Unlocking ADHD writer Constance Thum explores how ADHD interacts with the onset of puberty, including differences in the effects on adolescent boys and girls.
The onset of puberty brings along hormonal changes in teens that may alter their physical development, behaviour and emotional states, causing adolescence to be a difficult period for both the parent and child. For boys and girls with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), their condition may interact with pubescence that may further complicate the experience of teen-hood.
ADHD and Teenage Girls
For adolescent girls getting their periods, there may be a link between ADHD and the intensity of premenstrual syndrome. ADHD teenage girls are more likely to face academic challenges and behavioural problems than their same-sex peers. Additionally, hormone changes, specifically higher oestrogen and progesterone levels, in teenage girls may also make ADHD medication less effective and thus interfere with the progress in their treatment.
Nonetheless, ADHD teenage girls are still relatively more manageable than ADHD teenage boys, who tend to be more vocally and physically disruptive as opposed to their female counterparts, who internalise their problems.
A scientific journal also found that ADHD girls may still struggle to adjust positively to their condition during their adolescent years. Contrary to the belief that these girls will ‘outgrow’ their condition, the study found that the majority of ADHD teenage girls may still need support with acquiring social skills alongside math and reading skills.
Parents can refer such teens to peer support groups where they can make friends with others who identify with their condition. Alternatively, educators may try to create an inclusive school environment by being more patient and understanding, as well as enforcing rules that safeguard ADHD adolescents from bullying.
ADHD and Teenage Boys
For teenage boys, puberty likely amplified their impulsivity and risk-taking behaviours due to higher testosterone levels that may manifest in substance abuse, rebelling, and refusing treatment. However, this behaviour of “acting out” may instead allow adults to better spot ADHD symptoms among teenage boys and encourage them to seek professional help quickly.
On the other hand, a research paper found that stimulant medication for ADHD may result in delayed or slower growth and pubertal development among teenage boys. The male ADHD youths who took stimulant medication tended to be shorter and of a lower weight than their non-ADHD male peers.
Hence it may be recommended that ADHD drug doses are lowered for ADHD teens during this critical period of development. Despite this, there may be other ways of treatment and intervention such as cognitive behavioural therapy that may still be beneficial towards ADHD teenagers and with lower risks.
Puberty and Teen-hood
On the whole, teen-hood can be a frustrating and confusing time for all teens, with ADHD or not.
Parents can try to:
- Actively engage ADHD teenagers who are more likely to struggle with their schoolwork either personally or engaging external tutors
- Have discussions with their adolescent’s problems about their personal relationships and their emotional wellbeing.
That way, ADHD teens may feel more understood and become more open in sharing their challenges and victories, which are steps towards the all-rounded development of ADHD youths.