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How ADHD Affects Adults Differently Than Children

How ADHD Affects Adults Differently Than Children

For a long time, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was considered a problem primarily diagnosed among young people. More research and a better understanding of this neurological condition have revealed it affects many more adults than previously thought. 

We know now that adults and children can both be diagnosed with ADHD. More than 70% of those diagnosed as children still have symptoms throughout their lives. Some adults with ADHD never received an accurate diagnosis in their youth, while others may not have had problems until they became adults. 

At his Brooklyn and Manhattan offices in New York City, New York, Mark Rybakov, DO, evaluates young and old alike and creates personalized treatment plans to improve symptoms. We can help you understand how ADHD affects you and tailor your treatment plan based on age. Here's a closer look at how ADHD affects adults and children. 

ADHD through the ages

Regardless of when you receive your diagnosis, there are a few key differences in how ADHD presents itself in adults versus children. Though you don't need all of them for a diagnosis, there are three general components of ADHD:

Usually, symptoms are clearer in children because they haven't developed the coping mechanisms that kick in with age. This is one of the main reasons ADHD looks different in adults. 

Here's a closer look at each component and how it manifests based on age. 


Hyperactive children seem to have normal, high-energy childlike behavior but with an element of being out of control. They're constantly restless, unable to control fidgeting or squirming, and their hyperactivity traits go above and beyond age-appropriate levels in severity, duration, or both. 

Hyperactive adults, on the other hand, are usually more restless than bouncing off the walls with energy. Sometimes, they have trouble sitting still through movies or meetings. Their friends may describe them as constantly “on the go”. An adult with ADHD may get bored, upset, or frustrated easily. 


The ADHD child struggling with impulsivity may blurt out while their teacher is talking or act without thinking about the consequences. Adults with ADHD can control those outbursts better, so impulsiveness is more “grown-up”. It might lead to spending sprees, interrupting or monopolizing group conversation, or engaging in risky activities.  


ADHD children and adults share many traits when it comes to inattention. Both lose everyday items, make careless mistakes, neglect details, struggle to finish tasks, and get distracted easily. 

The differences come in the consequences. Inattentive children struggle in school, fail assignments, or have behavioral issues. Inattentive adults may see poor performance reviews at work, which can lead to job loss. In the most severe cases, inattentiveness can manifest as neglect in their home life.

Your next steps

Whether your child has recently received their diagnosis, you're still holding on to ADHD symptoms from your youth, or you're well into adulthood and just now finding out you have ADHD, there's hope in treatment. 

We customize your treatments to address your specific needs and life stage. Usually, treatment plans combine trials of medications with tailored behavioral approaches to help you overcome your ADHD challenges. 

For example, stimulants address hyperactivity and impulsivity and can improve attention span. If stimulants are unsuccessful, we try non-stimulant medications.

We design behavioral therapies to help you improve your focus, organization, and ability to complete tasks, manage your anger and learn better social and relationship skills.

If you suspect that you or your child have ADHD, don't wait to contact Dr. Rybakov for an evaluation. Call our friendly staff or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment at either our Brooklyn or Manhattan offices today. 


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