What happens to kids with ADHD as they get older?

Of all mental health problems, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is probably the most controversial. 

Due to the absence of hard scientific evidence, there are those who consider it an idea propagated by commercial interests – while others attribute it to misbehaviour in school, poor performance or disruptive behavior [1]. 

Manifestations of ADHD in kids

In order to help ADHD sufferers and their families, it is important to analyse what most closely resembles scientific evidence while avoiding ideology-driven discourse from those who claim to have the truth. In some children, it seems like there is an internal generator that drives them to run, jump, squirm in their chairs and talk incessantly. 

Additionally, they may be impulsive, have trouble suppressing their thoughts, get bored with the tasks they are given and constantly interrupt others. They may be unfocused and become sidetracked by the smallest stimulus, are absent-minded and forgetful, leaving tasks half done, not listening when spoken to, with their minds invariably “somewhere else.”

In order to diagnose ADHD in a child, a comprehensive evaluation is typically conducted by a healthcare professional with expertise in the disorder, such as a pediatrician or a child psychologist [2].

A diagnosis of ADHD should not be made before the age of six or seven since almost all the very young exhibit these traits. Nonetheless, if these traits persist in the child and affect their performance and well-being both inside and outside the home, it is important to investigate the underlying cause. 

Assessment, diagnosis and other concerns related to ADHD

A diagnosis is simply the beginnings of what might help a child cope and it doesn’t label them. No one should be considered their diagnosis. Families, teachers, school counselors, psychologists, pediatrician and psychiatrists should be involved in such a roadmap.

According to studies, ADHD affects approximately 5 per cent of children [3]. Genetic factors may play a role: if your parent has ADHD, you are more likely to develop the disorder when you are eight, though, as always, it appears to be a complex nature-nurture interaction: low birth weight, alcohol or tobacco consumption during pregnancy and social adversity all increase the risk.

There are insufficient explanations for the underlying complex brain dysfunction. The possibility that there is no cerebral connection should become a mmotivation to pursue quality biopsychosocial research.

The most urgent concern of ADHD is its effect on the lives of those living with it. When not addressed adequately, it can lead to school failure (40 per cent drop out in those under 16), strained relationships with other children, fights, bullying and increased accidents and self-esteem issues. Besides being a disorder, ADHD is also a risk factor for other mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, behavior problems and substance abuse.

Having ADHD as a kid and becoming an adult

In longitudinal studies, ADHD symptoms tend to decrease over time, though they persist in 40 to 50 percent of adults. In most cases, hyperactivity improves, sometimes morphing into restlessness. 

It is common for people to have difficulty concentrating, organising and managing their time. In more than half of the cases, such adults become easily frustrated and are impulsive.

Adult ADHD can be difficult to diagnose because it can be confused with personality disorders and addictions. When ADHD goes untreated, it is linked to higher rates of traffic accidents, fines and family conflicts. The prevalence of ADHD among the prison population is estimated at 30 per cent, and adult ADHD sufferers are more likely to have legal issues.

ADHD symptoms that were labelled in childhood persist in many sufferers. These symptoms present differently in adulthood, mimicking borderline or antisocial personality disorders, with frequent substance abuse issues and personal, social and legal issues. 

Looking back on their childhood

In the case of adults experiencing the above problems, it might be helpful to ask them what their childhood experiences were like – what difficulties they faced on a day-to-day basis, if they were inattentive or had trouble sitting still, if ADHD was ever considered as an explanation for their behavior. 

It rarely happens. As a result, society interprets such behavior as a moral disorder.

Psychiatrist Luis Rojas Marcos revealed having been diagnosed with ADHD: “I came to think I was a bad child.” Understanding mental health problems can give us insight into abnormal behavior. 

A positive impact on the future of ADHD sufferers can then be achieved by seeking appropriate help and making adaptations. While ADHD cannot explain all baffling and unpredictable human behaviors, it can illuminate some of them.

[1] https://english.elpais.com/science-tech/2022-12-14/keys-to-avoid-diagnosing-false-positives-for-adhd.html
[2] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-in-children-and-teens-what-you-need-to-know
[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17718779/

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