Effectively Addressing Teen Anxiety and ADHD

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

It’s not unusual for children and adolescents to feel anxious, nor is it uncommon for them to have trouble regulating their attention. But sustained fear and worry can be symptoms of anxiety disorders, and persistent attention dysregulation can be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Given that both conditions can impact a child’s schoolwork, friendships, and family relationships, it’s important for those caring for children to understand these challenges.

So what should parents, teachers, and other adults know about childhood anxiety and ADHD? How can one recognize when a child is struggling with either or both? And when is professional help warranted?

Fairlee C. Fabrett, PhD, provides an overview of childhood anxiety and ADHD, discusses the diagnostic and evidence-based treatment approaches for each, and answers questions about helping a child manage the impacts of these two common conditions.

Audience Questions

  • Is some anxiety good for us?
  • What are some of the typical sources of anxiety for kids and teens?
  • Are there key distinctions between stress and anxiety?
  • How do you know when a child or teen has crossed the threshold between healthy and unhealthy anxiety?
  • Is there a relationship between anxiety and puberty?
  • What are the more common anxiety disorders?
  • How is the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder different for a child or a teen versus an adult?
  • What do we know about the prevalence of anxiety disorders in kids and teens?
  • What are some of the gold standard treatments for anxiety disorders, especially when it comes to kids and teens?
  • When should parents explore the various levels of care for their anxious child or teen?
  • What criteria are used to diagnose somebody with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
  • What should parents and teachers know about when an ADHD assessment might be helpful for a child or teen?
  • What do you want people to know about ADHD treatment?
  • When a child or teen is dealing with both anxiety and ADHD, what does treatment look like?
  • When should clinicians who don’t specialize in ADHD or anxiety disorders consider referring a patient with those challenges to another clinician?
  • What are some myths and misconceptions when it comes to ADHD and anxiety?
  • What should we know about cell phone screen time and ADHD in kids and teens?
  • How should parents talk to their children about a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis? Or is it better to not let them know that they have been diagnosed with a mental health condition?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


About Fairlee C. Fabrett, PhD

Fairlee C. Fabrett, PhD, is the director of training and staff development for McLean’s child and adolescent division. She is also the director of McLean’s post-baccalaureate child and adolescent clinical fellowship, through which she provides supervision and mentorship to recent college graduates. Dr. Fabrett is trained in cognitive behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy and has expertise in acceptance and commitment therapy.

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