Will ADHD medication change my child’s personality?

ByLaura Tagliareni, PhD


Will ADHD medication change my child’s personality?


No, this is a common misconception. When doctors prescribe medication for ADHD, it sometimes can take a little while to figure out which medication works best for your child and at what dosage.

There are many medications on the market. Some may work well for some kids and not others. It’s not uncommon for doctors to try different medications until the optimal type and dose is determined for your child’s age, height, and weight.

When prescribed effectively, medications work quite well soon after taking them. Your child’s personality won’t change. But your child’s ability to focus and self-regulate will improve. This can make it easier to learn and also to manage social situations. These positive changes can help your child build confidence and positive self-esteem.

If your child starts taking medication and you notice any changes in behavior, speak up. What if you’re not satisfied with the way the doctor responds to your concerns? Getting a second opinion might be the next step.

Once you find the right medication and dosage, keep monitoring your child’s behavior. Risks for side effects are still possible, although side effects are usually detected early in the treatment process.

If you notice any changes in mood — like irritability, anxiety, or aggression — or if your child seems more or less emotional, tell your child’s doctor right away. Fortunately, this may only mean changing the dose or the type of medication.

In rare cases, side effects of ADHD medication can include rapid heart rate, hypertension, or more serious cardiovascular events. Some common side effects include decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping at night, headache, or temporary motor tics. Your child’s doctor can help you deal with these issues.

It’s important to have regular checkups with a doctor who has experience prescribing these types of medications. This is true whether your child just started taking medication or has been using the same one for a while. Kids grow and their metabolism can change. Some doctors recommend checkups several times a year and sometimes as often as once a month.

Lastly, remember that medication is not a cure-all. It’s part of the treatment regimen for ADHD. Parent training and behavior therapy are also key components. You can try strategies like reducing distractions during homework time. And you can encourage your child to eat a balanced diet and to get plenty of sleep and exercise.

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About the author

About the author

Laura Tagliareni, PhD is a pediatric neuropsychologist in New York City and a clinical instructor at NYU Langone Medical Center.