Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is considered a milder form of ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Teens with ADD present with similar symptoms, but tend to be primarily inattentive and do not have the same hyperactive or impulsive traits as those with ADHD. ADD is characterized as a brain disorder.

Teens who struggle with ADD tend to appear disinterested, generally bored, aloof, and distracted. This particular disorder can create learning disabilities, making it difficult for teens to grasp new information as it is presented. While ADHD is commonly recognized because of the noticeable behavioral symptoms, ADD is less often diagnosed.

What Does Attention Deficit Disorder Look Like?

  • While it’s not uncommon for teens to show certain levels of disinterest or a lack of focus, those with ADD have extreme symptoms impacting home and school functioning.
  • Common characteristics of ADD include a general inability to focus on others, not performing well in school, losing things, and forgetting about responsibilities.
  • No two cases of ADD are alike. Trained psychiatrists must evaluate teens to determine whether or not they are simply exhibiting unique personality quirks or if they truly need treatment for attention deficit disorder.

Signs of Attention Deficit Disorder

Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Easily distracted

Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Unfocused; “brain fog”

Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Boredom or disinterest

Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Memory issues

Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Lack of organization

Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Struggles with personal responsibility

What Causes Attention Deficit Disorder?

While researchers and scientists have identified some common markers that point towards the risk of developing ADHD or ADD, no one knows exactly why it occurs. Some of the most commonly shared factors include:

Family History – Any family history of mental health disorders increases the odds of a teen developing ADD, especially if they were diagnosed with the same disorder. No matter what other factors exist, genetics tend to be the most prominent.

Brain Chemicals – Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that help your brain communicate with your body. Those that control dopamine and norepinephrine seem to be released and function differently in teens with ADD.

Brain Structure – Doctors have used brain imaging to study children struggling with ADD. Some studies indicate certain parts of the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex, don’t “fire” the way the brains of others do. Because this part of the brain is responsible for cognitive skills, a decrease in function can lead to the thoughtlessness and lack of control we see in teens with ADD. Other teens have a neurological dysfunction that makes them unable to cope with pressure and stress.

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Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco


of US citizens aged 4-17 struggle with ADHD or ADD


of college-aged students struggle with a form of ADHD


of people struggle with ADHD into adulthood

How Can I Help My Teen with Attention Deficit Disorder?

Turn Down the Pressure – The majority of teens with ADD, especially those where neurological causes come into play, struggle with pressure. The more pressure you apply, the worse they perform. Do your best to create a relaxing environment. Find ways to embrace and encourage the things that interest and enthuse them while working with them to learn coping mechanisms for when they are bored. It’s important for teens with ADD to learn to control their emotions so they can move on to live successful lives.

Give Praise for Good Work – It’s common for parents to point out the flaws in their children, but it’s important to recognize no two children are alike and that no one is perfect. While teens are known for trying their parents and causing a few headaches, it’s important to not lose sight of the good things they do. While discipline is important, praise isn’t the bad thing some people make it out to be. Don’t forget to occasionally let your teen know when they’re doing well.

Practice Conversational Skills – No matter what is happening in their lives, it’s important to foster a teen’s communication skills. We all know how much it means for them to find their own personalities and fit in with others, especially at school. It’s hard to be “cool” if you can’t talk to others, though. Regularly conversing with your teen will help them learn to control their mannerisms and words, stop interrupting people, learn to actively listen, and show interest in what others are saying.

What Types of Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment Are Available?

We spend a great deal of time testing every teen who presents with ADD, as this disorder often co-occurs with anxiety or another mood disorder. Once diagnosed, the most successful treatments for ADD tend to be therapy, behavioral therapy, and medications.

Talk Therapy

While medication is usually the first line of defense for neurological disorders, it can’t help teens cope with the changes they’re going through with their peers, at school, or in the work environment. The goal of talk therapy is to help teens learn to socialize and have a more positive outlook when it comes to their futures. Working with a therapist makes a huge difference when it comes to learning to survive in the world.

Therapy program usually include both cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques to help teens overcome their limitations. They’ll also learn to form better relationships with others and embrace their chosen career paths.


Medications like amphetamines and methylphenidate stimulate the sections of the brain responsible for helping teens focus and pay attention. While these are the most common choices, there are some non-stimulant options like clonidine, bupropion, or atomoxetine.

No two teens are alike and, as such, a medication that works for one may not work as well for another. Some teens experience more side effects than others as well. Doctors caution that stimulants can be dangerous because they can be abused, but research has also shown that it isn’t usually the teen prescribed them that ends up abusing them.

Stimulant treatment for ADHD and ADD has actually been linked with a decreased risk of drug and alcohol addiction or abuse. These drugs are usually effective at very low doses. Concerns about abuse are usually tied to adults making illegal purchases to combat stress and work pressure.

Stress Management

Teens with ADD tend to have a hard time coping with stress, making it even harder to focus on the task at hand. Stress management techniques are used to teach teens how to better cope with difficult situations so they can perform better at work, in school, at home, and in other areas of their life.

Stress management techniques only work if teens are receptive to them. We often allow our teens to experience several therapies (like yoga, art, music, or sports) to find out which makes them feel best in times of stress.

Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

One of our main goals in ADD treatment at Paradigm San Francisco is to help our teens better recognize the validity of their own thoughts. This is especially important if teens are coping with co-occurring disorders like depression. We also work to help teens adapt to new tasks, ranging from easier to more difficult as they progress through therapy. This helps them learn to better adjust to challenges and day-to-day responsibilities.

Learning Together

The experienced therapists at Paradigm San Francisco work hard to help teens become more self-aware. This helps them learn self-control, especially in social situations. They’ll learn to be patient, stop interrupting while others are speaking, actively listen, participate in conversations, and communicate on a generally healthier level. All of the teens in our program learn and grow together while building new friendships.

A Caring Environment

Teens who are treated in a relaxing and calm environment have an easier time learning new information. The less pressure a teen feels, the easier it is for them to stay open to their therapies and conversations about their lives.

I had been stumbling through life for many years, some good weeks, but mostly bad ones. I blamed everything negative in my life to bad luck or other people being jerks. It took a real bad event in my life to begin looking inward and to come to terms that i was the sole reason for all things bad in my life and I had no idea how to change or fix the problems. You've changed my life and I have the deepest gratitude to the entire staff for helping me to the depths you have. I will stay in touch throughout my life, as I feel like you really care how I am doing, and am going to do.

– Robert L.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment

Does my teen really need residential treatment for ADD?

The answer to this question depends on whether or not your teen has a co-occurring disorder and the severity of their symptoms. Since ADD is harder to recognize than ADHD, some teens attempt to self-medicate with inappropriate drugs. Sometimes residential treatment programs are necessary to combat drug use, allowing your teen to focus on their mental health.

Some teens have far more severe symptoms than others, including suicidal ideation. Residential teen attention deficit disorder treatment allows mental health professionals to more accurately assess your teen’s mental health so they can come up with a comprehensive treatment plan.

How are ADHD and ADD different?

ADD is considered a type of ADHD, but without the impulsive or hyperactive behavior patterns you see with the latter. Teens with ADHD may be classified as mainly inattentive, mainly hyperactive-impulsive, or as having a combination of symptoms. Teens struggling with ADD may occasionally act hyper, but not in the way ADHD teens present themselves, and not nearly as often.

It is important to make sure your teen has an accurate diagnosis. Teens with ADHD are more likely to have co-occurring mental health issues than others. An accurate diagnosis will allow your teen’s therapy team to look at all symptoms as a whole as they work to create a holistic treatment plan.

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