When Does ADHD Develop?|Does It Get Better with Age?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been linked to problems in children at school. Many children with the condition are labeled troublemakers or kids who don’t pay attention in school. Unfortunately, many of them are struggling with a disorder that requires medication to treat. ADHD has become more prevalent in our society over time, and it’s important to know what it develops and if it gets better with age.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.1 million children were diagnosed with ADHD in a 2016 study. It translates to 9.4 percent of children in the U.S. at the time. The same figures show the number of children diagnosed at 388,000 ages 2 through 5, 4 million ages 6 through 11, and 3 million ages 12 through 17. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed (12.9 percent) than girls (5.6 percent).

Fortunately, three in four children diagnosed with ADHD receive treatment. The same statistics show that 62 percent were taking medication, and 47 percent received behavioral therapy. ADHD symptoms are likely to appear before age 12, but in some children, they may be noticeable as early as age 3.

The Mayo Clinic indicates that symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe and continue into adulthood.

What Is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that involves a combination of persistent issues, such as hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and sustaining attention. The disorder often continues into adulthood.

Children with the disorder also struggle with troubled relationships, low self-esteem, and poor performance in school. Symptoms have been known to lessen with age, but some will never outgrow their ADHD symptoms. Individuals can learn strategies to cope with their symptoms.

The three subtypes of ADHD include:

  • Predominantly inattentive: Most symptoms fall under inattention.
  • Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive: Most of the symptoms are impulsive and hyperactive.
  • Combined: This is a mix of hyperactive/impulsive symptoms and inattentive symptoms.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Easily distracted
  • Trouble with organizing activities or tasks
  • Not listening, even when spoken to directly
  • Trouble staying focused on tasks
  • Inability to pay close attention or make careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Difficulty following through on instructions and failure to finish chores or schoolwork
  • Talks too much
  • Fidgeting with or tapping their hands or feet, or squirming around in their seat
  • Constant motion
  • Blurting out answers
  • Interrupting conversations

When Does ADHD Develop?

As mentioned earlier, you are most likely to develop ADHD as a child, but is it possible to develop the condition in adulthood? The short answer, according to VeryWell Mind, is no.

Many of the symptoms that cause impairment must be present during the childhood years. The signs of ADHD must be evident before age 12. Technically speaking, ADHD does not develop in adulthood. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have it as an adult.

If you have ADHD as an adult, you had it as a child. If you did not have these symptoms as a child, your current symptoms could be the result of something else, such as anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders. You must speak with a medical professional to determine if you are struggling with ADHD.

ADHD is challenging to diagnose because the symptoms can vary from one person to another. The condition is typically diagnosed through observation rather than blood tests or physical markers. When adults seek a diagnosis, it’s a possibility that no one knew to look for ADHD, and you may have had it all along. ADHD symptoms can manifest differently as someone ages.

Does ADHD Get Better With Age?


It used to be widely believed that ADHD could be outgrown as a child developed, matured, and aged. As we determined above, ADHD starts in childhood, and troubling symptoms may continue into adolescence and throughout a person’s life. Some kids grow out of ADHD, but in most cases, those with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD. Since the disorder is chronic, symptoms can present themselves in different ways.

Many people with the condition are not diagnosed until they are in their teenage or adult years, and it is true of those with predominantly inattentive symptoms. These are considered to be less overt and disruptive compared to more hyperactive or impulsive symptoms.

While a person may successfully manage their symptoms in childhood, teenage and adult years will bring forward increased demands for sustained planning, attention, organization, and self-management that makes coping with ADHD more difficult.

Only a doctor can determine if your symptoms have decreased over time. It may be time to wean yourself off the medication you’ve been using since childhood, but only your primary care physician can make that determination.

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