Is ADHD a Disability in Adults?

Ask a Doctor

My son was recently diagnosed with ADHD. We’ve got him on medication and psychotherapy counseling, but I’ve read that two thirds of kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder continue to have problems throughout their adult lives. I worry about my little boy’s future. Is ADHD a disability in adults?

Doctor's Response

An estimated one-third of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) progress satisfactorily into their adult years, while another one-third continue to experience some problems, and the final one-third continue to experience and often develop significant problems.

Many of these negative outcomes are linked to continued, severe, and persistent ADHD symptoms. Studies are demonstrating that adults with ADHD report similar symptoms as described in children with ADHD, but the daily impact of these symptoms is clearly different. Treatment with appropriate medication can significantly improve the outcome for ADHD. For example, effectively managing symptoms with medication can be a key factor in the prevention of another psychiatric disorder or of academic failure.

Emerging evidence suggests that the combination of medication, cognitive therapy, and life coaching appears to significantly improve the prognosis of adults with ADHD.

Other significant statistics about adult outcomes of ADHD include that only 11% of adults with this disorder are accurately diagnosed or receive treatment, nearly 50% of adults with ADHD also suffer from an anxiety disorder, about 40% have a different type of co-occurring mood disorder, and about 15% also develop a substance-abuse disorder. Their symptoms occur in varying types and severity from impairment in interpersonal relations to underemployment to low self-esteem and being insecure.

An ADHD coach is professionally trained to guide and support a person in overcoming the challenges of living with ADHD at work, school, and home. In contrast to cognitive behavioral therapy, coaching can be used on an as-needed basis and tends to focus on a particular problem.

Specifically, ADHD coaches help people with ADHD to do the following:

  • Create tools to stay on track.
  • Improve organizing skills and design organizing systems.
  • Plan projects, clearly identify tasks, and manage time.
  • Increase self-awareness.
  • Set and reach goals.
  • Improve crucial lifestyle habits such as diet, sleep, and exercise.
  • Improve relationship and communication skills.

ADHD coaching can supplement the treatment from a doctor and counselor. Coaches have frequent contact with their clients (in person or over the phone) and can help determine the success of different medications or other treatments, providing observations and advice that can be used to tailor treatment.

ADHD coaching is not psychotherapy; some people work with a coach while also working with a therapist or counselor. Coaching sessions deal with what's happening in the client's life with emphasis on challenges, opportunities, and strategies for success. Coaches can provide support between sessions by email or phone, and some assign homework that helps the client accomplish his or her objectives in living with ADHD.

In addition to coaching, which is not covered by insurance and can be expensive, many support groups are available for adult ADHD. Groups can be found online or through a therapist.

For more information, read our full medical article on adult ADHD.

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