If a person is aware of their symptoms and knows how to treat them, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) does not usually get worse with age.
Some people are only diagnosed with ADHD as adults because their parents, caregivers, or doctors failed to notice their symptoms when they were children.
Untreated ADHD can increase a person’s risk of developing mental health issues like depression. It may also make it difficult for them to establish and sustain relationships, as well as excel in school.
In this post, we’ll look at whether ADHD symptoms intensify with age and how to treat them as you grow older.
ADHD and aging
If a person has trouble focusing or acts on impulse often, they may have ADHD.
Adults with ADHD are more likely to:
- find organization challenging
- find it difficult to stay in the same job
- struggle with timekeeping, which can lead to frequent lateness for work
- are often restless
- often feel compelled to multitask but may be unable to complete tasks fully or to a high standard
People with ADHD will struggle to consider the long-term implications of their actions and to effectively schedule their time. A person’s executive function can be impaired if they are unable to prioritise their thoughts and behaviours.
Adults with ADHD are more likely to experience depression and struggle with substance abuse. As a result, they are at risk of not realising their full educational and professional potential.
ADHD, on the other hand, has a lot of advantages, such as cognitive dynamism, endurance, and social intelligence.
ADHD as you get older
ADHD can be a lifelong disorder in some cases. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, 20–30% of people with ADHD do not outgrow it. Half of adults, on the other hand, report a decrease in symptoms. It’s a mystery that some people develop out of their symptoms and others don’t.
However, researchers have discovered that treating ADHD earlier rather than later yields better results.
Children who are treated for ADHD, for example, have fewer emergency room visits than those who are not. Adolescents who receive treatment are often less likely to partake in risky habits like drinking and driving.
Managing ADHD in adulthood
Adults with ADHD will attend support groups to meet other people who have the disorder and receive advice from counsellors. This may be beneficial to those who were diagnosed later in life.
Some adults with ADHD can also benefit from couple and family psychotherapy to help their loved ones better understand ADHD and its symptoms. ADHD coaches may also provide one-on-one assistance on a number of topics.
Treating ADHD as an adult
When an adult is diagnosed with ADHD, a doctor will normally recommend a variety of medications. This may include the following:
Stimulants such as methylphenidate and amphetamines are used to treat ADHD.
Antidepressants are prescribed off-label by physicians in exceptional cases, despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them to treat ADHD symptoms.
cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one form of therapy that may help a person resolve their ADHD symptoms. This therapy helps people become more conscious of their focus and concentration problems, and it also strengthens their organisational skills.
Another aim of CBT is to help people overcome feelings of low self-esteem and insecurity. As a result, a person’s risk of experiencing depression and other disorders that affect their mood is reduced.
Diagnosing ADHD in adults
ADHD is a condition that begins in childhood. If a person was never diagnosed as a child, a doctor would use slightly different criteria to decide whether or not they have ADHD as an adult.
If a person meets the following requirements, a doctor will diagnose ADHD:
- They have at least five symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or both.
- These symptoms present in at least two places — for example, home and work.
- The symptoms interfere with their day-to-day life.
- The person had some of these symptoms before the age of 12 years.
Late diagnosis of ADHD in females
Healthcare professionals often misdiagnose ADHD in females or diagnose it later in life, according to a 2020 expert consensus document. One explanation for this is that females’ hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are more subtle than males’.
Because of the lack of early diagnosis, females may miss out on therapies and other interventions while they are young, potentially causing them to fall behind in school or struggle to establish relationships as they grow older.
If a woman is going through menopause or is pregnant, her ADHD prescription will need to be adjusted, as hormonal changes may affect her symptoms. Therapy, either in conjunction with medication or as a stand-alone procedure, can be more effective at these times.
ADHD in people over the age of 50
There haven’t been many research involving people over the age of 50 who have ADHD. According to some studies, ADHD symptoms are substantially less common in people aged 70–80 years old than in those aged 50–60 years old.
Researchers admit that diagnosing someone with ADHD later in life may be difficult because they may have underlying health problems or other age-related complications that conflict with ADHD symptoms.
Because of the side effects, some older people may be unable to take ADHD medicine, so they may benefit from psychological therapy.
If a person gets treatment for their symptoms after getting a diagnosis, ADHD does not get worse with age.
If a person is diagnosed as an adult, their symptoms may start to improve after they begin their recovery plan, which could include a combination of medication and therapy.
Older adults can experience changes in their ADHD symptoms over time, particularly at pivotal points in their lives, such as menopause.
Although there isn’t much research on ADHD in older adults, people in their 70s and 80s don’t seem to have as many symptoms as those in their 50s and 60s.
- Could I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? (n.d.).
- Dealing with ADHD: What you need to know. (2016).
- Does ADHD get worse with age? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/adhd-getting-worse-with-age
- National Human Genome Research Institute. (2017). Adult ADHD: An imbalance between the online and offline brain [Press release].
- Overview. (n.d.).
- Torgersen, T., et al. (2016). Optimal management of ADHD in older adults.
- Young, S., et al. (2020). Females with ADHD: An expert consensus statement taking a lifespan approach providing guidance for the identification and treatment of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in girls and women.