Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often viewed as a childhood condition, but for many it persists into adulthood. Up to 60% of children with ADHD will continue exhibiting significant symptoms as grown-ups. Unfortunately, many adults go undiagnosed and untreated due to outdated beliefs that they should have “outgrown” this disorder. But the reality is leaving ADHD unmanaged can lead to a host of issues – impacting relationships, careers, finances, and emotional health.
ADHD often impairs executive functioning skills like organization, time management, impulse control and emotion regulation. Adults with untreated ADHD may chronically struggle to keep up with responsibilities at work or home despite being intellectually capable. They know what they need to do but have difficulty translating intentions into sustained action. Poor planning paired with impaired attention and concentration also leads to forgetting important tasks or deadlines.
Professionally, undiagnosed ADHD takes a major toll. Adults may drift from job to job due to boredom, careless mistakes, chronic lateness or absenteeism. Up to 40% have 5 or more jobs over their career. Many endure lengthy periods of unemployment. Workplace performance issues also result in fewer advancement opportunities and lower earnings over a lifetime. Employees with ADHD are more likely to have interpersonal conflicts, displaying behaviors viewed by coworkers as lazy, selfish or unintelligent due to their functional impairment.
At home, untreated ADHD strains relationships too. Partners may feel overwhelmed managing household obligations the ADHD adult forgets or neglects. They also report feeling lonely or disconnected since these adults struggle to sustain attention during conversations or shared activities. Impulsive comments often cause unnecessary arguments while emotional dysregulation manifests as overreactions or moodiness. Unfortunately, the divorce rate for those with untreated ADHD has been estimated to be nearly double average population statistics.
Finances commonly suffer without ADHD treatment as well. Impulse spending, forgetting due dates and losing track of paperwork are frequent problems. Survey data indicates nearly 1 in 3 adults with unmanaged ADHD have gone without necessities like heat or health treatment due to monetary mismanagement and debt accrued from late fees or interest charges. Some end up declaring bankruptcy which also cripples future financial security.
Beyond practical effects, leaving ADHD untreated often worsens adults’ inner emotional health and self-esteem too. Struggling chronically despite one’s best intentions is demoralizing over time. Many internalize negative messages received from others over the years based on the incorrect assumption their shortcomings stem from laziness or low intelligence. In reality, structural and chemical differences in their brains related to ADHD drive these challenges. Nonetheless, without proper treatment or support, some descend into hopelessness, anxiety and depression. Suicide rates have been found up to five times higher among those with untreated adult ADHD.
Clearly, overlooking or ignoring ADHD in adults can sabotage multiple life domains critical to well-being like relationships, careers and emotional health. While no cure exists, various therapies and medications have proven effective in better managing symptoms and minimizing tolls on daily functioning. Through proper diagnosis and treatment, countless adults can improve focus, temper disabling impulsiveness, better regulate emotions and establish skills promoting far greater stability across all aspects of life.