ADHD at Different Ages

ADHD is not one-size-fits-all.

Not only does it vary person-to-person, but ADHD may present differently at different ages and stages of a person’s life.

Generally speaking, children may experience more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, whereas adults experience mostly symptoms of inattention.

But this doesn’t have to be the case for everyone. This is why it is so important for professionals and parents to consider a child’s symptoms within the context of their gender and age group, so as not to diagnose normal development experiences as a disorder (e.g., high energy in a preschool child), or to misdiagnose ADHD as something else (e.g., as anxiety in an adult, because ADHD was not considered a possibility for this age category).

This section provides information about ADHD across the lifespan so that you can gain an understanding about the presentation of the disorder at different times during your child’s life.

Recommended Resources

Is Preschool Too Young to Diagnose ADHD in Children? ADDitude has a great article that discusses the important considerations that should be made when considering an ADHD diagnosis for a preschool-aged child. Information is presented from the National Institute of Mental Health’s study on the combination of behavioural treatment and medication, and special considerations that should be made about medication in this age group. (Website)

ADHD Among Preschoolers. The article by the American Psychological Association, discusses the issues that are involved when attempting to diagnose young children with ADHD. Limitations of medication in this age group are also discussed. (Website)

How Do the Symptoms of ADHD Change as Children Get Older? In this video, Dr. Halperin provides a brief overview of the developmental differences seen in individuals with ADHD from early childhood into adulthood. (YouTube)