Sep 18, 2014
By: Susanna Visser, Dr.P.H, M.S., Acting Associate Director of Science, Division of Human Development and Disability, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Jackie Oberst, Ph.D., Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications, NIMH; Ruth Perou, Ph.D, Program Performance and Evaluation Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Mark Wolraich, M.D., University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
The face of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Once diagnosed mostly in elementary school-aged children, ADHD is now diagnosed more frequently among children of every age now than it was 10 years ago, raising concern of over-diagnosis. In 2007–2008, adolescents, 12–17 years of age, had the largest increase in the percentage of diagnosed ADHD compared to younger children.
To meet ADHD diagnostic criteria, a child must have some ADHD symptoms before age 12 (adolescence). A diagnosis should only be made when the symptoms are severe enough that they are getting in the way of normal functioning.
So, why have we seen such an increase in ADHD diagnoses among adolescents? Some experts question if many of these diagnoses are valid. However, some adolescents may have had ADHD symptoms that were missed in earlier childhood. Others may have had symptoms but were able to cope with them in earlier childhood; with the greater academic and social demands of middle and high school the symptoms may now cause problems that require additional support.
The good news is that a group of doctors, scientists, and parents recently reviewed and updated the diagnostic and treatment guidelines for ADHD . These guidelines include special recommendations for adolescents.
Best practices for evaluating an adolescent for ADHD include:
Best practices for treating ADHD among adolescents include:
Parents, adolescents, and healthcare providers need to know about the best practices for ADHD diagnosis and treatment among adolescents. It is especially important that adolescents play an active role in the process to diagnose and treat their ADHD. This way, adolescents are empowered to take care of their own wellbeing and can control their ADHD treatment in a way that best fits their needs and supports their health and development.