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ADHD: Is It a Disability?

What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children today, though it is also seen among adults. It’s a chronic neuropsychiatric condition that’s marked by problems focusing, holding attention, impulsivity or hyperactivity, and sometimes behavior issues related to the hyperactivity and impulsivity. For some, ADHD symptoms can be mild or even undetectable, for others, they may be debilitating.

The average age people are diagnosed with ADHD is 7 years old, and symptoms are often apparent by age 12, though it can affect younger children and even adults. It is estimated that 9 percent of children and 4 percent of adults in the United States have ADHD.

If ADHD is first diagnosed in adults, the symptoms can often be traced back to childhood. Up to 60 percent of children who are diagnosed with ADHD will continue experiencing symptoms of the condition in their adult life.

There are three subtypes of ADHD, depending on which symptoms are present:

  1. mostly inattentive
  2. mostly hyperactive or impulsive
  3. a combination of the two symptom sets
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Symptoms

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. Depending on how severe someone’s symptoms are, ADHD can make it harder to keep a job (especially one that requires a routine) or focus in school. Personal relationships may suffer, too.

People with ADHD may have difficulty with the following:

  • concentrating
  • sitting still
  • paying attention
  • staying organized
  • following instructions
  • remembering details
  • controlling impulses
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Available resources

Available resources

If you or your child is struggling with symptoms of severe ADHD, you may qualify for federal benefits. For example, supplemental security income (SSI) under the federal Social Security program is designed to help children under the age of 18 who are affected by severe chronic conditions.

To qualify for SSI, children and parents must meet strict income requirements. The condition must also affect the person to an extreme degree for at least 12 months. If your child’s ADHD has affected your or their ability to function effectively, you may qualify for these resources.

Did You Know?
Though ADHD by itself is not considered a learning disability, up to half of children with the disorder may also have a diagnosed learning disability. The symptoms of ADHD can also make learning more difficult.

Adults with severe ADHD symptoms may be able to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) payments. If you feel that the disorder has prevented you from keeping a job or working in any capacity because of the severity of your symptoms, you may be eligible. Before applying, you should gather any documentation, medical or otherwise, that may help demonstrate the impairment you have experienced.

In general, disability payments are considered on a case-by-case basis. Several factors will be considered, including:

  • your age
  • your work history
  • your education
  • your medical history
  • other factors

Adults who can show that they were treated for ADHD as a child may have a greater possibility of being considered for SSD benefits.

To qualify, you will likely need more than just a diagnosis of ADHD. You will also need to show, with verifiable medical documentation, that you have all of the following symptoms:

  • marked inattention
  • marked impulsiveness
  • marked hyperactivity

You will also be required to show that you are impaired in certain areas of cognitive, social, or personal functioning. You will likely need to include:

  • medical documents
  • a psychological evaluation
  • notes from a therapist

If you have questions about whether you may qualify or what information you will need to apply for any disability benefits, the Social Security Administration provides a helpful guide. A lawyer specializing in the disability benefits process may also be able to answer your questions.

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Managing ADHD

Managing ADHD

According to Francine Conway, Ph.D., a researcher and psychodynamic clinical psychologist who treats ADHD and has also written a book on the subject, the biggest hurdle to managing ADHD is accepting that there is a problem in the first place. With its hallmark symptoms of impulsive behavior or acting out inappropriately, ADHD can often be mistakenly chalked up to poor parenting or a lack of discipline. That can lead people to suffer in silence.

If you think you or your child may have ADHD, seek help. Though there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment, there are many types of treatments available to help manage ADHD.

For example, Robert Ryan, L.C.P.C., A.T.R., a psychotherapist working with children and adults with ADHD in the Chicago area, sees much promise in two particular treatments. One is mindfulness training, which includes the practices of yoga and meditation. It can do wonders for calming the mind. The other, dialectical behavior therapy, is cognitive based and helps identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder. In some cases, medication may be needed to treat symptoms of ADHD.

Reach out to your specialist today for tips about living with ADHD. If you need help finding a specialist, speak with your primary care doctor. They can help refer you to the specialist that is right for you.

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