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ADHD in the Workplace

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Excellent focus, attention to detail, speed, and organization -- they are all things employers are looking for in employees and job candidates. But when you have ADHD, these and more can be a real challenge. It can make it tough to excel at work and sometimes even keep a job. You may feel restless or not be able to focus -- classic parts of having the disorder. But there are things you can do to help you get a job and thrive despite your ADHD.  Sometimes it can be an asset.

How Does ADHD Affect Employment?

An estimated 8 million to 9 million American adults have ADHD. And many other people in similar situations struggle on the job.

One national survey showed that only half of adults with ADHD were able to hold down a full-time job, compared to 72% of adults without the disorder. When they were able to secure a job, they tended to earn less than their peers without it. Those job problems translate into nearly $77 billion in lost income each year.

How much ADHD affects your job outlook depends on how severe your condition is. Some people may just have trouble staying on task, while others can't make it through the workday without getting into a huge blow-up with a boss or co-worker. Some people who are more severely affected can lose their job, wind up bouncing from job to job, or need to seek disability benefits.

ADHD affects job performance in a number of ways. If you can't sit still and have trouble with organization and focus, you may find meetings excruciating. Keeping track of multiple projects and deadlines is enormously challenging.

One study showed that people with ADHD often had more trouble with attention, working memory, mental processing, and verbal fluency. These are all called executive-function abilities that are important in the workplace.

If you have ADHD, it may be hard to:

  • Manage time
  • Get and stay organized
  • Listen and pay attention
  • Follow directions
  • Complete assignments
  • Attend to details
  • Get to work on time
  • Speak just when it’s your turn
  • Sit still
  • Keep emotions under control

You may also have trouble with:

  • Anger
  • Procrastination

ADHD often leads to depression and low self-esteem. When you can’t make deadlines and aren’t able to complete your work on schedule, it can make  these feelings worse.

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