Does ADHD Get Worse With Age?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder commonly diagnosed in children but can also affect adults. Generally, ADHD symptoms are more severe and challenging to manage in children than in adults. However, many people wonder about the progression of ADHD symptoms with age- does ADHD get worse with age?

Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD symptoms can be categorized into three types:

  • Inattention symptoms: difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, distractibility, making careless mistakes, and disorganization.
  • Hyperactivity symptoms: fidgeting, restlessness, impulsive behavior, excessive talking, and interrupting others.
  • Combined type symptoms: a combination of inattention and hyperactivity symptoms.

It’s important to note that not everyone with ADHD experiences all these symptoms, and the symptoms can vary in severity.

ADHD Progression with Age

While ADHD is often thought of as a child’s disorder, it’s estimated that about 4% of adults in the United States have ADHD. Along with the growing number of adults diagnosed with ADHD comes the question of whether ADHD gets worse with age.

Research has shown that ADHD symptoms may change as people age, but ADHD does not necessarily get worse with age. In fact, some adults with ADHD report that their symptoms have improved over time.

A study conducted in 2018 found that adults with ADHD see fewer improvements in symptoms as they age, but it does not mean that their symptoms get worse. The study reported that while inattention symptoms remained stable with age, hyperactivity symptoms slightly decreased in severity in some participants. Furthermore, the study found that participants who were taking medication for the condition had more significant improvements in their symptoms over time.

It’s also important to note that some adults may not realize they have ADHD until later in life. As the demands for self-management and organization increase with age, ADHD symptoms can become more apparent.

Challenges with ADHD in Adulthood

ADHD symptoms in adulthood can present different challenges than those exhibited by children with ADHD. For example, a child with ADHD may struggle with homework or paying attention in class, whereas an adult with ADHD may have difficulty managing finances, maintaining employment, or forming and maintaining relationships.

Additionally, adults with ADHD may also struggle with co-existing conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorders. These conditions can make ADHD symptoms more challenging to manage and affect the quality of life.

Treatment for ADHD in Adulthood

While there is no cure for ADHD, symptoms can be managed through a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Treatment options for ADHD in adults are similar to those used for children but may be tailored to individual circumstances.

Medication is often the first recommended treatment for ADHD. Stimulant medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are commonly prescribed to manage ADHD symptoms. These medications can enhance brain function and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Therapy can also be beneficial for managing ADHD symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help individuals with ADHD to manage symptoms by changing their thinking patterns and behaviors. Additionally, family or couples therapy can assist in developing strategies to improve communication and relationships.

Lifestyle changes can also be an effective way of managing ADHD symptoms. These changes may include maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, developing organizational strategies, and establishing routines and schedules.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is no evidence to suggest that ADHD gets worse with age. While the symptoms of ADHD may change as people age, the severity of the symptoms does not necessarily increase. Additionally, adults with ADHD may experience unique challenges that differ from those experienced by children with ADHD. With the appropriate treatment and support, individuals with ADHD can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

FAQs

FAQ 1: Does ADHD really get worse with age?

Yes, ADHD symptoms can worsen with age, especially if it is left untreated. In early adulthood, ADHD symptoms can become more noticeable, especially in work, school or social settings, and can continue into middle age and beyond. People with ADHD may also develop additional problems such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and relationship difficulties as they age.

FAQ 2: Can medication help with ADHD symptoms as we age?

Yes, medication can be effective in treating ADHD symptoms in people of all ages. ADHD medications can help control hyperactivity and impulsivity, as well as improve focus and concentration. Although medication cannot cure ADHD, it can make it much easier to manage symptoms over time.

FAQ 3: Are there any lifestyle changes that can help alleviate ADHD symptoms as we age?

Yes, lifestyle changes can help alleviate ADHD symptoms as we age. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep habits can all help reduce symptoms and improve overall wellbeing. Additionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful in developing new coping skills for managing symptoms and improving overall quality of life.


References

1. Biederman, J., Mick, E., & Faraone, S. V. (2000). Age-dependent decline of symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: impact of remission definition and symptom type. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(5), 816-818. (https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.157.5.816)

2. Kooij, J. J., Bijlenga, D., Salerno, L., Jaeschke, R., Bitter, I., Balázs, J., … & Asherson, P. (2019). Updated European Consensus Statement on diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD. European Psychiatry, 56, 14-34. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpsy.2018.11.001)

3. Shaw, P., Eckstrand, K., Sharp, W., Blumenthal, J., Lerch, J. P., Greenstein, D., … & Rapoport, J. L. (2007). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(49), 19649-19654. (https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0707741104)