The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD as a neurodevelopment disorder, and it’s most often diagnosed in children. Symptoms include difficulty paying attention, impulsive behavior and constant activity. In children, it can lead to being forgetful and losing things, having poor impulse control and fidgeting excessively. But is ADHD a disability?
Signs of ADHD can look different in adults than in children, which makes it harder to diagnose. However, the effects of ADHD often continue into adulthood, impacting family life and work. Does ADHD count as a disability? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates workplace accommodations for adults with disabilities, including ADHD. This means ADHD is a disability. Adults with ADHD can benefit from medication and behavioral counseling to control the symptoms.
Adults and Children Struggle With ADHD
Studies have indicated that there’s a genetic component in ADHD, allowing it to be passed on from parent to child. When a child is diagnosed with an ADHD disability, it’s a good idea to check whether one or both parents have it, and vice-versa. Around 5% of children are estimated to suffer from ADHD, and two-thirds of them will continue to have difficulties related to the diagnosis as adults.
In children, ADHD is a disability associated with the following:
- Talking too much
- Taking risks
- Making careless mistakes
- Being unwilling to take turns
Adult issues related to ADHD may include the following:
- Difficulty with friendships
- Antisocial behavior
- Accidental injuries
- Work difficulties
Why Have ADHD Diagnoses Increased?
In the past 20 years, the percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD has continued to rise in the United States. This is partly because, starting in 1997, parents began to be surveyed about ADHD behaviors in their children. Experts have realized that ADHD is a disability that often continues into adulthood. Many children identified as having ADHD in the last 20 years are now adults dealing with the same issues.
Challenges of Adult ADHD
Each person faces unique challenges and may experience some symptoms more than others. Adults with ADHD often blame themselves and experience feelings of guilt and frustration for their difficulty coping with life. Some people with ADHD have relationship difficulties and frequently change jobs. Others develop eating disorders or turn to drugs and alcohol to feel better.
Does ADHD Count as a Disability?
Does ADHD count as a disability? Yes, ADHD is a disability that can be diagnosed by a mental health professional or physician. Recognizing ADHD can be difficult because other learning disabilities can mimic the symptoms and physical causes must also be ruled out. The three main symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of ADHD are hyperactivity and persistent inattentiveness and/or impulsiveness. In adults, ADHD can negatively impact relationships, jobs and well-being. However, cognitive behavioral therapy and medication have been shown to help people with ADHD deal with these challenges.
Is Adult ADHD a Disability?
Adult ADHD is a disability and is covered by federal disability protections. It’s more complicated to establish a diagnosis of ADHD in adults because most diagnoses occur during childhood. A person with ADHD may only begin to have noticeable symptoms when they encounter the stresses and responsibilities of adulthood. Without a diagnosis, a person’s difficulties with managing daily life may be attributed to character flaws. In reality, their problems with memory, attention span and prioritization are caused by their ADHD disorder.
Activities of daily life that can be difficult for adults with ADHD include:
- Starting or completing tasks
- Making decisions
- Understanding instructions
- Paying attention
- Focusing or thinking clearly
How to Seek Disability Accommodations at Work
As an adult with ADHD, you can request workplace assistance to help you function better and overcome ADHD challenges. The first step is to see a physician or mental health professional and receive an evaluation for ADHD. Then, deliver a written request for accommodation to your employer and include documentation of your ADHD diagnosis. Be ready to discuss your needs and some possible solutions with your supervisor or HR representative. Below are some accommodations that can make the workplace more manageable and counteract the symptoms of ADHD.
To reduce hyperactivity and impulsiveness, try the following:
- Work in a private work area
- Take structured breaks
- Consider job coaching
- Work from home
To increase concentration and focus, try the following:
- Work in a quiet work area
- Focus on uninterrupted work periods
- Create streamlined assignments
- Use noise-canceling headphones
To improve structure and time management, try the following:
- Prioritize tasks
- Use calendars and timers
- Create to-do lists
- Ask for assistance from a mentor
ADHD Can Be Managed
As a first step in diagnosing adult ADHD, you should have a complete physical exam. This can rule out other causes for the inability to concentrate as well as problems coping with life and other indications of ADHD. Your doctor or mental health professional will ask about symptoms that may have been present in your childhood. Talking to your parents can shed light on the signs of undetected childhood ADHD.
Learning about ADHD can help you understand the disability and make sense of the effect it has on your life. Even if the signs aren’t always present, the disorder can negatively impact your happiness, work satisfaction and relationships with friends and family. Seeing a therapist will help you understand that these issues aren’t due to personal inadequacy but are due to a neurological disorder.
Treatment Options for ADHD
Here are the first steps toward dealing effectively with ADHD:
- See a physician or mental health provider
- Get a diagnosis
- Learn about your disability
- Share your findings with family members
- Begin treatment
Getting family support is an important part of managing ADHD, and sharing your diagnosis with family and close friends allows them to support your efforts. The more they know about ADHD and how it affects you, the better they’ll be able to assist you with everyday challenges. Job coaching can help you feel better and perform better at work. Counseling teaches you how to manage your time and create a structure for daily responsibilities. Therapy also gives you an outlet for your frustration and helps you understand that having ADHD is a disability, not a personal failing.
Behavioral changes, combined with drugs to help control ADHD, will allow you to live your best life. The doctors and mental health counselors at Restore are available to get you started on the road to managing your disability. Contact us at Restore today and talk to one of our compassionate counselors about turning your life around.