Teenagers without ADHD have enough to contend with, ADHD makes these transformative years even more difficult.
Teens who are physically hyperactive - ADHD - are often diagnosed while still in Primary School or even before.
For those who have the "inattentive" type - ADD as opposed to ADHD - the symptoms only become apparent at puberty. They are not physically hyperactive so they don't disrupt the class and therefore slip through the cracks, so to speak.
As with all ADDers the "inattentive type" have extremely active brains, are usually very bright, lack social skills and spend a great deal of time living in their heads. Girls and women are predominantly the inattentive type, though not exclusively.
When ADDers, whether inattentive or hyperactive, reach puberty they have the added problems of raging hormones and very often cruel peer pressure to contend with. All ADDers have low self-esteem, making this time extremely difficult.
ADDers are usually 2 to 3 years ahead of their peer group intellectually but equally, 2 to 3 years behind emotionally. All people with ADHD gravitate naturally to their intelectual peers.
Think of this in terms of maturity. There is a huge difference in maturity between ages 14 and 16, far far greater than say between 24 and 26. Now imagine your 14 year old teen interacting with his or her friends who are probably 16 or 17 . In this case, because your teen's emotional maturity is only around 10 or 12, there is in reality, a gap of between 4 and 6 years. This will obviously vary slight with each individual.
Teenagers start to rebel against their parents and teachers and quite possibly start experimenting with smoking, drinking, drugs etc. For ADDers who are suffering from low self esteem and trying desperately to keep up with their peers this can lead to severe addiction problems.
ADDers tend to have addictive personalities and turn to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes etc to self medicate and calm their very busy brains as well as give themselves a sense of belonging, even though the company they are keeping is not ideal.
At Living ADDventure® we have also become aware of various "age bands" when ADDers start to crash.
- Grade 11 and 12 – Teachers and parents are starting to withdraw and the ADDers are expected to do more for themselves but haven't acquired the necessary skills.
- 3rd year college or varsity – being bright they might have achieved several distinctions in matric but when they get to 3rd year the work load increases, they have doubts about why they have chosen a particular course and become de-motivated and unable to cope.
- 26 – 30 years of age. This is when they are leaving home (if Mom and Dad haven't got fed up and thrown them out before) and getting married, moving into Junior Management etc. Now they have to become responsible for a partner, money issues, subordinate employees, deal with admin and they come unstuck.
- The 40s – this is when they move into middle and senior management, they have midlife crises, their children are becoming teens, and life is extremely stressful.
The earlier ADDers learn to manage their ADHD effectively and learn lifeskills such as:
- Learn how to learn
- Decision Making Skills
- Setting Goals
- Developing Core Principles
- Learn social skills that will enable them to function in the workplace
The earlier they learn these life skills, and sustain them, the less likely they are to crash, become addicts, or just a miserable stressful life in which they percieve themselves as failures.
If these skills are learnt - and it is extremely difficult for many ADDers - they will probably be able to live contented and productive lives.