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 accidents.
“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, either.
“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 chaotic.
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 offer.
“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.”