Have you ever had a friend in childhood that you thought you vibed with 100%, but then one day you look at them, and it’s like you never knew them?
Well, sad reminiscence aside, that’s precisely how ADHD can treat us a lot of the time! It’s a condition that’s as capricious as it’s mercurial; It’s not rare to wake up one day really confused as to why your routines (or even worse, your meds) aren’t working anymore.
Well, ADHD is really complex. ADHD’s change throughout the ages has to do with many factors, including:
- Changes in biology and hormones
- New life challenges and need to adjust to them
- Sometimes…a pure chance
Sounds like a lot! Well, don’t worry. Strap in as we explore all the nuances of ADHD from young to old.
Let’s dig in!
[ADHD Through Years] ADHD Throughout the Years: Changes and Deviations
Childhood: the early years of ADHD
Kids have a few issues in the early years of their lives:
- They’re really bad at communicating what they think and feel
- Adults are really bad at taking and treating kids seriously
So, the obvious outcome is that children with ADHD often find themselves misunderstood. Their impulsivity is mistaken for disobedience. Their restlessness, for indiscipline. And their inattention often gets wrongly labeled as laziness or lack of interest.
But as we have told on this blog many times, ADHD is not a behavioral disorder that can be fixed by “trying better.” ADHD brain is constantly and tirelessly working in pursuit of stimulation.
In childhood, ADHD is a storm of activity and distractions. A child exists in a relentless pursuit of anything that can capture their flickering attention. ADHD symptoms tend to be the most “loud” at this stage, mostly because of children’s seemingly endless energy supply and also because they haven’t yet internalized the need to hide their true ADHD selves. So their ADHD speaks loudly in classrooms, disrupting lessons. It echoes in homes, challenging the patience of families.
In these early years, the symptoms are overt. The hyperactivity is visible in constant motion - running, jumping, and being unable to sit still. The inattention shows in unfinished tasks, easily distracted gazes, and a trail of uncompleted chores. Impulsivity? It's there in quick, unthought decisions, words blurted without a pause, and actions taken without considering consequences.
For these young minds, school is a battleground. Traditional classrooms demand stillness and prolonged focus, often the antithesis of a child with ADHD. They're the ones who are often called out, miss details, forget homework, or disrupt classes - not out of defiance, but because their minds are wired differently.
Adolescence: the transforming era
As childhood fades, adolescence ushers in a different phase of ADHD. It's no longer just about hyperactivity, which, for some, might wane. Now, it's a battle of the mind. Teenagers with ADHD confront a world that demands organization, focus, and calm - qualities that their minds find alien.
These years are a complex blend of hormonal changes, social pressures, and a heightened sense of self-awareness. The already challenging quest for identity, independence, and desire to fit in gets a new “fun” ADHD layer.
As I have already mentioned, too overt, hyperactive symptoms may disperse or become more subtle. That’s nothing to say about impulsivity and inattention, though!
If you have thought that neurotypical teenagers are too much, wait til you get a load of ADHDers. At this stage, symptoms manifest in forgotten assignments, the struggle to study for exams, and the impulsive decisions that define teenage years.
Social relationships are a maze. Making friends, maintaining them, and understanding the unspoken nuances of teenage communication - are Herculean tasks for these young minds.
Moreover, adolescence is a rebellion, and for those with ADHD, it's a rebellion on two fronts - against the world and against their own minds. It's a quest for control, for understanding, for acceptance.
Adulthood: The Ongoing Journey
As the teenage years recede, adulthood brings new challenges. For adults with ADHD, the symptoms evolve. The workplace and personal relationships become new battlefields.
All the “explicit” symptoms of ADHD disappear…or do they? No, what’s more likely to happen is that people learn to reign in and mask their ADHD symptoms to fit in. That’s why there is a misconception that ADHD gets “cured” with age.
In a work environment, adults with ADHD face tasks that demand prolonged focus, organization, and consistent performance - challenges that their minds are inherently wired to resist.
Missed deadlines, forgotten meetings, or the struggle to manage multiple tasks simultaneously are common. Just like school days, but now, with the looming danger of fiscal responsibility for these decisions… we wonder why ADHD and anxiety are such frequent comorbidities.
Relationships and “adulting” responsibilities in personal life propose their own challenges. Maintaining long-term relationships, managing household tasks, or simply navigating the complexities of adult life can be overwhelming. The impulsivity of ADHD affects decision-making, sometimes leading to strained relationships or hasty choices.
Yet, adulthood also brings an understanding. Many adults learn to identify their patterns to develop coping mechanisms that work for them. They find careers that match their unique blend of talents and ADHD traits. They learn to advocate for themselves to seek environments that understand and accommodate their needs.
[What Causes ADHD to Change] Why does ADHD Get Worse With Age?
The biological factors
The brain, a complex organ, evolves, but the trials of ADHD run deep. As a person ages, their brain matures. This maturation can influence ADHD symptoms. In some, hyperactivity softens into a subtle restlessness. For some, ADHD can subside altogether, and the older the person gets, the less observable their ADHD becomes!1
We cannot discount hormonal changes, especially during puberty and later stages of life. These hormonal shifts can intensify ADHD symptoms or, in some cases, bring a semblance of balance. It's a biological gamble2.
Environmental and lifestyle factors
Life's stages bring different environments and demands. A child's world is structured - home, school, play. But as one grows, life becomes less predictable and more chaotic.
This shift can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. The demands of adult life - work, relationships, societal expectations - can overwhelm an ADHD mind, often leading to increased stress and anxiety.
Lifestyle choices also influence ADHD symptoms. Diet, exercise, sleep - these basic elements of daily life have profound impacts. Poor diet or lack of exercise can aggravate symptoms. Sleep, often elusive for those with ADHD, becomes a crucial, yet often unattainable, component of managing symptoms.
Stress is a significant factor. It's known to intensify ADHD symptoms. The pressure to perform at work, to maintain relationships, to navigate the complexities of adult life - these stressors can make ADHD symptoms more pronounced.
Coping Mechanisms: The Evolution of Survival Strategies
Over time, individuals with ADHD develop coping mechanisms. These strategies evolve from childhood into adulthood. What once was a parent's guiding hand becomes self-imposed routines and structures in adulthood.
These coping mechanisms vary widely. Some find solace in meticulous organization, others in creative pursuits. The effectiveness of these strategies can wax and wane. A coping mechanism that works in one's 20s might not hold up in their 40s. The key is adaptation and awareness, constantly tailoring these strategies to meet the changing demands of life and the evolving nature of ADHD symptoms.
[ADHD Treatments for All Ages] ADHD Treatment and Management Across Ages
So, we have established a certain pattern - ADHD, indeed, can change and “mutate” as a person matures and grows up. Does untreated ADHD get worse with age though? Or does it merely change?
It all depends, but that doesn't mean you should neglect caring after your health though!
Naturally, the management and treatment strategies should reflect that, with each generally focusing on the most prominent issues and symptoms.
In childhood, ADHD treatment is often a blend of structure, routine, and, in many cases, medication. These young minds need a framework to navigate this, unfortunately, oftentimes hostile world. Parents and educators play crucial roles, providing the external structure children with ADHD often cannot create for themselves.
Medication is a common path, but it's not the only one. Behavioral therapy, parent training, and classroom accommodations are integral. The focus is on managing symptoms and teaching children ways to channel their energy and focus their attention. It's about building a foundation, a set of tools they can carry into adolescence and adulthood.
As children grow into teenagers, the treatment landscape shifts. Medication may continue, but the emphasis often moves towards individual therapy and life skills training.
It is at that stage of life that ADHDers become more aware and conscious about their condition. As such, here we will see some of the first attempts at independent symptom management, with the role of parents gradually diminishing. Suffice it to say that it’s a challenging task amidst the turmoil of teenage years.
That’s why cognitive-behavioral therapy has become a valuable tool3. It helps develop coping strategies for inattention and impulsivity, vital skills in the face of increasing academic and social demands. CBT is all about teaching ADHD teens to navigate their minds, recognize their patterns, and take control of their unruly minds.
Adult ADHD management is like a logical continuation of the path laid down at adolescence. It’s a lot of therapy, sometimes medication, and just learning how to wriggle out of the new challenges that adult life likes to throw at us.
Therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy, remains a cornerstone, providing tools to manage symptoms and cope with the unique challenges of adult life. Coaching and support groups offer additional support layers, helping adults navigate careers, relationships, and the everyday complexities of life with ADHD.
This is, unfortunately, the stage of life where the age shows its…well, age? Our bodies aren’t what we are used to and can’t take too much of a beating. So if we don’t adhere to proper routines and exercise, our energy levels and mental clarity will diminish. Which is really bad if we want to manage ADHD.
So, eat that kale, get your 8 hours of Z’s, and make some stretches when you’re out and about.
[Numo ADHD App] Numo: ADHD App for All Ages
So, what makes Numo a worthwhile consideration in your ADHD toolkit as you explore ADHD’s multitudes throughout the eras of your life?
Well, one thing we keep repeating at Numo is that ADHD really is a crapshoot. There is so much misinformation, and symptoms can differ so much that you never truly know or understand what you’re dealing with.
That’s why looking to other ADHDers for inspiration is often so valuable! It can show us that we’re not alone in our struggles but also let us glean something we might not know ourselves.
That’s why we have created Numo in the first place! To create a safe and welcoming space for ADHDers to share and exchange ideas, advice, and - most importantly - memes.
So, whether you're a parent seeking advice for your child, a teenager grappling with new challenges, or an adult refining your coping strategies, Numo's squads and tribes provide a platform for shared experiences and collective wisdom.
And just to sweeten the deal, we’ve packed it with many other things you’d probably need on your ADHD journey:
- Planner: Track tasks and appointments, a crucial feature for all ages to manage time and responsibilities effectively.
- Static Noise Generator: Ideal for focusing on tasks or calming the mind, especially beneficial for those with sensory processing sensitivities.
- Educational Resources: Access a library of ADHD-related content that is helpful for understanding and managing symptoms at any age.
All things considered, ADHD is a complex condition that will never remain static. What worked one year may yield completely new results the year after. That’s why it’s important to remain vigilant about your symptoms and well-being.
And if you want to plan ahead, then the Numo family can always provide the companionship you need!
2 Horm Behav. Potential Hormonal Mechanisms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder: A New Perspective
3 Cochrane Library. Cognitive‐behavioural interventions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults