Untreated Childhood ADHD and How It Translates Into Adulthood
“Children and teens can eventually outgrow ADHD.”
Parents and professionals alike believed the statement above to be true for a long time. In fact, ADHD was formerly called the “hyperkinetic disorder of childhood,” – indicating ADHD to be a childhood disorder.
Unfortunately, this has been the single biggest misconception about ADHD. The truth is, childhood ADHD seeps right into adult ADHD in over 60% of cases.
What changes, however, is the "symptoms-packaging". For instance, children with ADHD typically show heavy symptoms of hyperactivity which gradually dwindle as they transition into adulthood.
Let’s understand how exactly childhood ADHD translates into adulthood.
The ADHD Brain: From Childhood through Adulthood
ADHD comes with three main presentations or subtypes – the inattentive subtype, the hyperactive subtype, and the combined subtype.
These presentations manifest differently based on the various stages of a person’s life and the circumstances they travel through. Many children with the hyperactive ADHD subtype grow up to be calmer individuals with no shades of external hyperactivity. In most cases, these children are thought to have outgrown ADHD simply because they start behaving more calmly – even when they continue dealing with symptoms of impulsivity, disorganization, and inattention.
But, does a change in behavioral manifestations in adults also mean a change in their unique neurological structures?
Researchers found reduced gray matter in the brain’s caudate nucleus (a section of the brain concerned with learning, communicating, and processing and storing memories) of individuals who had supposedly “recovered” from ADHD. In other words, ADHD didn’t disappear among these individuals simply because their symptoms became less obvious.
Adult ADHD is often accompanied by increased persistence of symptoms like inattention. Unlike childhood ADHD, the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness exist internally among adults rather than manifesting externally.
Breaking ADHD Barriers
Some children who experienced milder ADHD symptoms may have developed coping mechanisms that helped them prevent ADHD from interfering with their adult life. Others with untreated or misdiagnosed ADHD had to identify and treat their ADHD in adulthood.
ADHD symptoms wax or wane based on how you manage it and the amount of stress they leave behind. Treatment options like support from an ADHD life coach, ADHD peer support groups, and medication can help get your ADHD in control. The first step to conquering your ADHD is by understanding more about it. Check out resources like the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) - they offer a goldmine of knowledge for both childhood and adult ADHD!