For many children, symptoms of ADHD evolve as they grow older.

Hyperactivity and inattention can be normal parts of childhood. When those symptoms are persistent and interfere with daily life, your child may be living with ADHD.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects approximately 6.1 million U.S. children from ages 2 to 17 years. It’s a mental health condition with symptoms of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention.

ADHD begins at an early age. If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, you’ve most likely lived with it since you were a child.

ADHD also changes with age. For some children, this means they may “grow out” of ADHD as primary symptoms decrease.

Most children with ADHD will no longer meet the diagnostic criteria as adults, but just under one-third of them do. Meanwhile, research reports that around 1 in 50 adults live with ADHD, though the number could be higher.

ADHD symptoms can be different during the various stages of your life. What you experience as a child can change when you hit your teens and adulthood.

ADHD in children

In very young children, hyperactivity and impulsivity are the most common symptoms of ADHD.

Young children are more likely to be active — even while learning — and this can make action-based ADHD behaviors more obvious than those of inattention.

Children with symptoms related to hyperactivity and impulsiveness may be those that:

  • fidget
  • talk nonstop
  • have difficulty waiting

If your child lives with ADHD, you may feel like they never stop moving. They “go a mile a minute” and may seem like they have endless energy.

Symptoms of ADHD in young children may be interpreted as misbehavior if a child is always interrupting or seems impatient.

If you have more questions about what ADHD might mean for your child, here are 12 FAQs that could help.

ADHD in teens

As children grow older, inattentiveness often replaces hyperactivity related to ADHD.

The teenage years can bring on more responsibility. Kids start planning ahead for assignments, preparing for exams, or shouldering more chores at home.

They often feel pressure to focus more and show more self-control. This may bring out symptoms of inattention, such as forgetfulness.

Impulsiveness may also influence risky behavior. Research suggests teens with ADHD are more likely to be involved in substance use.

Those with untreated ADHD also have higher rates of alcohol-related driving accidents, license suspensions, and traffic violations, according to one study.

ADHD in adults

Living with ADHD as an adult may be very different from living with this condition as a child.

You may find your ADHD symptoms become less severe or noticeable once you reach adulthood.

What started off as a need to run around the classroom as a child may now mean you’re easily distracted and forgetful as an adult.

Just because your ADHD symptoms as an adult might not be as obvious to those around you doesn’t mean they have less of an impact on your life.

ADHD may affect your outlook on life, your career, and your personal relationships.

In adults with ADHD, symptoms are often less severe than they were during childhood.

Hyperactivity is the main symptom that declines with age. Behaviors tend to become less extreme and more manageable. Instead of jumping off furniture, you might be more inclined to pace the room.

Adults living with ADHD often experience more subtle ADHD symptoms, such as:

  • disorganization
  • forgetfulness
  • trouble with time management
  • procrastination
  • distraction
  • impulsive decision making

When symptoms of ADHD become more manageable, you may feel as though you’ve grown out of the condition.

In fact, most adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as children don’t meet the diagnostic criteria once they hit adulthood.

As far as symptoms go, this may mean you’ve “outgrown” ADHD.

But the physical evidence of this condition might not be something you can leave behind with childhood.

According to research, ADHD causes differences in the caudate nucleus of the brain. These changes persist as you age, even when ADHD symptoms aren’t present.

The caudate nucleus is associated with learning, memory, and communication. Abnormalities in this region of the brain could continue to cause long-term effects.

While it might be possible to outgrow certain symptoms of ADHD, the brain differences associated with ADHD will likely remain.

ADHD emerges in childhood, so getting a diagnosis as an adult may come as a surprise.

This doesn’t mean you suddenly developed ADHD, but it does mean early symptoms likely went unnoticed.

Not all children have obvious behaviors related to hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Some children are quieter and may experience more symptoms of inattentiveness.

As a parent or supervising adult, noticing inattention in a preschooler may not be as easy as noticing excessive talking or boundless energy.

Now, as an adult, you might be wondering if your feelings of restlessness and absentmindedness are something more than stress.

A licensed mental health professional can help you determine if symptoms you’re experiencing may be ADHD.

While there’s no single test to determine if you’re living with adult ADHD, a series of questions can help explore your symptoms.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide used by professionals to help diagnose mental health conditions, sets guidelines for adult ADHD diagnosis.

According to the DSM-5, receiving an ADHD diagnosis as an adult means you must:

  • have symptoms that interfere with day-to-day life
  • have symptoms in two or more settings, like your home, office, or school
  • have at least five symptoms of either inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or both
  • have at least three symptoms show up before age 12

ADHD may share symptoms with other health conditions. Your doctor can help you rule out physical and mental conditions, such as thyroid problems, depression, or anxiety disorders.

You can also get a deeper dive on adult ADHD here if you’d like to learn more.

ADHD affects people of all ages.

While it’s possible to outgrow symptoms related to this condition, any brain differences may persist into adulthood.

Living with ADHD doesn’t mean you have to accept unwanted symptoms. Treatment is possible with options like medication, behavioral therapy, or a combination.

In addition to professional care, you can help manage the symptoms of ADHD by:

  • creating a routine
  • keeping choices simple
  • focusing on positive rewards
  • maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • finding helpful ways to stay organized
  • eliminating distractions before starting a task
  • joining a support community

You don’t have to feel like ADHD controls your life. Understanding the condition and seeking care from a trusted professional can help make a difference.

If you’d like to learn more about treatment options, you can also check out: