Does ADHD Go Away?

ADHD changes over time, but it's rarely outgrown

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ADHD does not go away, usually. It was once thought that children would grow out of ADHD as they developed and matured. We now know that ADHD symptoms can continue into adolescence and beyond—throughout a person's life. While some kids may seem to outgrow the disorder (or no longer have symptoms that result in impairment), in most cases kids with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD.

According to a longitudinal study, 60% of kids with ADHD still have symptoms as adults.

Though ADHD is chronic in nature, symptoms may present in differing ways as a person moves through life stages. These symptoms may even diminish as that person grows older—for example, ​hyperactivity and fidgetiness may decrease with age.

As well, teens and adults whose ADHD has been addressed over the years will have a range of resources and strategies to turn to when ADHD symptoms become problematic.


Watch Now: Strategies for Living Well With ADHD

ADHD Persists Into Adulthood

Research suggests that while symptoms may change as people grow older, people who have ADHD in childhood are often still affected by the condition in adulthood. However, estimates vary as to how many people still have persistent symptoms and impairment in adulthood.

In one study that followed children diagnosed with ADHD into adulthood, researchers found that:

  • 29% of people diagnosed in childhood had ADHD symptoms as adults.
  • 81% of those with adult ADHD also had at least one other psychiatric condition.
  • Common co-occurring disorders seen in adulthood included substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression.

Of all the children participating in the study, only 37.5% were free of symptoms or negative outcomes in adulthood. The results also indicated that the participants had higher rates of incarceration and suicide as adults.

Another study published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that 60% of kids with ADHD still had symptoms as adults, and 41% had symptoms that created impairment.

Research conducted by the National Human Genome Research Project found that ADHD does not go away for between 20% and 30% of people with the condition. While the study found that the condition persists for many, it also showed that around half of adults experience fewer or less severe symptoms in adulthood.

When Does ADHD Peak?

One older study found that ADHD symptoms are often worse in kids aged 6 to 8 and gradually decline around age 11. Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity were more likely to decline with age, while symptoms of inattention were likely to persist.

Diagnosed at a Later Age

Many people with ADHD may not be diagnosed until their teenage or adult years. This is particularly true of those with predominately inattentive symptoms, which are less disruptive and overt as compared to impulsive/hyperactive symptoms.

Girls and women, in particular, are more likely to experience the inattentive type of ADHD. This often means that they are diagnosed later in life. Research suggests that because these symptoms are less noticeable, girls develop coping strategies to help hide their symptoms. 

Though children may be able to successfully manage symptoms, the teenage and adult years bring on increased demands for sustained attention, planning, organization, and self-management that can make coping with ADHD more and more difficult.

People who are diagnosed as teens or adults may find a sense of relief in the diagnosis, which explains a wide range of lifelong challenges.

It can be particularly helpful to learn that there are both medical treatments and strategies that can make a positive difference. In addition, having a diagnosis can open the door to helpful conversations with parents, friends, and partners. 

Teens With ADHD

Teens with untreated ADHD have few tools and resources for managing their symptoms. As a result, they are more likely than their typical peers to have difficulty juggling multiple classes and extracurricular activities.

Like other teens, teens with ADHD are separating from family and becoming more independent—but with fewer internal restraints, teens with ADHD are more likely to get involved in risky behavior. All these challenges can lead to injury and/or lowered self-esteem.

Teens with untreated ADHD are more likely to experience a higher incidence of driving accidents, underachievement in school/work, relationship problems, and even substance abuse.

Adults With ADHD

Researchers have also found that structural differences in the brain persist into adulthood, even in cases where people previously diagnosed with ADHD no longer met the diagnostic criteria for the condition.

Such findings suggest that while ADHD symptoms may become less apparent as someone grows older, they may still experience a variety of neurological differences that can influence behavior in a variety of ways.

Symptoms in adulthood can be more varied and present in more subtle ways—some examples include:

Though symptoms may be less visible, they can be just as impairing. For example, adults with ADHD may have difficulty managing work tasks or respond impulsively in situations requiring self-restraint and tact. This can lead to more frequent job changes or unemployment. They may also have a difficult time maintaining long-term friendships and romantic relationships.

Does ADHD Get Worse With Age?

Symptoms may affect adults differently, but they typically do not grow worse with age. Adults also generally have more coping skills and resources to manage their symptoms as they age.

A Word From Verywell

While symptoms of ADHD often change with age and may become less severe in adulthood, the condition does not necessarily go away. While researchers are still learning more about why ADHD persists for many people, the evidence does suggest that getting a diagnosis and treatment as early as possible can improve outcomes.

Whether you were diagnosed in childhood or recently learned that you have adult ADHD, talking to your doctor and getting appropriate treatment can help you manage your symptoms and improve your ability to function in your daily life.

11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Keath Low
 Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.