Does ADHD Get Worse With Old Age?


I'm curious about the effect of old age on ADHD. Do symptoms tend to level off or get progressively worse with age? Is ADHD linked to Alzheimer's?


ADDitude Answers

Adult ADHD has been widely recognized only in the last dozen years, so, at this point, we only have a little research on how aging impacts ADHD. As a psychologist who has worked with older adults with ADHD, my clinical impression is that symptoms can become more problematic post-retirement. We know that, at every age, structure and routine are helpful in managing ADHD symptoms. But as adults grow older and retire, many of their habits and routines fall away. There is no evidence that ADHD is linked to Alzheimer's, however.

When working with older adults, I advise them to develop and stick to daily and weekly routines. Although some physicians are reluctant to prescribe stimulant medication to older adults, I think it can be used safely and effectively by most older patients as long as they receive a careful medical checkup before starting medication, as the drugs pose higher risks for people with cardiac complications.

Posted by Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.

A Reader Answers

I am finding it more difficult with age, I think because now we are also dealing with the problems of aging: forgetfulness, etc. I used to be able to do several things at once, and now I am lucky if I am able to do one. It is strange. Everything takes me such a long time. I also used to be able to switch gears,and now forget it. It's not going to happen.

Posted by pegangel

A Reader Answers

I only realized in the last couple of years that I even HAD ADHD; I was diagnosed about a year ago. But it seems to me that I have more trouble with it now that I am retired and not forced into “someone else’s” schedule.

When my kids were young, their schedules ran me. When I was teaching, the school’s schedule ran me. Now that I am “on my own” schedule-wise, I seem to have more trouble managing that. I’m not sure why.

Posted by Barb912

A Reader Answers

In regard to cognitive impairment, I recently (3 months ago) started using Lumosity on their complimentary limited level because of cognitive questions. I realized that the free version was not enough and finally subscribed for six months to be able to gauge my improvement. My cognitive scores have gone up 73 percent in the last 4 weeks and about 80 percent since the start. I am now taking Concerta as well and that was when I decided to really use this more as a tool. Cognitive abilities (in my opinion) go down because we get tired of trying, not because we get older.

I am now studying investing analysis programs and between the Concerta and forcing myself to train my brain daily, my ability to learn AND retain has improved exponentially.

Posted by dancerman

A Reader Answers

For some of us, this might be related to nutrition. I started taking supplemental vitamins due to a post-surgical situation and noticed a great improvement, especially when I added dissolving B-12 as a “boost” when I begin to feel tired. I get them at the drug store and even keep a packet of them in my handbag.

My doctor pointed out that as we age, the body does not absorb nutrients as it used to, but not everyone’s system is the same, so it may or may not become necessary to supplement.

I take chewable supplements. I am taking Vitafusion Platinum 50+, Vitamin D3, Omega 3, and Power C. I really noticed the difference about two weeks into doing this. It has now been just over a year and all is well.

Talk to your doctor before starting a supplementation program. Read all labels carefully. I did need testing to determine my Vitamin D levels and I also have a thyroid problem, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, so I am monitored.

Using Lumosity is great, too! I also play other online sites to challenge my abilities. If you want to keep your brain active, you need to use it for things outside of what is “routine.”

Posted by Dianne in the Desert

A Reader Answers

I’m almost 60 and was diagnosed in my mid-40s. My self-perception is that my impulsiveness, perseveration, and nighttime restlessness have worsened in the past few years. My meds keep my ADHD symptoms down to a dull roar but daily life is frustrating. It seems to take an inordinate amount of energy to fight for mental/behavioral equilibrium during the work day, more so the past few years. But it’s difficult on my wife at home. I think it’s time to see a psychiatrist for med management again. But I’m also starting to look for a life coach to learn better how to cope and react to my own symptoms when they emerge without warning.

Posted by ShuDan54

Read the original ADDConnect discussion here.


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Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., is director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland in Silver Spring. She is a psychologist who has practiced for over thirty years, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. She has served on the professional advisory boards of both CHADD and ADDA. She is the co-founder of the National Center for Gender Issues in ADHD, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the needs of girls and women with ADHD. Dr. Nadeau has appeared on the Today Show, the Morning Show, as well as on numerous radio programs is a frequent lecturer both in the US and abroad on topics related to ADHD.
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