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Will ADHD go away?

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, one of the first questions you will probably ask is whether or not he or she can simply outgrow this condition. Unfortunately, the answer to the question "Will ADHD go away?" is more complex than a yes or a no. This article will map out possibilities instead of giving you direct answers about your child's future. Remember, no two cases of ADHD are exactly the same, and results of treatment plans vary from child to child.

Before going further, let's go through a quick refresher on the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. The three main symptoms of ADHD - hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention - have eighteen diagnostic criteria: 9 on the hyperactive-impulsive scale and 9 on the inattentive scale. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must meet at least 6 (or more) diagnostic criteria in each scale. To make things easier, let's say the child need to meet at least 12 diagnostic criteria (out of the 18) to be diagnosed with ADHD.

On the basis of what I previously mention, there are therefore three ways to look at the question: "Will my child outgrow ADHD?"

  1. If by outgrowing ADHD we actually mean: "Do children who meet diagnostic criteria (more than 12) at age 6 still meet the criteria (more than 12) at age 25?" Then, the answer is that 60% outgrow their ADHD, which means that 40% still suffer from ADHD in adulthood.
  2. If by outgrowing ADHD we actually mean "Do children who meet diagnostic criteria at age 6 still meet some of the criteria (less than 12)at age 25?" Then the answer is that 30% outgrow ADHD by age 25, which means that 70% still exhibit some symptoms in adulthood.
  3. If by outgrowing ADHD we actually mean "Do children who meet the diagnostic criteria (more than 12) at age 6 still have difficulties functioning in daily life at age 25?" Then the answer is that only 10% outgrow their ADHD, meaning 90% still suffer impediments caused by the condition in adulthood.

In previous articles, I discussed how children who exhibit symptoms of ADHD are most likely to also be diagnosed with other mental disorders. What is less known is that the symptomatic expressions of ADHD are not static - they might change throughout time.

This means for example that a certain behaviour may be diagnosed as ADHD in children, while it might receive another diagnosis in adults. For instance, what was once an inattentive child may become anxious with time, and will be given the diagnosis of anxiety disorder as an adult. A hyperactive child who has oppositional behavioural problems may be diagnosed with antisocial behaviour later in life. In other words, the basic symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity have evolved into other disorders because the child has not gone through holistic treatment solution that goes beyond getting rid of the basic symptoms.

You need to remember that ADHD is not just a genetic problem that will go away by ingesting a mind-altering drug. Other factors such as the environment and nutrition play key roles in alleviating or worsening your child's conditions. Only through a holistic treatment approach can your child learn to adjust and deal with this condition as the years go by. And just as important as your child's treatment plan is the love, support, and encouragement you give to your child. Children with loving parents who work closely with the child's teachers and health practitioners have the best chance of overcoming this condition and becoming a well-adjusted adult.