Sharing a Diagnosis: When You and Your Child Have ADHD
Impact of Adult ADHD continued...
“ADHD is not a benign disorder,” says Adler. He points out that adults with
ADHD have higher rates of divorce, unemployment, substance abuse, and even car
“The effects of ADHD even extend to the pocketbook,” says James McCracken,
MD, director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UCLA’s Semel Institute in
Los Angeles. “When compared with people who have the same type of jobs,
adults with ADHD make significantly less money.”
But most of these adults never get an ADHD diagnosis. Many don’t consider
the possibility, so they never ask about it. Doctors may not help much,
“Unfortunately, more or less the entire medical and professional community –
internists, adult psychiatrists and psychologists – have almost no background
in the diagnosis or treatment of adult ADHD,” says McCracken. As a result, the
majority are never diagnosed, and fewer than three out of four adults with ADHD
are getting any treatment.
So what happens to these people? They may try to get help, but wind up
misdiagnosed. They may be prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines.
In some cases, these drugs may help a bit -- many people with ADHD have
overlapping depression or anxiety. Others might be told by their doctors to go
into counseling – maybe for job skills training or couples therapy. But in all
of these cases, the core underlying problem is missed.
The ADHD Household
Of course, if you and your child – or children – all have ADHD, that can
interfere with the functioning of the whole family. Life can be terribly
One particular problem, Ramsay says, is that adults with untreated ADHD may
not be able to provide the ideal care for their child with ADHD. Kids with ADHD
require a lot of structure. They need schedules. They need to get their
medicine on time. They need firm and consistent discipline. That’s exactly the
kind of help that a parent with untreated adult ADHD may not be able to
“If you’re a parent with ADHD, you lose track of time, you’re disorganized,
and you put things off,” says McCracken. “A parent with ADHD and a child with
ADHD can be a terrible match.”