Can You Outgrow ADHD?

  • Medical Author:
    Dennis S. Phillips, MD

    Dr. Phillips received his bachelor's degree in Psychology from Stanford University. After graduating from medical school at the University of Southern California, he completed his residency training and served as Chief Pediatric Resident at UCLA- Harbor General Hospital in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

We have a 13-year-old with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Is this something that he might outgrow?

Doctor's Response

This is a very frequently asked question from families, as well as from the adolescent with ADHD. The teen frequently wishes to "stop taking his medicine" as a sign of independence (or rebellion?), and the families have frequently worked so long and hard with their child that they hope that the problem will now be "outgrown." The answer: In some teens, the symptoms may appear to be less obvious. However, in almost all instances, the symptoms persist through the teen years and frequently into adulthood. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "About 80% of those who required medication for ADHD as children still need it as teenagers."

In fact, the teen years frequently present new and special challenges. The school day is often longer and the work more challenging, after-school activities interfere with homework completion, multiple teachers and classroom settings make "a routine" less able to be achieved, social stresses heighten and so on. As a parent, your involvement has always been critical to your child's success, but never more so than now! Encouraging your teen to (1) develop tools to stay on track (like the use of organizers and appointment books), (2) maintain a quiet zone for homework and quiet time, (3) get adequate sleep, and (4) talk to you about their lives, friends, and interests, not just their problems.

Be aware that the teen years carry an increased risk, especially for the ADHD teen, for depression, drug abuse, gang activities, and motor vehicle accidents. Strict observation of their behavior, their friends, and their school performance is critical.

But remember, these years also bring along a lot of positives! Help your teen explore new endeavors like sports and activities (drama, journalism clubs, volunteer work in a children's hospital or retirement home, etc.). This is often a time when they discover a passion for something that they will do for a lifetime. Support their search, and bask in the glow of their successes!

Medically reviewed by Margaret Walsh, MD; American Board of Pediatrics


"Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: Overview of treatment and prognosis"

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Reviewed on 6/8/2017