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A guide for young people ADHD and mental health

Do you struggle to concentrate sometimes? Or ever feel like you have too much energy – more than other people? Maybe you find it difficult to control your behaviour in some situations?

If that sounds like you, you might be experiencing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactive disorder – usually called ADHD. This condition can make it tricky for you to focus at school or work. If you think you have ADHD, you’re not alone and there’s plenty of support out there. Read on to learn more and find out how to get help.

What is ADHD?

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ADHD is a condition where you have lots of energy and have difficulty concentrating. You might also find it hard to control what you say and do. For example, you might speak without thinking first, or find that you do things on impulse.

Symptoms usually start very early in life, before the age of six. We don't know exactly what causes ADHD but experts think it might run in families, or it could be to do with the way the chemicals in your brain work. But you might start to experience ADHD-like symptoms if you’ve had a difficult experience.

Another condition called attention deficit disorder (ADD) has similar symptoms to ADHD, but you don’t feel as hyperactive. For people with ADD, the main problem they have is difficulty concentrating.

The symptoms of ADHD

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Symptoms include:

  • feeling restless or fidgety
  • talking a lot and interrupting others
  • becoming easily distracted
  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • saying or doing things without thinking

If you experience any of these symptoms above, it doesn’t mean you definitely have ADHD. But if any of them are affecting your everyday life, you should do something about it.

What to do if you think you might have ADHD

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If you think you might have ADHD, talk to someone you like and trust. This could be a teacher, a relative, a counsellor or one of your friends.

Talk to your GP. Tell them how you’re feeling and they can suggest ways to help. They may offer to refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

You don’t need to do a test to find out if you have ADHD. Instead, you’ll talk to an expert such as a psychiatrist or specialist paediatrician (young person’s doctor) to find out the best way to help.

How to speak to your GP

How to treat ADHD

There are various types of treatment that can help you deal with ADHD.

  • Medication

    Many young people tell us they find medication really helpful because it makes it easier for them to focus and concentrate.

  • Therapy

    Through therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or psychotherapy, you can learn practical ways to manage your behaviour and cope better with everyday situations.

  • Counselling

    Talk together with your family and a counsellor about how to deal with things in your daily life.

  • Educational support

    You can get specialist help to make your time at school easier to manage.

ADHD and your mental health

ADHD can leave you feeling out of control. People might not understand what you’re going through and could think you are acting out or being difficult, or criticise and punish you unnecessarily. This can make you feel isolated, depressed, or it can lead to feelings of low self-esteem.

It can really help to talk to your friends, family and teachers about how you feel and how they can support you. Let them know what you do and don't find helpful so that they can do their best to help.

Reaching out for help

Different things work for different people. You could try the following to see if they help:

  • Cut down on drugs and alcohol.
  • Limit screen time and sports in the evening.
  • Avoid taking stimulant medication (or caffeine) after 4pm.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

More help and advice

We have information and advice on a range of subjects

Get help now

Where to get help

If you're worried, stressed or struggling to cope you are not alone. Here are some services that can help you. 

  • ADHD and You

    Contains information and resources to help young people living with ADHD.

  • Youth Access

    Provides information about local counselling and advice services for young people aged 12-25.

    You can find local services on their website.

  • YoungMinds Textline

    Text YM to 85258

    Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

    All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

    Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
    9am - midnight, 365 days a year
  • The Mix

    Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

    Email support available via their online contact form.

    Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

    Free short-term counselling service available.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, seven days a week