ADHD: Your Journey From Teens Into Young Adulthood

ADHD: Your Journey From Teens Into Young Adulthood

This article is for teens and young adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or their care partners, as well as others who want to learn more about ADHD. The goal of this patient education activity is to enable patients to engage in shared decision-making with their doctor about ADHD treatment through the teen years and into young adulthood.

You will learn about:

  • What ADHD is and how it might change in your teens and young adulthood

  • How ADHD can affect your daily life

  • ADHD treatment as you get older

  • Making a plan with your doctor

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What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that affects how the nervous system develops and leads to changes in how the brain works.

People with ADHD can have symptoms of:

  • Inattention, or a hard time paying attention

  • Impulsiveness, or acting before you think

  • Hyperactivity, or restlessness or too much activity

ADHD can happen in children, teens, and adults. It can be diagnosed any time from preschool age to adulthood.

ADHD Can Change As You Get Older

Most people don’t “outgrow” ADHD, but symptoms can change over time. Some symptoms may get less severe as you get older. Others can stay and may appear in several ways in your teens and young adulthood.


  • Distractibility (being easily distracted)

  • Not being organized

  • Poor concentration


  • Making hasty (too fast) decisions or taking quick action without thinking

  • Interrupting or speaking without thinking


  • Being restless (moving a lot, pacing, fidgeting)

Not all symptoms of ADHD in your teens and young adulthood are listed here. Be sure to ask your doctor about what symptoms you may have.

ADHD Symptoms and Your Daily Life

ADHD symptoms can affect your daily life in your teens and young adulthood in several ways:

  • Inattention can have a negative effect on school, work, and personal relationships

  • Impulsivity may result in making school or personal decisions without thinking them through. Changing jobs or relationships a lot can happen

  • Hyperactivity can be less obvious in teens and young adults than in children, but might appear as being restless. It can result in having a job or doing activities with high activity

Changes in Treatment

There is no cure for ADHD, so the goal of treatment -- both medicine and other types of treatment -- is to manage symptoms. Most children with ADHD will keep having symptoms into adulthood, so it’s important to continue treatment by your doctor.

Sometimes teens and young adults feel ready to stop taking ADHD medicine. Talk to your doctor before making any changes. They can help find out if your medicine can be changed or stopped.

Dr Rakesh Jain talks about how treatment for ADHD can change as someone gets older and transitions through their teens and into young adulthood.

ADHD in Your Teens

During teen years, certain ADHD symptoms may get worse. Hormonal changes, increased school and activities, and new challenges in daily life can affect symptoms.

Inattention (distractibility and poor concentration) may cause problems in school and with grades, especially if ADHD is not treated properly. It can also lead to missing out on sports teams or activities after school or with friends.

Studying can be difficult -- sitting still, paying attention, and being organized can be tough.

The good news is that teens can talk to their doctor about ways to manage ADHD and be successful in and out of the classroom.

Challenges and Opportunities for Teens With ADHD

Driving can have special risks for teens with ADHD, including a bigger risk for accidents. But those who take their medicine correctly are less likely to have accidents.

Teens with ADHD are also more likely to be heavy drinkers and have problems from drinking. Getting the right treatment for ADHD may help lower the risk of alcohol and drug abuse.

People with ADHD can have other conditions as well. Teens should be aware of ways to be successful, as well as the possibility for frustration, anxiety, depression, or missed goals. Success depends on managing your ADHD and the demands and responsibilities of becoming more independent.

ADHD in Young Adulthood

ADHD symptoms may appear differently in young adults compared to children and teens, and can change along with new daily challenges. Young adults might have a tough time following through or be forgetful in daily activities.

Many adults with ADHD can also have other conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety that your doctor can check for.

Treatment may change to take these new challenges and other conditions into account.

A woman with ADHD talks about her personal journey from teens into young adulthood.

Challenges and Opportunities for Young Adults With ADHD

In young adulthood, structure can be less and routines change. You may be on your own to manage daily activities, work, get enough sleep, and take medicines. College students can be on their own to study, do schoolwork, and get to class.

You may be living away from home or your doctor. It’s important to make sure you don’t miss treatment, or skip appointments or your medicine. Talking to your doctor by phone or telemedicine regularly can help.

There may be pressure to drink or do drugs, or to sell or give your ADHD medicine to others. This could lead to serious health and legal troubles.

The good news is there are several ways you can successfully manage your ADHD that you and your doctor can discuss.

Making a Plan With Your Doctor

You and your doctor will make a treatment plan for ADHD that’s right for you. This can include medicine, therapy, education, and getting support. Together, these tools can help you find ways to make everyday life easier.

People with ADHD often have other conditions. Your doctor may check for a learning disability, anxiety, depression, or problems with drugs or alcohol. Knowing the whole picture can help find the best plan for you.

As you go through your teens and young adulthood, life and ADHD can change. So it’s important to keep regular appointments with your doctor so you can manage your ADHD along with any changes you may face.

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View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): The Basics

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Authors and Disclosures


Rakesh Jain, MD

Clinical Professor
Texas Tech University School of Medicine - Permian Basin
Private Practice
Austin, Texas
Disclosure: Rakesh Jain, MD, has disclosed the following relevant financial relationships:
Served as an advisor or consultant for: Acadia; Alfasigma; Alkermes; Allergan; Eisai; Evidera; Impel;
Janssen; Lilly; Lundbeck; Merck; Neos Therapeutics; Neurocrine Biosciences; Osmotica; Otsuka; Pamlab;
Pfizer; Shire; Sunovion; Supernus; Takeda; Teva
Served as a speaker or a member of a speakers bureau for: Alkermes; Allergan; Ironshore Pharmaceuticals;
Janssen; Lilly; Lundbeck; Merck; Neos Therapeutics; Neurocrine; Otsuka; Pamlab; Pfizer; Shire; Sunovion; Takeda;
Teva; Tris Pharmaceuticals
Received grants for clinical research from: Allergan; Lilly; Lundbeck; Otsuka; Pfizer; Shire; Takeda

Clinician Reviewer

Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD

Senior Director, Learning & Development, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Senior Scientific Content Manager, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


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