Some children with ADHD continue to have it as adults. And many adults who have the disorder don't know it. They may feel that it is impossible to get organized, stick to a job, or remember and keep appointments. Daily tasks, such as getting up in the morning, preparing to leave the house for work, arriving at work on time, and being productive on the job, can be especially challenging for adults with ADHD.
Like children, adults who suspect they have ADHD should be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional. But the professional may need to consider a wider range of symptoms when assessing adults for ADHD because their symptoms tend to be more varied and possibly not as clear cut as symptoms seen in children.
The expansion of knowledge in genetics, brain imaging, and behavioral research is leading to a better understanding of the causes of ADHD, how to prevent it, and how to develop more effective treatments for all age groups.
- NIMH-funded researchers studied ADHD treatments for school-aged children in a large-scale, long-term study called the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (MTA study). Though the study has been completed, a recent follow-up found that, over a 10-year period, children with ADHD who were treated with methylphenidate had, on average, higher heart rates compared to children who received other treatments. That this effect on heart rate could be detected even after years of use, suggests that the body does not get completely used to stimulants. Children taking stimulants over the long-term should be monitored regularly for potential cardiovascular complications.
- NIMH also funded the Preschoolers with ADHD Treatment Study (PATS), which involved more than 300 preschoolers who had been diagnosed with ADHD. The study found that low doses of the stimulant methylphenidate are safe and effective for preschoolers. Preschoolers diagnosed with ADHD are less likely to respond to methylphenidate treatment if they also have three or more coexisting disorders, highlighting the need for new and better treatments.
- NIMH-sponsored scientists continue to look for the biological basis of ADHD, and how differences in genes and brain structure and function may combine with life experiences to produce the disorder.