Can You Develop ADHD As An Adult?

Can You Develop ADHD As An Adult?

Can You Develop ADHD As An Adult? 1804 1203 Long Island Counseling Services

The term “ADHD” is one that has become a casual part of the American lexicon. Most of us are at least mildly familiar with it, with the understanding that people with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) struggle with issues like focus and attention.

Although not entirely accurate, ADHD is often seen as a childhood disorder, one that people experience when they’re young and possibly grow out of as adults. But the symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulty with attention, sitting still, failure to finish tasks, etc., can also be issues that a person can experience later in life. Does this mean that ADHD can be developed in adulthood? Can you “get” ADHD as an adult?

About ADHD and Neurodevelopment

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This means that it occurs because, during your child’s growth and development, their mind was not able to develop the tools necessary to stay focused, reduce impulsivity, and maintain its executive functions. Typically, a child shows symptoms of ADHD at a very young age, but – since the human brain is constantly changing when a person is young – it has been known to have “late onset” cases that develop between the ages of 12 and 16.

Nevertheless, attention deficit/hyperactive disorder occurs in childhood, during a time when the brain is evolving and changing the most. As a result, in most cases, ADHD can *not* develop in adults, at least not using the same mechanisms.

There are rare situations in which a person could theoretically develop ADHD as an adult, typically as a result of illness, physical trauma, or medication. Traumatic brain injury, for example, can cause ADHD. But in those cases, it is not “developed” so much as caused by damage or alterations to the brain.

For adults that have not experienced this type of physical trauma, it is considered extremely unlikely for ADHD to develop after adolescence.

“But I Feel Like I Can’t Focus or Pay Attention!”

While ADHD cannot develop in a healthy adult brain, adults can still experience symptoms that resemble or are related to ADHD. These may be caused by a number of issues including, but not limited to:

  • Sleep Deprivation – Chronic sleep deprivation can cause symptoms that are similar to ADHD, such as trouble focusing and issues with memory. A person that rarely gets a full 8 hours of sleep may struggle with many issues with attention and executive functioning despite not qualifying for an ADHD diagnosis.
  • Stress – Stress and sleep deprivation both cause related issues. Someone under significant stress often finds it difficult to focus on any one task, and may be overwhelmed in such a way it affects their daily functioning.
  • Undiagnosed ADHD – Another issue that may arise is undiagnosed ADHD. Not all children with ADHD experience symptoms that lead to a diagnosis. It is a myth that all children will grow out of their ADHD, so if you had ADHD symptoms as a child that were missed, you may still be experiencing them as an adult. If you’re sleep deprived, this can be even more apparent.
  • Placebo – Many social media accounts talk about what “ADHD is” in a way that is false or misleading. The trend to label many normal behaviors as ADHD has led to a higher number of people that seek help for ADHD despite not qualifying for a diagnosis. Because of how powerful social media can influence thoughts and behaviors, you may have normal focus/attention but feel like it is abnormal based on social media ADHD descriptions.

One thing to note is that some senior adults that once had ADHD may develop ADHD symptoms as they age. This may be because their minds are no longer able to utilize the psychological tools they had developed, causing ADHD symptoms to erupt again.

Help for Adults with ADHD Symptoms

ADHD may not develop in adulthood, but if you are experiencing symptoms, there may still be something we can treat. Often, the issue has to do with anxiety keeping you awake, stress making it harder to focus, or other issues getting in the way, therapy can be a great way to help you keep those symptoms under control.

For more information about adult ADHD, or for psychological support, connect with Long Island Counseling Services, today.