Only 10% of children with ADHD outgrow the condition, researchers say

Photo (c) Andrei Askirka - Getty Images

Adults with the condition can still experience symptoms throughout their lives

Back in the 1990s, experts estimated that around 50% of children who develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to outgrow it by the time they become adults. However, researchers recently found that this wasn’t actually true for the vast majority of people with the condition.

In a recent study, they estimated that 90% of consumers who had ADHD as kids still manifested symptoms of the condition when they became adults. They say these adults experience symptoms that may be a little different than the ones they experienced as kids, but it is still something they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

"It's important for people diagnosed with ADHD to understand that it's normal to have times in your life where things maybe more unmanageable and other times when things feel more under control," said lead researcher Margaret Sibley.

Symptoms change over time

The researchers came to their conclusions after following a group of 558 children with ADHD over the course of 16 years. Assessments were completed every two years to determine how severe the participants’ ADHD symptoms were and to see if there were any changes. 

The researchers found that the vast majority of participants still showed symptoms of having ADHD as they got older, but the way they manifested changed over time. Children who have ADHD are often characterized by being inattentive, disorganized, hyperactive, and impulsive. These symptoms can manifest through qualities like forgetfulness or the inability to sit still. 

By the time the participants were adults, the researchers say many of these issues changed. The team cited problems like verbal impulsivity, difficulty with decision-making, and not thinking before acting as hallmark traits of an adult who is affected by ADHD. Overall, Sibley and her colleagues say around 5% and 10% of the overall population is affected by the disorder.

Coping with ADHD

When it comes to treating and coping with ADHD, the researchers suggested that there wasn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. They say experts are still having trouble figuring what causes ADHD symptoms to flare up -- whether it be stress, environmental factors, lack of sleep, or other factors.

While medications and therapies do exist for ADHD, Sibley said there are other things that people with the condition should focus on. 

"The key is finding a job or a life passion that ADHD does not interfere with. You are going to see a lot of creative people have ADHD because they're able to be successful in their creative endeavors despite having ADHD, whereas people who might be required to do very detail-oriented work at a computer all day -- that could be a really hard combination for a person with ADHD,” she said.

The full study has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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