While there’s no absolute cure for ADHD, many people are able to manage their symptoms long term with the proper support.

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder seen in childhood. Its symptoms often continue into adulthood.

Research suggests that ADHD affects about 5% of children and 4.4% of adults in the United States.

Although ADHD is considered a chronic condition without a definite cure, many people can manage their ADHD symptoms with proper treatment. And in many cases, they may not even notice its effects.

While there’s no cure for ADHD, many treatment options are available to help you manage your symptoms.

Clinicians call ADHD a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning that it affects a person’s behavior, memory, motor skills, or ability to learn. Other types of neurodevelopmental disorders include dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ADHD symptoms can get milder as a person ages, but the disorder doesn’t go away. Still, many adults who’ve been treated for ADHD live without symptoms and function at their best.

It’s most helpful to approach ADHD as an ongoing disorder where you can manage symptoms — not as a disease to cure.

ADHD is considered a highly treatable disorder. People who get the right diagnosis and treatment plan can keep their symptoms well under control.

Clinicians look to medication — particularly stimulants — as the first line of treatment for ADHD. Stimulants prove effective when properly prescribed. For example, around 70% of children with ADHD find success with these medications in managing symptoms.

We classify stimulants into amphetamines (Adderall) or methylphenidate (Ritalin). These medications work by blocking the reuptake of dopamine, your body’s “happy hormone.” Amphetamines also release dopamine themselves.

For people who don’t respond well to stimulants, doctors may prescribe non-stimulants.

These medications tend to affect the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. In general, it may take longer to see results from these drugs than from stimulants.

Some non-stimulants include:

  • atomoxetine (Strattera)
  • viloxazine (Qelbree)
  • clonidine extended release (Kapvay)
  • guanfacine ER (Intuniv)
  • amantadine (Symmetrel)

Psychosocial treatments are also recommended for children. These programs include education for the child with ADHD and their family. A 2021 review suggests that these training programs are effective, particularly when combined with medication.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) for children who opt not to take medication. This device produces a low level electrical pulse to the forehead, sending signals to structures deep in the brain.

According to 2021 research on children with ADHD, TNS improves ADHD symptoms and executive functioning.

Most children with ADHD receive some form of treatment. U.S. survey data shows that of the 5.4 million children with ADHD, 77% receive some type of treatment, whether that be medication, therapy, or both.

It’s also important for both children and adults with ADHD to engage in more routine self-care. This includes:

  • exercising
  • eating nutritious food
  • avoiding foods that cause allergic reactions
  • spending time in nature
  • limiting screen time

You may also consider other treatment options for ADHD outside of medication, including combinations of meditation, exercise, and improvements in diet or sleep.

Research suggests that about 2 in 5 children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms into their teen years. So by the time you finish puberty, ADHD symptoms may disappear completely.

By adulthood, the symptoms of ADHD typically decrease by about 50%, particularly for people who received treatment at onset. About 25% of people with ADHD don’t require any treatment in adulthood.

As you can see, ADHD symptoms prove very manageable. Still, researchers want to know why and how many people stop experiencing symptoms into adulthood.

Some experts believe that stimulant medications (considered the first-line of treatment for ADHD) may help improve the development of the brain’s frontal lobe over time.

As with most impairments or disorders, people learn to adjust. Many people get better at this as they age. Like anything you do, finding what works for you takes time.

Every person with ADHD has unique symptoms with varying levels of severity.

These are the three basic types of ADHD:

  • ADHD, inattentive type: Characterized by inattention and distractibility without the hyperactivity. This subtype occurs in about 18.3% of people with ADHD. It’s more common in women and girls.
  • ADHD, hyperactive/impulsive type: Characterized by restlessness, impulsivity, excessive talking, fidgeting, etc. This subtype occurs in about 8.3% of people with ADHD.
  • ADHD, combined type: The most common type of ADHD. Symptoms of the above two types both are present. About 70% of people with ADHD have this subtype.

As a person with ADHD gets older, these symptoms may shift or evolve.

Symptoms of childhood ADHD

ADHD often becomes noticeable when the child begins school and has to sit still and pay attention for longer periods of time. Below are various symptoms that might be seen in childhood.

Symptoms of inattention:

  • losing important materials (pencils or tests)
  • being easily distracted by thoughts or outside stimuli
  • being forgetful in everyday activities
  • making careless mistakes or having poor attention to detail
  • having difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play
  • not seeming to listen when spoken to directly
  • not following through on tasks and instructions
  • avoiding tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • showing poor organizational skills

Symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity:

  • being consistently restless
  • seeming “on-the-go” or “driven by a motor”
  • talking excessively
  • being fidgety (tapping hands or feet, squirming in seat)
  • leaving seat at inappropriate times
  • having difficulty engaging in quiet activities
  • blurting out answers inappropriately
  • having difficulty waiting their turn
  • interrupting or intruding on others

Symptoms of adult ADHD

Symptoms of adult ADHD are similar to those seen in childhood. Adult ADHD symptoms still may revolve around a pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity.

However, these symptoms may look different in adults or less severe.

For example, rather than jumbling homework assignments or staring out the window, an adult with inattentive ADHD may forget to pay their bills in a timely fashion. They may have difficulty responding to emails or texts as quickly as neurotypical people would expect.

They may avoid activities that require sustained attention. Perhaps they start several projects at once.

Adults with the hyperactive/impulsive type of ADHD may feel restless. They may show signs of impulsive shopping or externalizing their emotions under stress.

Though ADHD doesn’t necessarily go away, the symptoms are very manageable and respond well to proper treatment. In many adults, the symptoms become unnoticeable.

If you have ADHD, talk with your doctor about medication and therapy options. This way, you’ll have the best route towards managing your symptoms.

Researchers continue to develop new medications and therapies to help people with ADHD thrive through childhood and into adulthood.