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Adult ADHD Sufferers Face Lost Income, Jobs

Average Loss of $10,000 a Year, More for Professionals
WebMD Health News

May 25, 2005 (Atlanta) -- If the jitters, short attention span, and the impulsivity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) sound like a recipe for job disaster, you're probably right.

Adult ADHD victims suffer an average of $10,000 a year in lost income -- adding up to a staggering $77 billion annually on the national level, researchers say.

The higher the job level, the greater the hit: Professionals with postgraduate degrees lose nearly $40,000 a year, the study shows.

Downhill Spiral

Once thought of as a disease of childhood, more than 8 million adults, or 4.3% of American adults, suffer from ADHD, says Joseph Biederman, MD, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Reporting here at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Biederman blames the same symptoms that cause young people with ADHD to perform poorly in school: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. He describes a downhill spiral, with sufferers going through job after job, relationship after relationship.

"With any work we do, you have to have discipline to have a product," he tells WebMD. "If you're forgetful, fall asleep in meetings, impulsive -- as people with ADHD are -- you're not going to do well."

ADHD Crimps Abilities

Howard Eist, MD, past president of the APA and a clinical professor of psychiatry at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., isn't surprised by the findings.

Describing people who have problems with deadlines, organization, and prioritizing, he says, "It's not uncommon to be underemployed and not uncommon to run into job difficulties.

"People with adult ADHD and enormous intellectual horsepower have to work much harder than a person with much fewer IQ points to accomplish the same thing," Eist tells WebMD. "If you don't have enormous horsepower and ADHD crimps your abilities, you'll have to take a lower paying job."

The bottom line, Eist says, is that whether the price tag is "$100 billion or $150 billion, the economic impact is enormous."

So what to do?

Flexible work hours, family leave arrangements, and childcare assistance can help, according to Biederman. And obviously, correct diagnosis and treatment is essential, he says, noting that there are two drugs, Adderall and Strattera, available for adult ADHD, both of which help relieve symptoms in about two-thirds of people. Lilly, Strattera's maker, is a WebMD sponsor.

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