Is ADHD Considered a Disability?

What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neuropsychiatric condition that affects both children and adults characterized by an inability to focus attention and complete actions. ADHD symptoms range from moderate to extreme and often impact a person’s ability to complete educational goals, retain a job, and sustain interpersonal relationships. The coping mechanisms of individuals suffering from ADHD are easily overwhelmed, and their actions often seem chaotic and disorganized to others. Adults affected by ADHD often struggle with associated conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

How commonly does childhood ADHD persist into adulthood?

Up to 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD continue to suffer from this condition as adults. Adult ADHD is also referred to as Adult ADHD, Adult ADD, and AADD. While many of the symptoms of ADHD can be evidenced by people not suffering from the condition, particularly during periods of fatigue or high stress, individuals affected by ADHD will have exhibited since childhood multiple combinations of symptoms so severe that they continually interfere with their lives. 

Is ADHD Considered A Disability?

Yes, ADHD is considered to be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Those with severe ADHD who are unable to work can be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits from the SSA. 

What Are Common Symptoms of ADHD?

Individuals suffering from ADHD will often have a history of frequent behavior problems, and reports from school and work situations often state that a person has not lived up to their potential. Another common indicator of ADHD in a child is a history of bedwetting past the age of 5. 

Other common symptoms of ADHD include 

  • short attention span, 
  • inattention to detail, 
  • being easily distracted or bored, 
  • physical restlessness, 
  • inability to listen to and follow directions, 
  • anxiety, 
  • impulsive actions and speech, 
  • low tolerance for frustration, 
  • poor organizational skills, 
  • being easily overwhelmed by ordinary tasks, 
  • procrastination, 
  • inability to finish a task, 
  • a chronic sense of underachievement and poor self-esteem, 
  • mood swings, 
  • trouble sustaining friendships or intimate relationships, 
  • a need for high stimulation (doing many things at once or thrill-seeking), 
  • a tendency to worry needlessly and endlessly, 
  • poor writing and fine motor skills, 
  • poor coordination, 
  • performance anxiety, 
  • difficulty falling asleep and difficulty coming awake, 
  • low energy, 
  • and hypersensitivity to noise and touch.

What Are The 3 Types of ADHD?

There are three types of ADHD: the inattentive type, the hyperactive-impulsive type, and a combined type. Type classification of ADHD simply indicates the preponderance of similar symptoms (more of a tendency toward the inability to pay attention, more of a tendency to restless behavior and mental activity, or a combination of both).

Inattentive Type ADHD

Inattentive ADHD, formerly known as ADD, occurs in people who often make careless mistakes due to issues with maintaining attention, following directions, and organizing tasks. Often, those with inattentive ADHD are easily distracted and frequently lose things. It is more common for girls and adults to be diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD.

Inattentive ADHD is diagnosed with help from a physician. Your physician will examine things like if you have difficulty sustaining attention during tasks, not listening when spoken to, avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort (like school work or completing forms), how often you are distracted by outside stimuli, forgetfulness of daily chores, and more before diagnosing you with Inattentive ADHD.

Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD 

Those with hyperactive and impulsive ADHD feel like they need to be constantly moving. They are frequently fidgeting, squirming, or struggling to remain still. Children may run around nonstop while both adults and children may interrupt others, struggle with self-control, and talk non-stop. This type of ADHD is often more recognizable. It is commonly diagnosed in children and men.

Those with hyperactive and impulsive ADHD are diagnosed after an examination by a physician. Your physician will examine things like if you are frequently fidgeting or tapping, talking accessibly, blurting out answers before a question is complete, is unable to remain seated, and if you have difficulty waiting for your turn. 

Combined Type ADHD

Combined Type ADHD occurs when someone shows a combination of symptoms of both inattentive ADHD and hyperactive ADHD. If a physician will use the same diagnosis methods for both inattentive ADHD and hyperactive ADHD. If you meet the criteria for both types of ADHD, then you will be diagnosed with combined-type ADHD. 

Diagnosis of ADHD

There is no specific test that diagnoses ADHD. Instead, the physician pieces together evidence of symptoms and determines how long these symptoms have been a limiting factor in a patient’s life. In general, to be diagnosed as having ADHD, symptoms must have been present since early childhood (prior to age 7) and must be severe enough to have interfered with at least two areas of an individual’s life.

ADHD always starts in childhood, although it may not have been diagnosed or treated. Often, a genetic link may be inferred if there is a family history of ADHD, ADHD-type symptoms, learning disabilities, mood disorders, or substance abuse.

In order to substantiate an ADHD diagnosis, a physician may supplement a patient’s medical and behavioral history with a neuropsychiatric evaluation, which may include WAIS, BADDS, and/or WURS tests. These tests are used to create some objective evidence of ADHD and to rule out other conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. A physical evaluation may be used to rule out diseases such as hyperthyroidism which can result in symptoms similar to ADHD.

What Causes ADHD?

The causes of ADHD are not known for certain. 

Among the possible causes of ADHD are: 

  • Genetic factors 
  • Brain injury 
  • Prenatal smoking and alcohol use by the mother 
  • Exposure to high levels of lead 
  • Sugar  
  • Food additives (such as artificial colors and preservatives).

ADHD Treatments

ADHD is treated with a combination of medication, cognitive behavior therapy, and skills training.

Medication For ADHD

Mediation is a common treatment for those with ADHD. While there are different medications you can take, all work nearly the same. They help by increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain (such as dopamine or norepinephrine). These can then help:

  • Reduce hyperactivity
  • Control impulses
  • Increase attention span
  • manage executive dysfunction.

The medications can impact everyone differently, so there may be a trial period with different medications and dosages until you find what works best. There can also be other side effects from ADHD medications. These include things like weight loss, decreased appetite, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and more. You should consult with your doctor to determine which medication is right for you. 

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy can help children and adults manage their ADHD symptoms. Through practices like impulse control, children can learn helpful ways to respond to behaviors. This can help with things like ignoring instructions. 

Another type of behavior therapy focuses on executive function. This focuses on helpful practices that can assist with organization, task planning, and time management. It can help you stay on top of work as well as responsibilities at home. This can be checklists, using rewards charts, or using a daily planner. 

While cognitive behavior therapy can be successful, it can be a lot of work for not just for you, but friends and family who may be helping you with your behavior therapies. You will need to dedicate time and energy into working through the behavior therapies to help manage ADHD. 

Skills Training

Skills training refers to training social skills. It can help those with ADHD be less impulsive, manage anger, and help you behave in a more socially acceptable way. Some skills training techniques include practicing ways to settle a conflict, coaching through situations, and/or role-playing. Talking through hypothetical social situations and determining the problem, ways to respond, and then reenacting the situation can help with skills training. 

Like cognitive behavior therapy, it takes time to see results from skills training. Over time, you will begin to see improvements in behavior.

Use our Social Security benefits calculator to see how much you could get with disability benefits for ADHD. 

To speak with a local disability attorney about your Mental Disorder case, fill out a free disability review today.

ADHD Employment Rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids discrimination against disabled employees as well as requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations when necessary. To receive protection under the ADA, you will need to have a doctor's diagnosis of ADHD. 

If your symptoms make it difficult to effectively do your job, you may want to disclose your ADHD diagnosis to your human resources department or manager to see what accommodations can be made. These accommodations include things like:

  • Frequent breaks
  • Modified hours or work schedule
  • Changing to a new position at work
  • A more manageable workload
  • Technology assistance 

If you are unable to work with ADHD, even with accommodations provided under the ADA, then you may be eligible for disability beenfits.

Applying For ADHD Social Security Disability Benefits

The fact that ADHD always begins in early childhood is important because while ADHD is listed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) under Section 112.11 of the Blue Book, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the listing applies to children. There is no similar section for adults. If you are able to prove that you have had ADHD since childhood, and if you can show that this condition has impaired your ability to do schoolwork as a child and to be gainfully employed as an adult, your condition may be considered severe enough to apply for ADHD disability benefits.

An ADHD diagnosis, in and of itself, is not enough to qualify for disability benefits. As a child, you must have had measurable functional impairments (which show up as recurring poor performance in school) and as an adult, you must have measurable functional impairments that keep you from working. You must also meet the requirements of both Paragraph A and Paragraph B below. (Although both paragraphs apply to childhood ADHD, it is advisable that you're sure you meet the same requirements in order to be eligible for benefits as an adult.)

Paragraph A

You must possess acceptable medical documentation which finds that you have all three of the following symptoms:

  1. Marked inattention; and
  2. Marked impulsiveness; and
  3. Marked hyperactivity.


Paragraph B

You must possess acceptable supporting documentation that shows you have at least two of the three following conditions, resulting from ADHD:

  1. Marked impairment in age-appropriate cognitive/communication function; and/or
  2. Marked impairment in age-appropriate social functioning; and/or
  3. Marked impairment in age-appropriate personal functioning.

Acceptable documentation means medical findings (a physician’s or psychiatrist’s treatment notes), historical information (discussed above), and standardized test results (IQ, achievement, etc.).

Because the determination of an ADHD diagnosis is quite subjective, it can be difficult to win disability benefits based solely on this condition. The determination of disability relies to a great extent on the opinions of those who have contributed to your historical documentation, such as teachers and employers. As individual opinions, based on personal observations made long before the time of the disability case review, can often vary greatly and are always open to interpretation, they provide a far weaker foundation for an SSDI claim than objective physical and medical evidence.

Your ADHD Disability Case

If you are disabled because of severe ADHD symptoms that prevent you from working, and if you have sufficient supporting documentation, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. Although total disability based on an ADHD diagnosis can be difficult to prove compared to other disabling conditions, working closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or disability advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation to support your claim in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS) can help to ensure that your ADHD disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.

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