Is It Possible to Outgrow ADHD?

Outgrow ADHD

Not long ago, health experts mistakenly believed that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—also referred to as attention deficit disorder (ADD)—would grow out of the condition in adulthood. Today, researchers have recognized that some ADD/ADHD symptoms do fall away as children grow into adulthood. Other symptoms, however, remain in roughly 60% of diagnosed cases, according to a longitudinal study.

Another report from Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) estimates that 80% of kids will still have the condition as adults.

ADD/ADHD diagnoses among U.S. adults are growing four times as fast as ADHD diagnoses among children. Click To Tweet

Yet, because ADD/ADHD in adults symptoms are often different from what is seen in children, the myth that one can outgrow the disorder persists. This is one of the reasons why the condition remains highly misunderstood. It also helps explain why some mental health experts report that at least 75% of adults who are affected by the disorder are not aware that they have it.

While ADD/ADHD may not be outgrown, it can be managed as the symptoms change from youth to adolescence to adulthood. Here’s what you need to know about ADD/ADHD across the lifespan.


ADD/ADHD is one of the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting about 9.8% of U.S. children aged 3-17, according to the CDC. It also affects 5.4% of adult men and 3.2% of adult women, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The disorder is characterized by pervasive problems with attention. Impulsive and hyperactive behavior is also common but not in all cases. It’s more prevalent in boys than girls.

Boys are more likely to exhibit hyperactive and impulsive symptoms, while girls are more prone to exhibit attention difficulties. It can be diagnosed as young as age 2, but more typically between 6 and 17 years. Some cases are overlooked—particularly in girls who tend to have less obvious symptoms.

There are 3 recognized subtypes of ADHD:

  • Inattentive: Trouble holding attention, staying organized, and/or finishing tasks.
  • Hyperactive/Impulsive: Fidgeting, talking incessantly, restlessness.
  • Combined: A mix of inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive traits.

The core symptoms of ADD/ADHD found in varying degrees in both children and adults include:

  • A short attention span for routine tasks
  • Distractibility
  • Procrastination
  • Disorganization
  • Problems with follow-through
  • Poor impulse control

Ultimately, ADD/ADHD is a disorder of poor self-regulation, executive function, and difficulty with the skills that help to manage daily life. Of course, condition-related behaviors can vary widely among children and adults. In addition, they change over time as an individual grows older and experiences different life events and circumstances.

A one-size-fits-all definition of ADD/ADHD does not exist. In fact, brain SPECT imaging at Amen Clinics has helped identify 7 types of ADD/ADHD based on blood flow and brain activity patterns.

As ADD/ADHD symptoms in children and adults often show up differently, let’s take a closer look.


In children, inattention symptoms are not as pronounced, one study found. However, they are more often observed in girls. Symptoms may manifest as having difficulty with boring, routine, everyday tasks and needing excitement to stay engaged.

ADD/ADHD kids with inattention often have trouble listening to directions, initiating activities, and finishing tasks. They may carelessly miss details that lead to poor grades. Losing things and forgetting to do chores are common problems.

Interestingly, kids often have no trouble paying attention to things that are novel, exciting, or frightening. Research indicates that this may be due to dopamine deficiency in ADD/ADHD brains. Exciting activities stimulate dopamine.

Hyperactivity and impulsiveness are the most obvious and common symptoms in children with ADHD. These kids are in constant motion—fidgeting when seated and having trouble being still or quiet. They may talk too much, have trouble waiting for their turn, interrupt, and blurt out answers.

But here’s where it gets tricky and a bit confusing. Many children who show predominantly hyperactive symptoms can grow into adults who no longer display hyperactive behavior.

It may appear that these children have outgrown ADD/ADHD because they act more calmly in daily life. However, more often, symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and disorganization remain.


Symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD include:

  • A general feeling of restlessness
  • Poor memory
  • Lack of awareness of time
  • Difficulties in relationships
  • Poor job performance

As you can see, these symptoms differ from those of children. They can be hard to detect, although their negative impact can be great. The inattentive ADD/ADHD subtype is much more prevalent in adults with ADD/ADHD.

Like children with inattention, adults also struggle with mundane, routine tasks. They can miss deadlines, sign something without reading the details, and tend to get bored easily.

They also may abruptly end relationships or frequently change career direction—possibly because they seek novelty and stimulation due to their neurodivergence. Inattention can cause adverse consequences in the workplace, academically, and personally.

In adult ADD/ADHD, hyperactivity and impulsivity can manifest as:

  • risky behavior
  • excessive activity
  • restlessness
  • a hot temper
  • trouble coping with stress
  • low frustration tolerance
  • frequent mood swings

Adults with impulsive ADD/ADHD symptoms may interrupt a conversation, cut people off while on the road, or make impulsive purchases they can’t afford.

Adults who are unaware of their condition may feel tremendous shame about their lack of organization, lack of focus, and impulsive behavior. They are also more likely to have other mental disorders, such as:

These issues may mask ADD/ADHD, research suggests.

Indeed, untreated, undiagnosed ADD/ADHD in adults is also associated with higher incidences of obesity, traffic accidents, school dropouts, job failure and unemployment, financial problems, divorce, incarceration, and suicide.


Usually, by the time children with ADD/ADHD reach adulthood, they have developed ways to cope better or “mask” their condition. In some cases, lifestyle modifications, mental health support, medication, or other treatments have helped them to manage symptoms well. In fact, their symptoms may have lessened to a degree that they no longer meet ADD/ADHD diagnostic criteria.

However, they still have ADD/ADHD. Evidence shows that ADD/ADHD brains have small but significant structural differences when compared to neurotypical brains, leading researchers to conclude it is a lifelong brain disorder. The brain-imaging work at Amen Clinics, however, shows that with the right treatment plan people with the condition can improve the way their brain functions.


With greater awareness today, more adults are recognizing the signs, getting diagnosed, and getting treatment. In fact, ADD/ADHD diagnoses among U.S. adults are growing 4 times as fast as diagnoses among children, according to research findings.

If you recognize the signs of ADD/ADHD in your child, don’t ignore it or expect them to outgrow it. Be sure to reach out to a qualified mental health professional. In particular, look for someone who understands that this condition is a brain-based disorder that can change throughout life.

Problems with inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. I’m a 70 year old female. As a child ADHD was not recognized. Many of the symptoms you’ve listed I can relate to in myself. I also have difficulty getting a good nights sleep. I’m interested to hear what steps I can take to help eliminate or improve these symptoms.

    Comment by Carla Coats — August 21, 2023 @ 9:40 AM

  2. I was in pediatrics for 20 years and treated children for ADHD. I am now doing adult primary care and I am now doing a lot of adult ADHD. The pharmacies here give my adult patients a hard time and sometimes give me a difficult time especially ifI add something for anxiety. Love your article

    Comment by Sheryl Haynes — August 21, 2023 @ 11:09 AM

  3. Does menopause ever trigger ADHD? I have a family member who now has a number of ADHD symptoms that weren’t there in childhood.

    Comment by Lisa — August 21, 2023 @ 12:54 PM

  4. Do you take insurance?

    Comment by Margaret Cordova-Hermann — August 22, 2023 @ 6:01 AM

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