Sex, Social Media and Teens with ADHD: How to Avoid the Risks
by Peter Lindholm
Among the symptoms of ADHD is an increased likelihood to make rash and impulsive decisions. Children with ADHD are often more impulsive and prone to making rash decisions than their peers. Scientifically speaking, this is because ADHD impacts the thalamus, the area of the brain that controls how one responds to stimuli.(1) In children with ADHD, the thalamus is weakened, making rational responses harder to come by.
In younger children, this impulsivity manifests itself largely as temper tantrums. However, the stakes get markedly higher as these students grow into young adults. When tees are exposed to sex, social media and alcohol, they can again find it difficult to control their response, and ultimately make choices with lasting negative effects. But these risky areas can be identified and managed, just as they are with every young adult. Here are some tips for avoiding the risks!
It is impossible for teens to avoid social media in today’s world. However, for teens with ADHD, social media can be dangerous. Many studies have linked social media use to higher levels and anxiety and depression among teens, struggles that have often been correlated with ADHD itself. Too much social makes teens with ADHD, who are already at a higher risk than their peers for anxiety and depression, even more at risk for these disorders. It is too large a leap to say that social media causes ADHD, but it can make these symptoms more pronounced, including the impulsivity we discussed above. (2)
And impulsivity in posting can be very damaging on social media. Posts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram can affect college admissions and future career options. Indeed, a recent study showed that 35% of colleges across the country check the social media pages of prospective applicants in order to learn more about them. (3)
Now, deactivating social media entirely for your teen is not a realistic solution. It’s too much a part of their social landscape, and may in fact have negative effects. Instead, encourage teens to post things they’d feel comfortable with an authority figure seeing, and to pair scrolling with mindfulness practices.
Sex and sexuality are other areas in which teens with ADHD are at risk. Social media plays a part in this as well, as dangerous social media posts can certainly (and often do) involve sexual content. Teens with ADHD are more likely to send explicit sexual content through social media, the consequences of which can be catastrophic.
However, physical sex has its dangers as well. The impulsivity that comes with ADHD can lead teens to make rash sexual choices, such as avoiding forms of birth control. Many studies have linked ADHD to higher rates of teen pregnancy.(4) It can also lead more situations in which a teen regrets sex, or enters into without feeling fully comfortable.
However, sex is not inherently dangerous for teens with ADHD. In fact, it can be fun, affirming and loving. To set up your teen with a healthy outlook on their growing sexuality, the biggest key is the ability to be frank and honest with your child. Have honest discussion with your child about the importance of birth control, the risk of pregnancy, and also the joy that sex can bring! Also, mindfulness can again be helpful. Encourage your child to think through everything before entering into a sexual situation, asking themselves questions like “Am I sure that I want this,” and “will I look back on this positively?” (5)
Alcohol has played in a part in many a risky social media and sexual decisions, for teens and adults alike. But teens with ADHD often struggle a great deal with alcohol, both in starting drinking and knowing when to stop. The impulse control problems associated with ADHD make teens particularly susceptible to short term, pleasurable behaviors, like alcohol and other drugs. (6) And once these behaviors make them feel good, they have trouble stopping, which can lead to binge-drinking, drunk driving, and all the other issues that excessive drinking can present.
Again, honesty may be the best policy here. Ignoring the fact that your teen may well come into contact with alcohol during their teenage years might drive them towards it. Instead, educate them on these risks, and model responsible drinking in your own life.
If you’re sensing a pattern here, good! Avoiding these risky areas is all about being open, honest and loving with your child. If you do this, there’s no reason that these areas have to be any riskier than they are for every teen.