Causes and Contributing Factors to ADHD in Teens

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is very common disorder among teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one to three teens in a classroom of 30 students has ADHD, affecting between 5% and 7.5% of adolescents. Interestingly, boys are three to six times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. According to the CDC, in 2011 about 11% of children and teens between the ages of 4 and 17 (or 6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is an impulse-control disorder that can cause difficulty with paying attention, challenges with organization, excessive talking, fidgeting, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms can impair a teen’s functioning in school, and for this reason, those adolescents with ADHD are often easily recognized because of the behavioral and academic issues that surface as a result of their symptoms. Yet, sometimes, ADHD isn’t recognized until a child enters adolescence, when his or her psychological development changes and where symptoms might become more noticeable. For instance, parents might notice that their teens are exhibiting:

  • A short attention span
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Impulsivity
  • The need for immediate gratification
  • Distractibility
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor peer relationships

When parents notice these symptoms in their teens, the first step to take is to call a mental health professional. This can bring support to a teen experiencing these challenging symptoms and help build a strong parent-teen relationship.

What Contributes to ADHD?

However, many parents and caregivers might want to know the causes of ADHD. In fact, because ADHD is diagnosed so frequently among teens and children, experts have wanted to explore its causes and contributing factors to the development of the disease. According to the CDC, the following are potential causes of the illness:

Genetics: Research indicates that genes play a role in whether or not a teen develops ADHD. If an adolescent has a relative with the disorder, there is a greater likelihood that he or she may also have ADHD. However, there are also some teens who have ADHD and who do not have relatives afflicted by the illness.

Physical: ADHD is caused by certain deficiencies in the brain. For instance, there are specific neurotransmitters in the brain that govern one’s ability to pay attention and focus.  When a teen has low levels of dopamine, it’s an indicator that he or she may have ADHD.

Environmental: There are certain environmental factors that have been known to cause ADHD. For instance, a teen’s exposure to lead or to tobacco and other drugs during pregnancy can lead to ADHD later in life.

Furthermore, the following are factors that can place a teen as risk for developing ADHD:

  • low birth weight
  • traumatic brain injury
  • premature birth

If your teen is experiencing symptoms, call a therapist or psychologist who can provide a diagnosis. This alone can provide support to a teen who might be wondering why they may be having trouble in school. With the right diagnosis, the appropriate treatment can begin.