to overcome their challenges and achieve success. This innovative approach combines nature and residential ADHD treatment to create a truly transformative experience.

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What is Teen ADHD?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health struggles teenagers face today with approximately 9.8% of children 3-17 years of age (6 million) having a diagnosis of ADHD as of 2019. While many people associate ADHD as a childhood disorder, many individuals struggle with these mental disorders through their teenage years, or throughout adulthood. Today, about 4% of Americans over the age of 18 deal with adult ADHD on a daily basis.

The neurodevelopmental disorder creates significant hurdles in a teen's life, such as executive dysfunction (aka executive functioning deficits), hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. That being said, a psychological diagnosis does not have to define the course of someone’s life. ADHD has particularly manageable symptoms, and when treated properly, does not have to get in the way of your child’s success.

In this piece, we identify the hallmark signs and symptoms of ADHD in teens, explore the various types of ADHD, uncover its causes, examine the impacts it can have, and outline effective treatment options for teens and their families.

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    Types of ADHD in Teens

    ADHD can be a complex disorder to navigate, especially in teenagers who are already facing numerous challenges as they navigate the complexities of adolescence. Understanding the signs of ADHD in teens is critical for parents as early recognition and treatment can make a significant difference in a teen's life. In this section, we'll discuss the different types of ADHD, and take a closer look at the most common symptoms of ADHD in teens.

    ADHD Combined Type

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Combined type, is a subtype of ADHD that affects both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Teens with this subtype of ADHD have symptoms from both of the other subtypes and may show any of the signs listed below.

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, this is the most common type of ADHD.

    Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive type, is a subtype of ADHD that primarily affects teens' impulsivity and hyperactivity. Teens with this subtype of ADHD have a hard time sitting still and controlling their impulsive behaviors.

    Some of the common signs and symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD in teens include:

    • Fidgeting, squirming, trouble sitting still, and excessive physical activity
    • Difficulty staying seated or remaining still for long periods of time
    • Impulsive behavior, acting without thinking
    • Talking excessively
    • Interrupting others during conversation or activities
    • Difficulty waiting their turn or standing in line
    • Acting without considering the consequences
    • Being impulsive in social situations
    • Difficulty engaging in quiet leisure activities
    • Engaging in dangerous or risk-taking behaviors.

    Inattentive ADHD

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Predominantly Inattentive type, is a subtype of ADHD that primarily affects teens' attention. Teens with this subtype of ADHD have difficulty focusing and paying attention to details and are often forgetful in daily activities. Due to its less disruptive nature, the inattentive manifestation of ADHD can often go unnoticed compared to the hyperactive-impulsive manifestation.

    Some of the common signs and symptoms of inattentive ADHD in teens include:

    • Difficulty paying attention or staying focused, even in tasks or activities that they find interesting
    • Poor organizational skills and difficulty following instructions or completing tasks
    • Forgetfulness or easily losing things
    • Daydreaming and getting distracted easily
    • Struggling to listen and process information
    • Difficulty starting or finishing tasks
    • Frequently making careless mistakes
    • Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort
    • Being disorganized and losing items frequently
    • Struggling to pay attention in class or during conversations
    • Poor grades or problems with homework.
    The Three Types of ADHD - YouTube Video | ThreePeaks Ascent Short-Term Residential Treatment Center for Teens

    ADHD Symptoms in Teens

    Most people think of ADHD as a disorder where people can't focus.  In reality, ADHD affects almost every area of a teen's life.  These uncommon signs of ADHD in teens may include:

    • Executive dysfunction - difficulties in executive functioning, such as problems with initiating tasks, prioritizing, planning, organization, and self-monitoring.
    • Emotional dysregulation - difficulty managing and regulating emotions, leading to unexpected or uncontrollable crying, angry outbursts, being oppositional or defiant, or mood swings. This may also be a result of:
      • Low frustration tolerance - the inability to cope with frustration, discomfort, or inconvenience. People who have low frustration tolerance feel unable to “sit with” stress or difficult situations. As a result, they may react to frustrations by “acting out.”
      • Trouble Putting Problem Size in a Relevant Context - difficulties accurately assessing the significance or importance of problems causing teens with ADHD to overreact or underreact to the size of the problem.
    • Time blindness & poor time management - difficulty in estimating time accurately and using time efficiently, or difficulty in perceiving the passage of time accurately leading to problems with deadlines and punctuality.
    • Poor future thinking skills -  difficulties in considering or planning for the future.
    • Rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD)- a condition characterized by intense shifts in emotions that are triggered by actual or perceived episodes of rejection, teasing, criticism (including constructive criticism), or persistent negative self-talk.
    • Hyperfocus - an inability to regulate attention leading to an intense and prolonged focus on a specific task making transitions difficult when switching focus is necessary.
    • Poor Social awareness or social skills - refers to difficulties in understanding and navigating social cues and relationships, leading to problems with communication and social interaction.
      • Inconsistent situational awareness - difficulties in monitoring and understanding what is happening in a given situation.
      • Poor perspective-taking skills - difficulties in understanding or considering the perspectives of others.
    • Low motivation - a lack of drive or enthusiasm for activities, leading to procrastination and decreased productivity.
    • Dyslexia & Other Learning Disabilities - research shows that approximately 45% of students diagnosed with ADHD also experience a learning disability, highlighting the potential interplay between these conditions and their impact on learning difficulties.
    • Sensory processing differences - difficulties processing sensory information, leading to over- or under-sensitivity to certain stimuli, including:
      • Sensory seeking - a desire to seek out stimulation through sensory experiences.
      • Sensory avoiding - a tendency to avoid or be overwhelmed by sensory experiences like loud noises, intense flavors, certain textures, etc.
    • Internal emotional hyperarousal - the majority of teens with ADHD experience emotional hyperarousal (a kind of internal hyperactivity) and 25% also experience stereotypical & observable hyperactivity.
    • Insomnia or trouble sleeping - difficulty falling or staying asleep.
    • Indecision or choice paralysis - difficulty making decisions, even in routine situations.
    •  refers to extreme indecision, leading to a fear of making the wrong choice.
    • Sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT) - difficulties with attention and processing speed, leading to a slow or lethargic thought process.
    • Maladaptive or negative coping mechanisms - unhealthy or ineffective ways of dealing with stress or difficult situations.
    • Excessive technology use - excessive use of electronic devices and technology, such as spending excessive amounts of time on social media, gaming, phones, or screens leads to difficulties with interpersonal communication and real-life problem-solving.
    • Difficulty with self-directed talk - difficulties in regulating or controlling self-talk, leading to negative self-talk or repetitive thoughts.
    • Weak episodic memory - difficulties with memory for events or personal experiences.
    • Difficulty with unexpected change - refers to difficulties adapting to changes or unexpected events.

    Signs of ADHD in Teenage Girls

    Although the core symptoms of ADHD are consistent across gender, the way they present can differ greatly between boys and girls.

    According to recent studies, girls with ADHD are more likely to present with inattentive symptoms, while boys tend to exhibit more easily identifiable hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. Girls with the inattentive form of ADHD are often face misconceptions and stereotypes due to the subtlety of their symptoms, which can lead to misdiagnosis of their ADHD behavior as moodiness or awkwardness.

    Other uncommon signs of ADHD in teen girls may also include

    • coexisting depression and anxiety
    • excessive daydreaming
    • shyness
    • perfectionism
    • difficulties in romantic relationships
    • difficulties in maintaining friendships
    • a lack of organization in at least one aspect of their life such as a messy living space or disorganized personal area.

    If you think that your teen has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, find a clinical psychologist or family therapist who is licensed to conduct comprehensive evaluations.  They will be able to determine the extent of your teen's challenges compared to their peers. Additionally, they can offer suitable recommendations for the most effective ADHD treatments for your family.

    Teen ADHD Symptom Highlights

    When most people think about ADHD, the symptoms that most often come to mind are hyperactivity and an inability to control attention. ADHD also affects several crucial areas such as impulsivity, emotional regulation, executive functioning, and rejection sensitivity, which require closer examination.

    Executive functioning refers to the cognitive processes responsible for time management, planning, organizing, initiating, and completing tasks. Teens with ADHD often struggle with executive dysfunction, which affects their ability to prioritize tasks, initiate and complete projects, stay organized, and manage their time effectively.  Executive dysfunction can result in significant difficulties in almost every area of a teen's life, including education, interpersonal relationships, and self-esteem. When a teen's ADHD symptoms persistently cause major disruptions in everyday life, seeking treatment for executive dysfunction becomes critical.

    ADHD impulsivity is characterized by impulsive behavior and a lack of planning, forethought, and self-control. When teens act impulsively, it can cause difficulties in various areas of life, such as school performance, social interactions, and decision-making. This can lead to academic and behavioral problems, including poor grades, impulsively acting out or engaging in dangerous or risky behaviors, and trouble making and maintaining relationships with peers and family members. Additionally, impulsivity can also increase the risk of accident-proneness and other negative outcomes in children with ADHD.

    ADHD impulsivity can also have negative impacts on teenage relationships. These teens may struggle with blurting out thoughtless comments, interrupting others in conversations, acting impulsively without considering consequences, or having trouble controlling their temper. These actions can damage or strain relationships with friends, romantic partners, family members, or peers. In order to effectively gain ADHD impulse control, it is important for teens to receive proper treatment and support to learn healthy coping mechanisms and emotional regulation skills.

    Emotional regulation refers to the process of managing and controlling one's emotions in order to maintain a healthy and stable emotional state. It is a key aspect of mental health and well-being and involves the ability to recognize, understand, and express emotions in appropriate ways.

    ADHD can impact emotional regulation in several ways. Individuals with ADHD may have difficulty controlling impulsive and reactive behaviors, which can lead to difficulties managing emotions. They may also have trouble recognizing and interpreting their own emotions and the emotions of others, leading to misunderstandings and social challenges. Additionally, the symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsiveness and inattention, can make it difficult for individuals to maintain control over their emotions, leading to feelings of irritability, frustration, and anger. Effective treatment for ADHD often includes strategies for improving emotional regulation, such as behavior therapy and mindfulness practices, to help individuals manage their emotions and improve their overall well-being.

    Teens with rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) can experience intense shifts in emotions that are triggered by actual or perceived episodes of rejection, teasing, criticism (including constructive criticism), or persistent negative self-talk prompted by perceived failures.

    Due to significant issues with impulsivity, executive dysfunction, and emotional regulation, teens with ADHD are subject to frequent microaggressions from others in their daily lives. From being criticized for taking too long to get ready in the morning to receiving disapproval from teachers for incomplete homework to facing negative reactions from peers during emotional outbursts, these teens are subjected to numerous "rejections" on a daily basis.

    As a result, teens with ADHD have a heightened sensitivity to others' emotions, sometimes sensing them even before the other person is conscious of them. This sensitivity often leads to a low tolerance threshold for any perceived rejection. This intense emotional sensitivity can significantly impact a teen's mental health and relationships, making it important for those with ADHD to receive treatment for RSD.

    What Causes ADHD in Teens?

    The exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, and brain function factors may be involved. Some possible causes of ADHD include:

    • Genetic factors: Studies have shown that ADHD is largely hereditary and is caused by a complex interplay of genes that affect the brain's development and function.
    • Imbalances in neurotransmitters: ADHD has been linked to imbalances in neurotransmitters (specifically dopamine), which are involved in regulating attention, focus, and the reward systems in the brain.
    • Structural differences in the brain: Research has also found structural differences in the brains of individuals with ADHD, including smaller prefrontal cortexes and basal ganglia.
    • Environmental factors: Exposure to toxins or some medications during pregnancy or early childhood, being born prematurely, or experiencing trauma or abuse, may also contribute to the development of ADHD.

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    Signs Your Teen May Need Treatment for ADHD

    Recognizing the signs that your teenager may need ADHD treatment can be a crucial step towards managing their symptoms and improving your whole family's quality of life.

    ADHD can present itself in many different ways, and it can be challenging to know when it's time to seek help. In this section, we'll explore some common signs that indicate your teenager may require professional treatment, and how addressing these symptoms can lead to improved functioning and a more fulfilling life.

    Here are some signs of your ADHD teen may need treatment:

    • Negative coping mechanisms and behavioral problems extreme enough they are cause lasting damage either to your family or to your teen's future.
    • Escalating impulsive or risky behavior that is dangerous and can cause lasting damage to your family, home, community, or your teen's health and future.
    • Difficulty regulating emotions and handling stress to such a degree that it has damaged most of your teen's relationships and affected most areas of their teen life. If you feel that giving them an opportunity to pause, gain the necessary emotional regulation skills, and reset their life would be a relief to them and your family, they may need a treatment program.

    Parents should consider seeking treatment for their teenager if their struggles with ADHD are having a significant impact on their daily life, or are irreparably damaging their future. If the behaviors and symptoms persistently interfere with daily life, parents need to seek help from a mental health professional who can diagnose and treat ADHD.

    Importance of Early Intervention & Treatment for ADHD

    Early intervention refers to recognizing the warning signs of ADHD in teens and acting before it gets worse. Early intervention and treatment can play a crucial role in mitigating the negative impact of ADHD on teenagers. Some of the benefits of early intervention for ADHD in teenagers include:

    • Improving academic outcomes:  early treatment can help teens with ADHD develop new skills to stay organized and focused in school, leading to better grades and a higher likelihood of success.
    • Alleviating symptoms: early treatment can help to alleviate the most severe symptoms of ADHD, improving the overall quality of life for the teenager.
    • Preventing future problems: early intervention can help to prevent the development of more serious mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and reduce the risk of long-term damage to the teenager's future prospects.
    • Improving family dynamics: early treatment can help to improve communication and understanding within the family, reducing conflict and stress for both you and your teenager.
    • Building resilience: treating ADHD can help to develop coping skills and resilience in teenagers, allowing them to better manage future stressors and challenges.
    • Enhanced relationships: teens with ADHD can benefit from learning social skills, such as how to regulate emotions and control impulsivity, which can improve relationships with friends, family members, and future romantic partners.
    • Increasing self-control: early intervention, including behavior therapy and stimulant medications, can help teens overcome impulsivity and develop greater self-restraint.  This is especially important while teens establish study skills, work habits, and routines that will last their lifetime.
    • Increasing self-worth: early treatment can help teens with ADHD feel more confident in their abilities, which can boost self-esteem and help them lead happier, more fulfilling lives.
    • Improving your family's quality of life: with the right support, teens with ADHD can learn to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling, productive lives. Early treatment can set them on this path.
    Parents hug their teenage son at a graduation from ThreePeaks Ascent, a nature-based short-term residential treatment center for teens and their families

    Not Seeking ADHD Treatment Can Be Harmful: The Effects of Untreated ADHD on Teens

    As teens get older and make their first forays into more adult privileges and responsibilities, there is also a 37% higher risk for car accidents among teens with ADHD. This, in addition to the increased propensity for substance use, waning academic performance, and the difficulty maintaining relationships can make adolescence much more of a struggle than it needs to be. Part of the higher risk of risky behavior during teen years, according to ADDitude Mag, is the fact that “The rate of emotional development for children with ADHD is 30% slower than their non-ADD peers. For example, a 10-year-old with ADHD operates at the maturity level of about a 7-year-old; a 16-year-old beginning driver is using the decision-making skills of an 11-year-old.” The good news is that teen drivers with ADHD who take their medication are less likely to have an accident

    These problematic behavioral patterns can result from the exacerbation of the fact that individuals with ADHD may be more:

    • Impulsive
    • Risk-taking
    • Immature in judgment
    • Thrill-seeking
    • Distracted

    Fortunately, these symptoms – and the increased risk for car accidents and substance abuse – can be mitigated by early intervention and by ensuring that individuals receive effective treatment based on their individual needs, strengths, and challenges. Addressing these issues is critical not only because it will make the journey through adolescence easier for your teen with ADHD, but because the treatment that an individual receives in childhood and adolescence is often predictive of their success as the child grows into an adult.

    In addition to the increased physical risks, teens diagnosed with ADHD may face these additional struggles:

    ADHD and Anxiety/Depression

    It is not uncommon for teens who have been diagnosed with ADHD to struggle with co-occurring conditions like anxiety or depression. In fact, up to 30% of children and 25%-40% of adults with ADHD have a coexisting anxiety disorder.

    Another common coexisting condition for individuals with ADHD is depression; according to the National Resource Center on ADHD, “up to 70 percent of those with ADHD will be treated for depression at some point in their lives.” The incidence of ADHD and depression in children is attributed to the fact that individuals with ADHD can become frustrated and overwhelmed by their symptoms, and “may develop feelings of a lack of control over what happens in their environment or become depressed as they experience repeated failures or negative interactions in school, at home, and in other settings. As these negative experiences accumulate, the child with ADHD may begin to feel discouraged.”

      • "up to 30% of children and 53% of adults with ADHD have a coexisting anxiety disorder."
        National Resource Center on ADHD
      • "up to 70% of those with ADHD will be treated for depression at some point in their lives."
        National Resource Center on ADHD

    Since ADHD symptoms are sometimes congruent with symptoms of depression and anxiety, many young people’s depression or anxiety gets overlooked. For example, strained peer relationships, decreased school performance/motivation, and an inability to focus can be symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, or depression.

    When a young person has two co-occurring conditions, their treatment path becomes a bit more complicated. For example, children with anxiety and ADHD appear to be less responsive to traditional ADHD medication treatments; in addition, there are some anti-depressants that are not approved for children under 18.

    While not every adolescent with ADHD will experience emotional turmoil, disregarding their symptoms as being part of their ADHD will allow anxiety and/or depression to go unresolved. Knowing that your child is at-risk for a coexisting condition makes it easier to watch out for signs of anxiety or depression in your child.

    Early intervention is critical in helping teens learn to cope with their symptoms. If you notice symptoms of depression or anxiety in your child who has ADHD, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s physician or mental healthcare provider. If you suspect that your child has a co-occurring disorder with ADHD, it is vital to get professional help. Find licensed clinicians who are well-versed in treating not only ADHD but anxiety and/or depression. This ensures that your son or daughter receives safe and effective ADHD treatment.

    ADHD and Family Conflict

    Having a child with ADHD can be stressful for the entire family, and can strain relationships, as these families often experience more behavioral and emotional strain. Living with ADHD symptoms can be extremely difficult; impulsivity, difficulties with social skills and interactions, in addition to a difficulty managing anger; can cause an additional strain on the family dynamic. In fact, many teens with ADHD report having more parent-teen conflict than adolescents who do not have ADHD.

    Parents of kids with ADHD are three times as likely to separate or divorce as parents of non-ADHD children. There are many contributing factors: parents may disagree on treatment routes/ plans, medications, therapists, etc. In addition, the added stress of parenting a child struggling with ADHD can be overwhelming for parents.

    In addition to creating parent-child conflict in the family dynamic, it may cause resentment, jealousy, or tension between siblings as well. Because parents spend extra time managing medications, doctor's appointments, school meetings, and/or behavioral therapy sessions, some siblings may resent the extra time/attention their sibling with ADHD receives.

    The best way for parents to help is to implement a routine and clear family rules for all individuals living in the household. In addition, staying positive and focusing on your child’s strengths will encourage more positive behavior. When you do need to give your child a correction, remember to reprimand the child’s behavior– not the child. For example: instead of “You make me so mad when you interrupt me!” try, “It makes me unhappy when you interrupt me, please wait your turn.”

    ADHD and School Troubles

    While some people with ADHD also struggle with depression and/or anxiety, other individuals may have an undiagnosed learning disability. Learning disabilities often coincide with ADHD; in fact, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of children with ADHD are diagnosed with a learning disability.

    While ADHD is not considered a learning disability, one of the symptoms of ADHD is having academic difficulties, due to an inability to focus, and being easily distracted. Due to the assumption that it is their ADHD causing the school challenges, some children who have a learning disability coinciding with ADHD will never have their learning disability diagnosed.

    Parents are often the first to notice when children have difficulties at school or with their homework. If you suspect your child’s academic struggles may be stemming from a learning disability, it is important to notify his or her teacher and your family physician.

    A learning disability is a lifelong obstacle; while children don’t “grow out of it,” they can learn skills to compensate for their learning differences. Early recognition, diagnosis, and getting proper help early on is key to your son or daughter’s academic success.

    If your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, he or she may be eligible for special education services under one of three federal statutes. It is vital that, as a parent, you leverage parent education opportunities and become an advocate for your son or daughter. In order to become an effective advocate for your son or daughter, you should become informed about their rights under the law and ways to help him or her succeed in school.

    Even if your son or daughter is not diagnosed with a learning disability, your child may still be eligible for special education and therapeutic services (like ADHD coaching and tutoring), academic accommodations, or modifications to the curriculum or coursework, depending on the severity of his or her ADHD symptoms. If your son or daughter is still struggling in school, talk to his or her teacher about ways you can help at home.

    Teen ADHD and Substance Abuse Issues

    Teens diagnosed with ADHD have an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder. Here's what you need to know:

      • Dual Diagnosis: Studies show a high rate of co-occurring substance use disorders in teens with ADHD. This means they struggle with both ADHD symptoms and addiction. Research shows that teenagers with ADHD are 2x - 3x more likely to abuse substances like drugs and alcohol compared to teenagers without ADHD.
      • Underlying Causes: Teens with ADHD often experience heightened sensitivity, difficulty managing emotions, and social challenges. These factors can lead them to self-medicate with substances like alcohol or drugs in an attempt to cope.
      • Seeking for Help: Substances may offer a temporary sense of calm, focus, or connection that teens with ADHD struggle to find elsewhere. However, this relief is fleeting and ultimately worsens their overall well-being.

    Early intervention is crucial for teens with ADHD who are struggling with substance abuse issues. Here's why:

      • Breaks the Cycle: Early intervention can disrupt the cycle of self-medication and negative coping mechanisms.
      • Develops Healthy Coping Skills: Evidence-based treatments teach teens healthy ways to manage ADHD symptoms, emotions, and social interactions.
      • Promotes Long-Term Success: Early intervention increases the chance of long-term recovery and a brighter future for your teen.

    At ThreePeaks, we understand the unique challenges teens with ADHD face. Our nature-based program integrates traditional therapy with activities that foster emotional regulation, self-esteem, and connection with nature. This holistic approach to treating substance abuse disorders empowers your teen to manage both their ADHD and addictive behaviors.

    Early Intervention Is Important For Healing Teens With ADHD

    Early intervention and treatment can greatly benefit families of teens struggling with ADHD by providing the tools, resources, and support necessary for the teen to effectively process their feelings and emotions, and manage their ADHD. Providing a safe and supportive environment for the teen to heal can also improve family dynamics and strengthen family bonds.

    Early intervention also helps parents and families learn coping skills and healthy ways to manage their own emotions, which can lead to better mental health outcomes in the future. By addressing ADHD-related problems early on, families can build resilience and learn to navigate life's challenges together in a healthy and effective way, promoting positive outcomes and reducing the impact of this serious problem.

    4 Ways to Support Your ADHD Child at Home

    Struggling with the symptoms of ADHD while going through adolescence or the transition to adulthood can be tough. Knowing you are there for them can help. While no one ever wants to send their child off to treatment, sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Helping your child feel loved, supported, and respected during their treatment is vital to his or her success.

    Knowing how to support your loved one in a helpful way during their treatment for ADHD can be difficult, but as they feel your encouragement and faith in their ability to overcome their challenges and your trust in their treatment team, your child’s hope for a different life can be strengthened. Learning as much as you can from your child about what the struggle has been like for them can help them feel your support.


    1. Learn More About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

    Find out as much as you can about ADHD and any other diagnoses your child receives. Research, read, and learn from the many resources available on ADHD, from blog posts, podcasts, and videos, to eBooks. Attend a class or support group for caregivers of children with ADHD.

    Understanding his or her struggle is the first step in helping them overcome their obstacles. Learn about what kinds of tasks will be difficult for your son or daughter, and what resources are available to aid him or her in overcoming those obstacles.

    2. Foster a Healthy Lifestyle

    Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy sleep hygiene are all part of maintaining your children’s health.

      • Diet/Nutrition: Some researchers argue that a restricted diet can help improve ADHD symptoms. Others argue that all children can benefit from a healthy, well-balanced diet. Encourage your child to make healthy food choices. Eating several smaller meals throughout the day can minimize blood sugar & blood pressure spikes and keep his or her energy up.
      • Healthy Sleep Hygiene: Many individuals with ADHD have difficulties sleeping due to the medication(s) they are taking; however, maintaining healthy sleep hygiene is critical to feeling balanced and well-rested. Teenagers need at least 8 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Helping your son or daughter maintain a sleep schedule, discouraging tv or electronics in bed, restricting sugar and caffeine in the evenings, and helping them maintain a consistent wake-up time can all help.
      • Exercise: Since some of the major symptoms of ADHD are restless behavior, fidgeting, and impulsivity, regular exercise can help cope with or minimize symptoms. Encourage your son or daughter to live an active lifestyle; better yet, make it a family affair. It can be as simple as walking the dog each day after dinner or playing basketball in the driveway.
      • Set a Schedule for Medication Management: Certain ADHD medications should be taken according to a specific schedule. Additionally, some medications should be consumed with food, while other medicines require an empty stomach. It is crucial for your child to diligently adhere to the medication schedule prescribed by their doctor and take their medications at the designated times.

    3. Encourage a Positive Peer Environment

    Encourage your child to spend time with uplifting and encouraging friends who are positive influences. Many individuals with ADHD struggle with social skills, relating to others, and forming meaningful social relationships. If he or she has difficulties making friends who are positive, uplifting people, offer to enroll him or her in a social activity that he or she would enjoy, such as an art class, sports team, or after-school club. It is also vital to watch out for negative influences or a sudden change in peer groups, as these could be detrimental to his or her progress.

    4. Get Involved with the Treatment Process

    As a parent and caregiver, you are a part of the treatment team, along with your child's teachers, mental health professionals, and your child themself. Meet with treatment professionals to understand their recommendations and ways you can help and openly discuss any concerns. Encourage the collaboration of professionals by giving permission for each to speak and requesting they do so. If appropriate, join your child’s therapy session or have a family therapy session to learn how you can support your child. Monitor his or her medication and ensure that he or she attends therapy. Be sure to notify your child’s healthcare provider or mental health professional if his or her ADHD symptoms do not improve or if they increase.

    Teen ADHD Treatment: What Are Your Options?

    While some individuals may “outgrow” or be able to overcome their symptoms, others may need counseling, neurofeedback, medication, or wellness and lifestyle changes to help treat ADHD. Depending on the individual’s age, diagnosis, and response to treatment, the treatment plan may include any combination of the following:

    ADHD Medication

    Stimulant medications are the most popular form of ADHD medicine prescribed for teens. Stimulants like methylphenidate can help your teen manage ADHD symptoms such as inability to focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Some individuals may not be helped by stimulant medicine. These teens may be treated with non-stimulant medication to help mitigate symptoms. These non-stimulant ADHD medications come without many of the side effects of stimulants, including anxiety, irritability, high blood pressure, and insomnia.

    ADHD Coach

    An ADHD coach primarily focuses on practical strategies and skill-building to help teens with ADHD manage their symptoms and overcome challenges in their daily lives. They provide guidance, accountability, and support in establishing healthy habits, routines, organization, time management, and goal-setting.

    Outpatient Behavioral Therapy

    It is helpful for individuals with ADHD to set up a structured schedule and routine. Behaviorial therapy can also help teens and young adults address any academic, social, or emotional struggles they may be facing. While talk therapy and behavioral interventions can address these challenges, they are only truly effective if:

      • your child is 100% invested in getting better, and
      • you coordinate with your child’s therapists, health professionals, and teachers to help keep your child on track.

    Parent Training & Education

    Parental support and participation play a pivotal role in the success of treatment for ADHD. Take the time to understand what your child is going through. Attend parent training and support groups, talk with other adults in this situation, and work with your child's health care providers. Collaborate with their therapist to help establish a structure and routine for your child. This will show your child that you care and support his or her treatment path.

    ADHD Treatment Programs

    Sometimes, even with all the talk therapy, ADHD medicines, and parental support in the world, it just isn’t enough. This is especially true when young people are battling ADHD along with depression, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, or a family conflict. Although it may not be the easy choice, sometimes sending your child to an evidence-based treatment program can be the best choice to help him or her learn to cope with their symptoms.

    There are several types of ADHD treatment programs available to parents of teens struggling with ADHD:

      • Day Treatment: Day treatment, also known as a partial hospitalization program, provides intensive therapy and support for teens but allows them to return home at night.
      • Inpatient Treatment Centers: Inpatient treatment involves hospitalization for typically 1-2 weeks, and provides 24/7 supervision and intensive care that emphasizes crisis stabilization and medication management services.
      • Residential ADHD Treatment Centers: Residential ADHD treatment for teens provides round-the-clock care in a therapeutic and structured environment, typically lasting several weeks to several months. ThreePeaks' residential treatment center combines traditional therapy with outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping, and can be a highly effective form of treatment for teens struggling with ADHD.

    The type of ADHD treatment that is most appropriate for a teen will depend on the severity of their symptoms, their underlying mental health conditions, and other factors. It is important to consult with a mental health professional to determine the best course of action.

    While there are many options to help individuals cope with their symptoms, there is no magic “cure” for ADHD; however, with the proper treatment and support team, children with ADHD can grow into successful and well-adjusted young adults.

    Knowing When to Seek ADHD Treatment for Teens

    ADHD can affect individuals in a variety of ways. While some people with childhood ADHD grow out of the disorder in adolescence, many will continue to struggle with the condition throughout adulthood. While the symptoms of ADHD in adolescents are similar to the symptoms in children, they often worsen during teenage years due to the hormonal shifts of puberty. Impulsive, irritable, overactive children who have difficulty focusing can evolve into teens who may display several issues.

    Sometimes talk therapy and medicine are not enough to help teens and young adults cope with their symptoms, especially when there are other diagnoses, including anxiety, depression, a learning disorder, or a behavioral disorder. If your teen’s symptoms go beyond typical struggles with ADHD and borders on risky or violent behavior, it is time to consider seeking more intensive treatment.

    The following are red flag signs that your child needs ADHD treatment:

    • Not taking/refusing their medications
    • Reckless driving
    • Drug abuse or Alcohol abuse
    • Aggressive behavior
    • Risky sexual behavior
    • Severe cases of depression or prolonged moodiness
    • Debilitating anxiety symptoms

    If you do decide to seek treatment for your son or daughter, make sure that an effective course of treatment is pursued. Everyone has different needs, and each individual with ADHD will respond differently to a variety of treatments.

    One way to address these issues is through nature therapy; allowing for engagement in various experiential therapies to learn to manage their ADHD while receiving clinical treatment. For many individuals, ADHD centers are the right choice.

    I’m Not Sure Where to Start.

    We’re here to help - take the first step and contact us to see if Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment could be the path to healing for your family.

    Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment

    If your teenager is struggling with ADHD, you may be seeking effective treatment options to support their well-being and development. At ThreePeaks' ADHD treatment center, we understand the unique challenges associated with ADHD and have designed a specialized program to address the specific needs of teens facing this condition.

    Our short-term program combines evidence-based therapies with the transformative power of nature, offering a holistic approach to ADHD treatment. Led by experienced therapists specializing in ADHD, our dedicated team provides individualized care tailored to each client's unique needs.

    Throughout the program, your teenager will engage in activities that harness the benefits of outdoor experiences, such as hiking and camping, as they work alongside their therapist to manage and overcome the challenges of ADHD. The serene environment offers a conducive setting for focusing on their healing journey, allowing them to disconnect from daily distractions and connect with nature's therapeutic embrace.

    An essential aspect of our program is empowering teens to take ownership of their healing process and develop skills for long-term success beyond the program's duration. We strive to be a stepping stone toward lasting recovery, equipping them with the tools and strategies needed to navigate their ADHD challenges independently.

    The effectiveness of nature therapy in helping these individuals is due to the natural setting, adventure activities, and positive peer relationships.

    Nature Setting

    Living in nature is an unfamiliar environment and experience for many individuals with ADHD. This allows them to leave the pressure and stress of their everyday lives behind and practice new ways of handling ADHD. Nature therapy programs move with the rhythms of the natural world, which is soothing to humans. According to Taniguchi, Widmer, Duerden, & Draper (2009): the mere presence of nature and vegetation has significant positive effects on children’s:

      • Self-discipline
      • Attentional functioning
      • Stress resilience
      • Engagement in creative play

    The nature setting also exposes teens to natural consequences. Recognizing and experiencing natural consequences has a great impact on developing intrinsic motivation. Teens and young adults with ADD/ADHD must understand how the consequence relates to their actions for this to develop. For example, if a student chooses to not build a shelter when the staff tells them it is going to rain, the consequence is they, and their belongings, get wet.

    Adventure Activities

    Some nature therapy programs incorporate adventure therapy activities. This allows for a more comprehensive assessment in multiple settings and with different challenges, of each student’s needs, deficits, and challenges. Adventure therapy utilizes a variety of novel environments to push teens and young adults to learn more effective coping skills, problem-solving skills, executive function skills, and social skills; these are skills that many individuals with ADHD need to improve.

    Incorporating adventure therapy activities allows for In Vivo therapy. In Vivo therapy offers the ability for students with ADHD to operate and process what they are learning “in the moment.” The In Vivo method allows them to learn more experientially. This helps to teach individuals with attention and executive functioning deficits what they do not typically understand in a way that makes it more “normal,” and less like therapy.

    Aside from an increased buy-in to participate in therapy due to the variety of appealing activities, the adventure therapy activities provide ADHD students with opportunities to confront their challenges. This also helps individuals with ADHD by utilizing overwhelming mastery experiences to improve focus and increase self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief in oneself to overcome adversity/difficulties in life. This is vital, as research has shown self-efficacy as one of the most influential predictors of behavioral change. (Wells, Widmer, & McCoy 2004)

    The more repetitive a treatment program can be with overwhelming mastery experiences, the better. Teens and young adults with ADD/ADHD are more likely to generalize the belief that they can achieve difficult things, and can incorporate this belief into different domains of life: classroom, peers, family, etc.

    Positive Peer Relationships

    Since many with ADHD have trouble forming meaningful peer relationships and struggle with their social skill deficits, the therapeutic group setting of nature therapy is extremely critical for treatment and social skills training.

    Nature therapy offers individuals with ADHD the opportunity to form both peer bonds with others and mentor/mentee relationships with nature therapy staff. Since nature therapy takes place in a group setting, students have the opportunity to learn from others who are overcoming the same obstacles through nature therapy. The group therapy setting allows group development processes to facilitate learning.

    We recognize that selecting a treatment program for your teenager is a significant decision, and we are here to support you every step of the way. Our compassionate team is available to address your questions and provide additional information about our program. We firmly believe that, with the right support, your teenager can overcome the obstacles of ADHD and thrive, leading a joyful and fulfilling life.

    Benefits of a Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment Program

    Being immersed in nature can have a profound impact on a teenager. It improves their mental, emotional, and physical health.  Combined with a proven clinical approach, a therapeutic experience helps teens manage the effects of ADHD.  Here are specific benefits your family can expect to see while your teen is in nature-based short-term residential treatment.

    The first stage of effective short-term residential treatment focuses on assessment and stabilization.

    1. Assessment 

    By observing your teen in a novel environment, our experienced therapists gain a deep understanding of what is really happening with your child. They can identify if there are any underlying issues or a co-occurring mental health disorder. Research indicates accurate mental health assessments can lead to a 20% reduction in the number of days in treatment.

    2. Stabilization 

    Mental health stabilization provides a safe environment to deescalate your teen’s level of distress and/or reduce their acute symptoms of mental illness. Until teens feel genuinely safe, they cannot begin to heal. One therapeutic modality emphasizes that “Cues of safety are the treatment” and “safety is defined by feeling safe and not simply by the removal of threat.” It is not enough to merely tell a teen in crisis that they are mentally and emotionally safe, they must actually feel and believe it.

    Once your teen feels safe, our nature-based residential treatment program provides a novel and challenging environment that disrupts their unhealthy patterns and behaviors. Behaviors that either:

    • cause your teen's mental & emotional health struggles
    • or that your teen has developed as a negative way of coping with their struggles.

    The second stage of an effective residential treatment program focuses on engaging teens in the therapeutic process and empowering them with the skills needed to thrive.

    1. Engaging Teens in Therapy (even if they’ve been resistant to it before)

    The ThreePeaks Ascent comprehensive treatment program is designed to re-engage teens in healthy adolescent development. When your teen attends a short-term residential program, they are taken away from negative distractions they may have at home. They engage in treatment in a way that would not be possible in any other setting.

    Your teen will participate in individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy sessions while in treatment. This allows them to process their behavior, make changes in their personal life, and improve their family relationships. They can also learn from their peers, realize they are not alone in their struggles, and gain motivation to make changes.

    We've found that by the time of discharge, 90% of teens were actively engaged in treatment. When contacted six months after treatment, most of these teens maintained the motivational progress they made during treatment.

    2. Empowering Teens Through Skill Development

    As your teen engages in the therapeutic process, they’ll start to see huge progress. But for long-term healing, it is not enough to only alleviate your teen’s struggles, we must also empower them with the skills needed to thrive in life. These skills include:

    • Self-awareness skills like a growth mindset, identifying one's feelings, developing interests & sense of purpose
    • Self-management skills like emotional regulation, self-motivation, resilience, setting & achieving goals, planning & time management
    • Responsible decision-making skills like showing curiosity & open-mindedness, anticipating & evaluating the consequences of one’s actions, internal locus of control
    • Relationship skills like communicating effectively, seeking & offering support, resolving conflicts constructively
    • Social awareness skills like showing empathy & compassion for others, taking others’ perspective, recognizing strengths in others

    Your teen is powerful, intelligent, and capable. They are among the leaders of tomorrow. That is why the third stage of our short-term residential treatment center focuses on helping teens redirect their previously misused potential toward developing mastery in life.

    Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche observed years ago, “Happiness is the feeling that power is increasing—that resistance is being overcome.” When teens develop competence and mastery they:

    • gain self-reliance and self-confidence
    • become more resilient
    • have a greater sense of meaning and purpose
    • and better resist negative emotions.

    Overall, building mastery helps teens develop a positive mindset. Because they feel competent and in control, they go from feeling, “I’m not capable” to “I can do this!”

    Additional Resources & ADHD Research

    About the Author

    Steven DeMille, Executive Director at ThreePeaks Ascent, a short-term residential treatment program for teens in crisis

    Steven DeMille, Ph.D. LCMHC


    Steven DeMille is the Executive Director of ThreePeaks Ascent. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. His educational experience includes an MA in Mental Health Counseling and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. His research focus is on Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment, nature, adolescent development, and counseling ethics. He is actively involved in the counseling and psychology profession and holds regional and national leadership positions. He publishes and presents on Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment and the use of the outdoors. This is done around the world at the national and international conference levels. 

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