Does ADHD Get Worse With Age?

The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do not generally worsen with age. However, different life experiences, events, and environments can lead someone to perceive their symptoms as more intense, or worse. A large factor concerning ADHD is considering when the disorder was diagnosed and how soon the individual recognized their symptoms.

In most cases, ADHD is diagnosed at a young age. Provided that this individual’s symptoms were managed and treated, their symptoms typically will not worsen with age. That being said, untreated ADHD can lead to the development of other mental health conditions, such as depression.  

How Does ADHD Affect People as They Get Older?

People with ADHD find it difficult to concentrate and, in some cases, act impulsively. Children with ADHD are overactive in the classroom, while adults may exhibit different symptoms. Fortunately, studies show that ADHD does not get worse with age. However, some of the symptoms associated with ADHD become less acceptable in adults compared to children. 

Adults with the disorder tend to find it difficult to stay organized or to remain in the same job for a long period. As people with ADHD get older, they are more likely to struggle with timekeeping, which could lead to workplace tardiness. Another interesting commonality among adults with ADHD is a willingness to multitask. 

Humans are historically bad multitaskers, and this holds true for adults with ADHD. In situations where adults with ADHD attempt to multitask, they may find themselves not completing tasks fully or not completing them to a high standard. 

Adults with ADHD

Adults with ADHD often find it difficult to plan their time effectively. This, paired with an inability to think of long-term consequences, can lead to dangerous impulsive behavior. When someone has a hard time prioritizing actions and thoughts, it can lead to a lag in overall functioning. 

Hyperactive adults are more likely to develop mental health issues such as depression. Studies show that adults with ADHD are also more likely to struggle with substance use disorders, too. That being said, ADHD does present some beneficial characteristics such as resilience, social intelligence, and cognitive dynamism. 

When do ADHD Symptoms Worsen?

ADHD symptoms may appear to worsen if the disorder goes undiagnosed and untreated. As children with ADHD age, they generally find ways to navigate through the disorder. Some adults even completely outgrow their symptoms. 

Some adults feel their ADHD symptoms worsen as they get older as adulthood brings new stressors into their lives. This is one reason why it is imperative to begin treating ADHD during childhood. 

Treating ADHD does not always mean medication. Many treatments can help children learn how to deal with their symptoms and even reframe them to be beneficial for productivity. 

Individuals who carry their symptoms into their adulthood may find that their ADHD has intensified. In most cases, these individuals find themselves in situations where the expression of their symptoms seems to be worse.

 For example, as adults gain more career responsibilities, ADHD-related challenges may seem worse, but it may just be that the circumstances and repercussions are more severe.

Overlapping Conditions

About a decade ago, a study reported that about 62% of people with ADHD also had at least one other disorder. Since mental health disorders are not black and white, it is common for people to misunderstand the overlapping of symptoms from multiple disorders. Some co-occurring conditions found in the study include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorder
  • Complicated grief
  • Burnout

Does ADHD Get Worse with Age?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has become a common condition among adults in recent years. Does ADHD get worse with age? The simple answer is no. Though science has not completely caught up with the increase in ADHD diagnoses, there is no conclusive evidence that suggests that ADHD gets worse with age. 

The misconception of ADHD getting progressively worse as the person ages are due to a few problematic assumptions. The main assumption is that the disorder is worsening without taking into account that as we age, we are tasked with more responsibilities and a higher demand for attention. 

It is no surprise that life tends to get more difficult as we get older. In adolescence, our responsibilities often are not as impactful compared to when we introduce the complexities of adulthood. 

Why Aging Does Not Affect ADHD

ADHD should not be compared to other disorders, illnesses, or diseases. Something like a lung condition can worsen with age. On the other hand, ADHD simply causes difficulty with staying on task and overall concentration. Cognitive decline is a given in aging, but this should not be associated with ADHD and its symptoms. 

Why People Believe ADHD Can Get Worse

ADHD is a situational mental health condition. Therefore, different settings, experiences, and events can change the way an individual experiences their symptoms. This is one reason why many people ask the complicated question: “Does ADHD get worse with age?” 

If you have ADHD, you probably already understand that some days are better than others. Some events may trigger high stress or grief. This is normal, and it is part of learning to live with our unique complexities as humans. 

ADHD symptoms may seem worse if you constantly find yourself in situations that demand concentration. This can lead to frustration, burnout, and even depression. However, in most cases, it is not your ADHD worsening. As previously mentioned, ADHD is a situational condition. 

Growing Older with ADHD

For many, ADHD is a lifelong condition. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, between 20-30% of people do not outgrow ADHD. However, about half of adults report a reduction in symptoms. There is no conclusive evidence that shows why some people grow out of ADHD while others do not. 

There is conclusive evidence that does show that treating ADHD as early as possible leads to the best outcomes. ADHD treatment for children and young adults statistically results in fewer emergency room visits and less risky, compulsive behavior like drinking and driving. 

How Can You Manage ADHD as an Adult?

Choosing an occupation that favors your characteristics can help you manage your ADHD symptoms as an adult. For instance, hyperactive adults may find it easier to have a more physically demanding job instead of working in an office. This is not an expression of an individual’s intellectual ability or cognitive level, rather finding ways to create a positive life experience. 

Many adults with ADHD use support groups to meet other people with similar circumstances. Support groups also give people an opportunity to receive guidance from counselors and their peers. People who are diagnosed with ADHD later in life can really benefit from support groups because they can communicate with people who have learned to deal with the disorder for decades. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of psychotherapy can help people with ADHD and other co-occurring conditions. Individual therapy sessions help people get a better understanding of their triggers and symptoms. Understanding how a disorder like ADHD can affect you can help you further develop tools that minimize symptoms. 

Does ADHD Go Away?

ADHD does not simply disappear as an individual ages. However, symptoms of ADHD can become less obvious as the individual learns how to cope and maneuver through the disorder. The effects of ADHD can linger on the brain, though. Some coping skills that children may develop to deal with their childhood ADHD can transition into adulthood. Depending on the individual and their method of coping, there is a possibility that it could interfere with their daily life. 

Biological Changes That Worsen with Age

The human experience involves various biological and physical changes. As humans grow older, male or female, with or without ADHD, we will experience changes. Studies show that there is an age-related decline in many areas of the brain that explain how people function as they age. This occurrence is expressed in people with ADHD and people without ADHD.

For example, another study showed a decrease in dopamine transporters each year of a person’s life. This decline of dopamine affects several regions of the brain. These regions of the brain are responsible for the same types of behaviors that handle ADHD symptoms. 

Each degenerative process, such as white matter decreasing in the brain or dementia, occurs whether or not the individual has ADHD. When wondering, “Can ADHD get worse?” or “Does ADHD get worse with age?” keep in mind that changes in routine and lifestyle can cause the expression of your symptoms to be different. 

Find Help with Sana Lake BWC

If you are dealing with issues involving ADHD or other mental health disorders, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor before taking any action. At Sana Lake BWC, we offer various therapies and programs to help people deal with mental health and substance use. If you or a loved one are dealing with issues involving addiction, please give us a call today.