Is it Possible to Develop ADHD in Adulthood?

Is it Possible to Develop ADHD in Adulthood? ADHD Symptoms, ADHD in adults,

Adults who find it increasingly difficult to pay attention, stay organized, manage their time, or remember simple daily tasks often begin to wonder if they’re experiencing the effects of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a common neurodevelopmental condition that usually emerges in childhood.

ADHD is certainly more common in young people: It’s estimated that 10% of all children in the United States — or approximately 6 million preschoolers, grade-schoolers, and teenagers — have already been diagnosed with the disorder. Even so, epidemiological data indicate that the problem also affects up to 5% of all adults.  

While inattention, disorganization, restlessness, and other prominent signs and symptoms of ADHD typically appear before the age of 12, they’re not always diagnosed early on. And because these symptoms tend to evolve with age and improved coping mechanisms, some adults never even knew they had a problem — until stress or a major life change causes their symptoms to reemerge.    

If you’ve been feeling unusually distracted, scattered, overwhelmed, or even impulsive, here’s what you need to know about the onset of ADHD, and what developing ADHD-like symptoms in adulthood may mean.

A childhood disorder

ADHD is, by definition, a childhood disorder. Meeting the criteria for diagnosis at any point in life means some ADHD symptoms must have been present during childhood.  

Because of the way the disorder affects a child’s brain, kids with ADHD have a much harder time applying organizational and self-regulating skills, also known as executive function. When a child’s executive function isn’t working as it should, it can be too much for them to stay focused, listen attentively, sit quietly, follow directions, and control random impulses.

While all children are sometimes restless, distractible, and inattentive, kids with ADHD demonstrate these traits to a much greater degree and far more frequently than what’s generally expected for their age.   

Does this mean that every child with ADHD receives a proper diagnosis during childhood? Of course not — there are always children who slip through the cracks, so to speak, either because their symptoms were relatively mild or because their parents or pediatrician didn’t consider their behaviors abnormal, disruptive, or problematic.

Symptom evolution

ADHD symptoms are divided into two general categories: Behaviors that are inattentive, and those that are impulsive or hyperactive. While some kids have a more inattentive type of ADHD and other have the more hyperactive type, most children exhibit symptoms of both types.

There are two common misconceptions surrounding ADHD:

  1. Most children with ADHD will “outgrow” their symptoms by the time they’re adults
  2. People who never had the disorder during childhood can develop it for the first time as adults

Both of these misconceptions can be explained as ADHD being a highly individual disorder with symptoms that evolve over time.

In general, hyperactive symptoms tend to decline as children advance through elementary school, while inattentive symptoms tend to intensify through adolescence and beyond, when schoolwork becomes more difficult and kids have less supervision.  

But even when symptoms become milder as children grow and learn to cope, it’s important to recognize that ADHD is a neurobehavioral condition that has no cure and often persists, to some degree, throughout a person’s life.

ADHD in adulthood

Although an estimated one-third of all children with ADHD no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder by the time they’re young adults, two-thirds of kids with ADHD continue to experience symptoms and challenges that require treatment into adulthood and throughout their lives.  

If you’re experiencing ADHD-like symptoms as an adult — but you were never diagnosed with the condition in your youth — chances are you’ve either always had the disorder, or your current memory issues, distractibility, and feelings of restlessness aren’t actually related to ADHD at all.

Even if ADHD isn’t an adult-onset disorder, it can be diagnosed for the first time in adulthood. This is especially true for women who had a quieter, more passive form of inattentive ADHD when they were younger; in fact, girls with inattentive-type ADHD are more likely to go undiagnosed until they reach adulthood, have a child with the disorder, recognize the patterns of behavior, and seek a professional diagnosis for themselves.

If you believe you may have ADHD, get a comprehensive evaluation, including a medical exam and history, a review of your current symptoms as well as memories of any past symptoms, and an adult ADHD rating scale or checklist to help determine if you truly have the disorder.

To learn more, call The Wellness Institute Of Dallas today or use the easy online tool to schedule a visit any time.

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