By Dr. David Velkoff
Way back in 2013, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published an article by Dr. Volkow and Dr. Swanson on the reality of adult ADHD, and the fact that often it doesn’t simply go away as people get older, it just expresses itself differently. This truth or discovery still appears to be relatively unknown even in 2017.
Many people continue to believe that the answer to the question “does ADHD go away on its own?” is a resounding “yes”; however, this is clearly just a myth.
In fact, this is not true for many patients seen at the Drake Institute. Though we do believe that some children with ADHD or ADD will outgrow it, long term studies have reported that up to 60% of children with ADHD or ADD will continue to have ADHD symptoms and difficulties in their adult lives, leading them to face various challenges/problems that non-ADHD adults do not have to deal with.
Symptoms of ADHD and ADD do present differently in adulthood than they do in childhood, which may lead some adults to believe that they are no longer suffering from their condition.
Hyperactivity, in particular, is less present in adulthood but still may be present in a different manifestation. Though some adults with ADHD may still be hyperactive, it is not as physically visible, and instead, evolves into more internal symptoms (racing thoughts that one cannot stop, inner restlessness, or a feeling of a "motor running inside them") as opposed to external symptoms (not able to sit still, fidgety). This dynamic can confuse the picture of growing out of ADHD.
Furthermore, some adults who were previously hyperactive as kids, may only be struggling with focusing, executive functioning or organizational skills as adults. This may convince themselves that they are no longer afflicted by the condition because they’re not exhibiting traditional signs of hyperactivity.
So even though some children/adolescents with ADHD, who were hyperactive when younger, may actually outgrow the hyperactivity but they could continue to suffer from the "inattention" symptoms and sometimes the impulsivity in their adult lives.
The inattention symptoms and lack of executive functioning (e.g., planning, prioritizing, organization, time management, etc.) found in ADHD will cause different problems in adulthood than in childhood/adolescence.
While the ADHD child may have access to tutors and parental supervision to help mitigate some of the troubles associated with their condition (i.e., forgetting to turn in their homework, completing their homework, etc.), adults typically have to face their ADHD symptoms on their own. They no longer have the “safety net” of living with their parents for support and receiving micromanagement from parents to make up the difference.
Getting help as an adult can be far more difficult and challenging. As we’ve discussed, many adults feel as if they have already outgrown their ADHD or simply do not want to admit they are still experiencing symptoms since they may have absorbed frequent criticisms or even blame growing up with ADHD .
Nonetheless, the adult with ADHD may continue to experience various symptoms or problems such as disorganization, impatience, excessive procrastination, poor time management, not completing job tasks on time, difficulties keeping appointments, and depression especially if left untreated.
Brain imaging studies in the New England Journal of Medicine article reported reduced connections in the brain and decreased activity in brain networks involved in executive functioning and attention.
At the Drake Institute, we have seen similar findings for years with our brain map testing of patients. Adults with ADHD can have motivational problems and feel like they will always struggle because of a history of so many frustrating experiences. Often, they have given up on their dreams, and have lost their motivation to try and succeed fully due to their prior disappointments.
The New England Journal of Medicine in this article reported, as has been known for years, that many adults with ADHD have much harder and less successful lives.
Adults with ADHD have additional vulnerabilities to employment problems, financial difficulties, lower socioeconomic status, marital conflicts, anxiety, depression, and increased risks of substance abuse.
Many adult sufferers of ADHD who seek help will be prescribed medication for these secondary conditions of anxiety or depression, which at times can provide short-term relief.
However, these medications are only treating the fallout of ADHD and can simultaneously introduce possible new side-effects into the mix.
The truth of the matter is that although many adult sufferers realize that they may not have outgrown their ADHD, they may be afraid to admit it because of how they have been unfairly judged throughout their lives.
Some adults are afraid to admit that they might have an attention problem because they do not want to be seen as “lazy” or “weak” by their friends, family, or colleagues.
It’s a psychological trap of sorts, and by failing to get help, the cycle of suffering may only continue to get worse.
The bottom line is this: do kids grow out of ADHD? Sometimes yes, but a lot of the time, no.
The only way to truly remedy the array of symptoms associated with ADHD is to seek medical help from trained professionals who have years of expertise studying and treating patients suffering from ADHD.
On the positive side, adult patients who come to the Drake Institute can succeed as fully as ADHD children in improving or resolving their ADHD if they are motivated to get better. Also, having a positive support system, in conjunction with the patient’s motivation, may further improve one’s prognosis.
Over the last 3 decades, the Drake Institute has successfully treated over 8000 patients with ADD or ADHD with a success rate of nearly 80%. Our treatment plans and evaluations are suited for both children and adults and are non-drug, non-invasive procedures that focus on treating the root cause of the ADHD: the brain’s dysregulation.
This process enables the patient to optimize brain functioning for self-regulation, resulting in a reduction or resolution in ADHD symptoms that can produce long-term improvement, as opposed to medication that only provides short-term relief.
If you’re an adult or know an adult who is currently suffering from the symptoms of ADHD and still debating the question of “can ADHD be cured or grown out of?”, please don’t hesitate to call us today for a free consultation.
We can help you find the long-term relief that you deserve, and help you get back to living a normal productive life.
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Spanish News Feature
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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Behavioral Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Behavioral Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Behavioral Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”