Adults With ADHD: Sometimes Still an Afterthought

Won’t someone think of the children?

Except when it comes to ADHD, children are what many people think of. It’s the adults living with the condition who are less visible.

In recent years, we’ve made real progress in raising awareness around ADHD, including adult ADHD.

More people are beginning to recognize that ADHD continues into adulthood, with real consequences. And more adults are beginning to recognize that they themselves might have been living with undiagnosed adult ADHD for years.

Sometimes, though, adults still seem to be an afterthought in the conversation about ADHD. With so much information about ADHD aimed at children and their parents, it can feel like adults with ADHD have disproportionately few resources available.

Of course, “can feel like” is subjective, so I decided to do an informal, nonscientific experiment to figure out how much emphasis childhood ADHD and adult ADHD get in the media and in scientific research.

For the media part of that question, I looked through the first five pages of Google News results for “adhd.” Out of 50 total articles, here’s what I found:

  • 23 specifically mentioned “children” or “kids” in the title, or specific age groups like “preschoolers” and “teenagers”
  • Only 2 specifically mentioned “adults” in the title, and one specifically mentioned “women”

By the way, many of these articles were from publications that specifically cover ADHD, mental health, or medicine, so it doesn’t appear to be just general news publications that frame ADHD as a childhood condition.

To get a back-of-the-napkin number for how many scientific studies cater to children versus adults with ADHD, I performed a similar experiment using PubMed, a search engine for research literature maintained by the National Library of Medicine:

  • A search for the query “adhd children” returned back 30,470 research papers
  • A search for “adhd adults” returned only 12,607 results

These experiments aren’t definitive, but I think they do highlight a point: adults aren’t very well represented in media coverage of ADHD or in research studies.

Now, that doesn’t mean we should pay less attention to children with ADHD.

There’s good reason to talk about ADHD in children specifically. Childhood is when ADHD symptoms usually first show up, and children have to contend with school, which is an especially unforgiving place to have ADHD. Too often, children with ADHD still don’t have adequate support, resources, or recognition of their symptoms.

But we can’t stop talking about people’s ADHD symptoms when those people stop being children. After all, ADHD doesn’t stop interfering with people’s lives when they reach adulthood.

So journalists, please write some more articles about adults with ADHD, and researchers, please do some more studies to learn about ADHD in adulthood!

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