Can adults develop ADHD? New research says probably not

October 20, 2017 by Ayleen Barbel Fattal
Credit: Florida International University

Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research by FIU clinical psychologist Margaret Sibley.

More than 80 percent of people diagnosed with adult-onset ADHD probably don't have ADHD at all. Those who actually have the disorder likely had it as children but were undiagnosed.

"The notion of a widespread adult-onset ADHD epidemic falls apart when you have access to detailed patient clinical records and history," said Sibley, an associate professor of psychiatry & behavioral health at FIU's Center for Children and Families and Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

"We found a number of people who looked like they had adult-onset ADHD, but when we looked closely, adult-onset symptoms were traced back to childhood or were better explained by other problems, like the cognitive effects of heavy marijuana use, psychological trauma, or that affect concentration," Sibley said.

Sibley and colleagues evaluated 239 participants every two years, starting at age 10 and ending when the participants were 25. The researchers used parent, teacher, and self-reports of ADHD symptoms, impairment, substance use, and other mental disorders. They looked at the context of the symptoms and the timing.

Sibley said false positive late-onset ADHD cases are common without careful assessment and clinicians should carefully assess impairment, psychiatric history, and substance use before treating potential perceived cases of adult-onset ADHD. Additional explanations for late-onset ADHD-like symptoms could include , environmental stressors, medication side effects, or physical illnesses. Sibley says more research needs to be done.

The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Explore further: Study estimates ADHD symptom persistence into adulthood

More information: Margaret H. Sibley et al. Late-Onset ADHD Reconsidered With Comprehensive Repeated Assessments Between Ages 10 and 25, American Journal of Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17030298

Related Stories

Study estimates ADHD symptom persistence into adulthood

September 19, 2016
Sixty percent of children with ADHD in a recent study demonstrated persistence of symptoms into their mid-20's, and 41 percent had both symptoms and impairment as young adults.

ADHD may emerge after childhood for some people, according to new study

May 18, 2016
While it is well established that childhood ADHD may continue into adulthood, new research by King's College London suggests that for some people the disorder does not emerge until after childhood.

Validity of change in DSM-5 ADHD age of onset criterion confirmed

July 14, 2014
A recent study published in the July 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry confirms the validity of the DSM-5 change to the age of onset criterion for diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity ...

Licensing, motor vehicle crash risk among teens with ADHD

June 12, 2017
Adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are licensed to drive less often and, when this group is licensed, they have a greater risk of crashing, according to a new study published by JAMA Pediatrics.

Study finds association between people who have had a traumatic brain injury and ADHD

August 20, 2015
A new study has found a "significant association" between adults who have suffered a traumatic brain injury at some point in their lives and who also have attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

Adult ADHD undertreated despite effective interventions

October 7, 2013
Up to two-thirds of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) find their disorder persists into adulthood yet only a small proportion of adults ever receive a formal diagnosis and treatment, research suggests.

Recommended for you

What can twitter reveal about people with ADHD?

November 9, 2017
What can Twitter reveal about people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? Quite a bit about what life is like for someone with the condition, according to findings published by University of Pennsylvania ...

Brain imaging reveals ADHD as a collection of different disorders

November 8, 2017
Researchers have found that patients with different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairments in unique brain systems, indicating that there may not be a one-size-fits-all explanation for the ...

Can adults develop ADHD? New research says probably not

October 20, 2017
Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research by FIU clinical psychologist Margaret Sibley.

Nearly a third of college kids think ADHD meds boost grades

October 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many college students who abuse ADHD drugs mistakenly believe that doing so will lead to better grades, a new survey suggests.

School year 'relative age' causing bias in ADHD diagnosis, says research

October 9, 2017
Younger primary school children are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older peers within the same school year, new research has shown.

Eye movements reveal temporal expectation deficits in ADHD

September 12, 2017
A technique that measures tiny movements of the eyes may help scientists better understand and perhaps eventually improve assessment of ADHD, according to new research published in Psychological Science.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BubbaNicholson
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2017
Cure ADHD with 250mg of healthy adult male facial skin surface liquid lipid pheromone taken one time by mouth. Avoid the fumes as they are extremely aversive emotionally.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Oct 21, 2017
Cure ADHD with blah blah made up pseudoscience claim blah
FRAUDULENT CLAIM

you cannot provide a single peer reviewed study that supports this claim, let alone any experiments in any reputable hospital or lab

blatantly repeating this false claim doesn't make it true, nor does it help your credibility, which is negligent as you don't even know what "psychotropic" means

reported

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.