What is ADHD?

Has your teen’s performance in the classroom begun to fade?  Does your teen struggle with focus or paying attention?  Do they have issues with keeping things organized or maintaining a routine?

Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD, are often identified when academic responsibilities become more demanding (such as in middle school).  However, the symptoms tend to be present as early as two or three years of age (DSM-5). 

ADHD is one of the most common mental health issues for kids and teens (Froehlich, Lanphear, Epstein, Barbaresi, Katusic, & Kahn, 2007), although not all teens with attention problems will have ADHD.  This is because of the areas of the brain impacted by ADHD (see Rubia, Smith, Brammer, Toone, & Taylor, 2005; Yu-Feng, 2007), which tend to also be involved in other mental health disorders.

ADHD symptoms include inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that prevent teens from everyday functioning, such as academic performance, making friends, etc. 

The three main types of ADHD include:

1)    Predominantly inattentive type

  • Difficulty maintaining attention or focus to one task
  • Often makes careless mistakes
  • Difficulty organizing or keeping track of schedule
  • Frequently loses things
  • Easily distracted

2)    Predominantly hyperactive or impulsive type

  • Constant squirming, fidgeting, bouncing
  • Difficulty being quiet or waiting
  • Interrupts others frequently
  • Agitated, unable to sit still

3)    Combined inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive

  • A combination of inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms
  • Typically, the most severe type

Many of these symptoms are common in children; yet, teens tend to grow out of these behaviors as they mature.  In Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, the word “disorder” is used very intentionally, as it represents the effects of these symptoms on youth development.  In determining a diagnosis, the severity and duration of the symptoms must be assessed.  Additionally, these symptoms must be present in multiple settings – not just at school. 

Left untreated, symptoms of ADHD can lead to significantly poorer health outcomes.  ADHD has been found to be associated with increased risk of antisocial behavior (fighting, stealing, etc), substance abuse, dropping out of school or expulsion, suicidality, and teen pregnancy (Harpin, 2005). Therefore, early intervention a necessity for children with ADHD (McGoey, Eckert, & Dupaul, 2002). 

If you or your teen struggle with symptoms of ADHD, there is hope.  Early detection and treatment can make a significant difference in your teenager’s trajectory.  Contact me today, and learn more about the treatment options for ADHD.

Treatment for ADHD

The first step in treating ADHD involves accurate assessment of symptoms and diagnosis.  Many other disorders can manifest in similar ways, and the treatment is different for each disorder.

Here are a few examples of other issues that look like ADHD:

  • Depression
    • Inability to focus or concentrate
    • Irritability and aggression
  • Anxiety
    • Difficulty staying on task
    • Fidgeting and squirming
  • Learning Disability
    • Inability to follow instruction
    • Difficulty staying on task

ADHD can be comorbid with other disorders, such as anxiety and depression.  For example, inability to pay attention in the classroom may lead to failing grades, which then leads to decreased self-worth.  Decreased feelings of self-worth may then lead to lower motivation to complete homework or attend class, and thus the cycle feeds itself. 

A diagnosis of ADHD typically involves the use of neuropsychological testing.  If you would like to learn more about testing for ADHD, check out the page on Diagnostic Assessment under ADHD. 

Once we have a clear diagnosis, I design a treatment plan to help manage symptoms and improve functioning in the affected areas (e.g. grades in school). 

Treatment objectives for ADHD might include:

  • Increased motivation for schoolwork
  • Advancing organizational skills
  • Down-regulating or calming the body
  • Developing insight regarding attention difficulties
  • Increased awareness of how ADHD impacts social function
  • Consultation regarding medication

Part of the treatment plan may involve having your teen meet with a primary care provider (PCP), psychiatrist, or other prescribers to consult regarding the use of medication. 

Although medication can be an effective way to manage certain symptoms of ADHD, medication for ADHD tends to be overprescribed in the United States (Jensen, Kettle, Roper, Sloan, Dulcan, Hoven, & Payne, 1999).  We will work as a team to determine the most effective strategy for treatment before moving forward with medication.

Interested?  Let’s Connect!

If you are interested in therapy services, please contact me as soon as possible. I would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have about my practice. 

It is never too late to receive treatment.  I believe I can help make a difference in your teen’s life.

Read About Dr. Montgomery

Want to learn more about me? 

Click on the About tab to find out more about my credentials and get a better sense for who I am.

I help people and their families in the Newport Beach area, but I also work with folks from Irvine, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Rancho Santa Margarita, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Anaheim, Orange, Tustin, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Dana Point, Fountain Valley and more.

Want to Learn More? 

Want to learn more about therapy, assessment, and mental illness?  

Check out the tabs above, or click on the links below:


Froehlich, T. E., Lanphear, B. P., Epstein, J. N., Barbaresi, W. J., Katusic, S. K., & Kahn, R. S. (2007). Prevalence, recognition, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a national sample of US children. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine161(9), 857-864.

Greenhill, L. L., Pliszka, S., & Dulcan, M. K. (2002). Practice parameter for the use of stimulant medications in the treatment of children, adolescents, and adults. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry41(2), 26S-49S.

Harpin, V. A. (2005). The effect of ADHD on the life of an individual, their family, and community from preschool to adult life. Archives of disease in childhood, 90(1), i2-i7.

Jensen, P. S., Kettle, L., Roper, M. T., Sloan, M. T., Dulcan, M. K., Hoven, C., ... & Payne, J. D. (1999). Are stimulants overprescribed? Treatment of ADHD in four US communities. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry38(7), 797-804.

 McGoey, K. E., Eckert, T. L., & Dupaul, G. J. (2002). Early intervention for preschool-age children with ADHD: A literature review. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders10(1), 14-28.

Nair, J., Ehimare, U., Beitman, B. D., Nair, S. S., & Lavin, A. (2006). Clinical review: evidence-based diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in children. Missouri medicine103(6), 617-621.

Rubia, K., Smith, A. B., Brammer, M. J., Toone, B., & Taylor, E. (2005). Abnormal brain activation during inhibition and error detection in medication-naive adolescents with ADHD. American Journal of Psychiatry162(6), 1067-1075.

Yu-Feng, Z., Yong, H., Chao-Zhe, Z., Qing-Jiu, C., Man-Qiu, S., Meng, L., ... & Yu-Feng, W. (2007). Altered baseline brain activity in children with ADHD revealed by resting-state functional MRI. Brain and Development29(2), 83-91.